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Rooster feathers for hair extensions bait more fashionistas

Trout may be catching more breaks these days. Roosters, fewer.

That's because legions of women and some men have flocked to the fad of wearing rooster feathers in their hair — the same feathers that anglers use for lures.

Now hair salons and suppliers short on product have snapped up the bait, pitting fly fishers against fashionistas.

"I get about eight calls a week from women looking for feathers," says Enver Hysni, owner of Tampa Bay On the Fly fishing shop in Tampa.

"The hairdressers have bought up all of them in the world," says Jim Swann, owner of Swann's Fly Fishing Outfitters in Dade City. "There isn't any left."

Demand has exceeded supply for some time now, according to an employee of Whiting Farms in Colorado, a company that raises poultry and harvests feathers. Particularly scarce are feathers from the saddle, or lower back, of the rooster, popular for hair extensions. Fly fishers use them to make dry flies that they float along the surface to attract trout and other fish.

"The price is probably going to triple on that feather," says Swann, who charged $30 to $50, depending on the quality, for a package of saddle feathers.

Stylists do covet them. They report that at a recent hair show in Orlando, feather-supply companies sold out of their entire stock on the first day.

Salons have been affixing feathers to hair for a year or more, but the fad really took off in the last few months as celebrities like American Idol judge Steven Tyler and actor Jennifer Love Hewitt started sporting them, says Meryl Hill, a stylist at Posh SalonSpa on Bay-to-Bay Boulevard.

A lot of kids, some as young as 5, want them, but it's a fad for all seasons — Hill has attached feathers to a 75-year-old woman.

"As soon as the celebrities do anything, that's when it gets popular," she says.

South Tampa resident Irene Stenzler, 64, who started wearing feathers in her hair a year ago, is a bit surprised by the reactions of late. People even stop her on the street, says Stenzler, a dental hygienist. "All of a sudden everyone is asking me about them."

Barbara Helman, 29, had a turquoise feather attached to her hair last week at Barbara Forgione Salon on El Prado Boulevard. She thought it would be fun to do, and she likes knowing that it's temporary. The Fort Myers resident explains that she starts a new job in a few weeks, in which she will train doctors on how to use a new medical device. She'll need to be taken seriously. "I'm not sure I want a turquoise feather in my hair."

Each week, stylists feather the hair of 25 to 30 clients, who pay from $8 to $22 per feather and usually choose two or three, says owner Barbara Forgione. "The trend has really kicked in."

She experienced a feather shortage for about two weeks but says her supplier now seems to have enough stock. However, Forgione is paying about 15 percent more for feathers than she was four months ago.

Longtime fly fishers aren't greatly affected because they've built up huge arsenals of artificial bait over the years. "Once you have them, they'll last quite a while," says Leigh West, a North Tampa resident and member of the Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club.

Many anglers don't even know there's a shortage, says Swann. "Only us dealers know about it."

And dealers were taken by surprise.

"I wasn't aware this was happening until several hairdressers came in, and I was depleted." Swann didn't know who they were until it was too late, he says.

"I would have doubled the price if I had known that was going to happen."

Philip Morgan can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or pmorgan@sptimes.com.

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Rooster feathers for hair extensions bait more fashionistas 07/05/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 11, 2011 4:48pm]
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