Feather Extension Fad Sparks Unlikely Fashion vs. Fly-Fishing Debate

Etsy / phatcatpatch

At face value, the feather hair extension trend that's gripped a population of pop-culture-addicted tweens, teens and 20-somethings isn't that wild -- it's just a touch of funky flair to a summer hairstyle.

The trend has indeed exploded of late -- from designers in the city offering demonstrations on how to master the look to a slew of Etsy shops selling the feathers (the pieces pictured above come from one such shop).

Turns out, it's a look that's been swinging on the end of fly-fishing lines for 100 years: colorful, natural rooster plumes that are just as appealing to trend-setters as they are to fresh-water fish. The New York Times traveled to the far corners of New England, where an older, male-dominated population of fly-fishermen is dealing with feather shortages for the first time in recent history.

While some shops welcome the spike in sales -- Todd Lanning, manager of South Fork Outfitters in Idaho even called the look "sexy" -- others have begun banning young women (a questionably sexist customer service move, really) to preserve the plumes' traditionally-intended function: as bait.

Besides the strain on the small-scale fly-fishing market, the surge in demand raises the issue of animal cruelty: After all, it seems as though synthetic options haven't really replaced the natural feathers, which are often plucked from euthanized roosters.

PETA has naturally come out to condemn the feather extension trend, but, in an interesting twist, a number of celebrities rocking the trend once served stints as PETA spokespeople. Ke$ha, for example, appeared in an ad denouncing the clubbing of baby seals while wearing feather extensions. American Idol's plume-covered judge, Steven Tyler helped PETA promote animal-friendly rehab centers in 2009, while Lady Gaga pledged herself to be "Fur-Free & Fabulous" on a PETA billboard, but -- in addition to her infamous meat dress -- she's also been seen wearing a feather strand or two.

Given their stance against feather extensions, PETA does offer a humane DIY-alternative on their website: those blacklisted from tackle shops might be wise to go that route as well.

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