Leila’s Hair Museum

Buongiorno, bellissima,

The advancement of technology has made us forget so many things from our past. Washing machines make us forget that it used to take days rather than hours to do one load of laundry, indoor plumbing makes us forget the struggles with sanitation and hygiene from yesteryears, and cameras make us forget what it took to preserve a memory.

That being said, let me relay the conversation I had with my mother on the way to this next place.

Mother: Where are we going next?
Me: A hair museum.
Mother: Oh.
Silence.
Mother: So the history of hairstyles or something?
Me: Nope, art made out of hair.
More silence.

Our destination was LEILA’S HAIR MUSEUM- 1333 s. Nolan Rd., Independence, MO.

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Leila (pronounced Lee-eye-lah) bought her first art piece in the 1950s, and today the museum is the largest collection of hair art in the world. Hair art is exactly what it sounds like: art made out of hair (most of the time human) with the help of adhesives, wires, and sometimes accents such as beading or ribbon. The first known record of anyone doing hair art is the 12th century. Its popularity peaked in the 1800s and fell out of style around 1910.

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There was also hair jewelry, anything you could fathom from necklaces to rings to brooches to watch chains, like those in the case in the picture above, and beyond. Often, a wife would give her husband a watch chain made out of her own hair so he would have a piece of her to carry with him (perhaps also in case this man decided to slip off his wedding ring, checking the time would give him away).

Whatever your opinion on hair not connected to a human head (i.e. does it freak you out when you see someone’s hair on the table, in the bathtub, in your food, etc.), it is incredible the obvious talent it takes to create such art!

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That’s all hair wrapped, folded, looped, or tied around wire.

Many of them served as genealogies of families and took on a horseshoe shape as generations were added. Some pieces were created as simply art, and some pieces were made in memorandum of a loved one after their passing.

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This one is kind of pretty, I thought.

Pictures were only allowed in the lobby of the museum, so the especially valuable or impressive pieces will not be shown here. This includes hair collected from celebrities and notorious individuals, the oldest piece in the museum (dated 1690!), and more.

Fun fact: through studying the art that has come through the museum, Leila has counted 36 different techniques used in hair art. She has mastered 32 of them and teaches classes for those wanting to learn.

Our tour guide, Willa, was especially informative and friendly. She guided us along as we examined the art, pointing out special pieces of interest and answering questions we had about others. A tour that I expected to only take 30-45 minutes lasted an hour and a half, because of the vast number of pieces, the details in all of them, and the amazement of the art itself.

Seriously, as strange as the concept may sound, go see it for yourself. The sights are incredible to behold. Entangle yourself in hair art… and mullet over…. if you mustache a question… a guide is hair to help…

…ha ha ha….

… *ahem* Until next time, dahlings…

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