Life
by Brandon Wenerd on June 8, 2011

via the AP:

Fly fishing shops nationwide, he learned, are at the center of the latest hair trend: Feather extensions. Supplies at stores from the coasts of Maine to landlocked Idaho are running out and some feathers sold online are fetching hundreds of dollars more than the usual prices.

“I'm looking around the shop thinking hmmm, what else can they put in their hair?” Bernstein said. Fly fishermen are not happy, bemoaning the trend in online message boards and sneering at so-called “feather ladies.” Some also blame “American Idol” judge and rocker Steven Tyler, who began wearing the feathers in his long hair.

“It takes years and years and years to develop these chickens to grow these feathers. And now, instead of ending up on a fly, it's going into women's hair,” said Matt Brower, a guide and assistant manager at Idaho Angler in Boise. “I think that's the reason a lot of people are a little peeved about it,” he said.

The feathers are not easy to come by in the first place. They come from roosters that are genetically bred and raised for their plumage. In most cases, the birds do not survive the plucking.

The hipster demand for fly-tying feathers is causing costs to soar.  Via the article, “a package of rooster saddle feathers that would have cost around $60 at a fly shop now priced from $200 to $400.” More trouble details:

At Whiting Farms, Inc., in western Colorado, one of the world's largest producers of fly tying feathers, the roosters live about a year while their saddle feathers _ the ones on the bird's backside and the most popular for hair extensions _ grow as long as possible. Then the animal is euthanized. As hair extensions, the feathers can be brushed, blow dried, straightened and curled once they are snapped into place. Most salons sell the feather strands for $5 to $10 a piece. The trend has become so popular a company online even sells feather extensions for dogs. The craze has also left hairstylists scrambling to find rooster saddle feathers, as fly shops hold onto a select few for their regular customers. The businesses will now ask if the feathers are for hairdressing, said Shelley Ambroz, who owns MiraBella Salon and Spa in Boise.

“If you go in and you're a woman, they won't sell to you,” said Ambroz, who started to eye her husband's fly fishing gear after stores ran out. “He told me to stay out of his feathers,” she said. Whiting Farms is harvesting about 1,500 birds a week for their feathers and still can't keep up with its current orders, said owner and founder Tom Whiting, a poultry geneticist. The company has stopped taking on new accounts. “I've tried to withhold some for the fly fishing world because when the fashion trend goes away, which it will, I've still got to make a living,” he said.

It's a sad moment for fly fishermen everywhere. Guy Harvey and Robert Redford, where are you are, do what you can to rally the troops and stand against this travesty of justice.