“Hair Wars is a different idea of fashion and glamour than what is shown in the world of runway shows and magazines. That world ends up looking bland and anemic in comparison. The Fantasy Hairstyles in this book are proudly loud and outrageous. They express a desire to surpass the ordinary, to make something better, bigger, more extreme and more shockingly different than everybody else. To me, it’s just as serious and creative as, for example, an Haute Couture show by John Galliano, with the exception that these designers constructed their creations in their kitchens, on shoestring budgets.”
After attending a first Hair Wars show at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in 2004, photographer David Yellen and fashion writer Johanna Lenander decided to document, through portraits and interviews, the creative power of the most acclaimed Fantasy Hair stylists nationally. Hair Wars, the first photography book to document this phenomenal art form, presents a series of 74 four-color photographs that were taken in several Hair Wars shows around the country between 2004 and 2006.
Remote controlled Hairy-copter, spinning ponytail, hairdos that include a gigantic bowl with live Japanese fighting fish or built-in device that blows soap bubbles are just a few of the short-lived and fragile Fantasy Hair pieces, entirely made of human hair and completed by make up and custom-made outfits that evoke fairytales, or the real-life events they were inspired by anything from 9/11 to the Olympic Games, the The Matrix to the classic Sunday barbeque. The humor at play never overwhelms the intent to make the models—most are stylists’ friends and family members—look sexy and beautiful.
Hair Wars also features portraits and interviews of the stylists themselves: larger-than-life characters, big personalities with head-to-toe looks who take hair and fashion as a means of personal expression. “It takes ambition and drive as well as a fearless attitude to create strange and complicated hairdos that have no real reason to exist,” Lenander explains in the foreword. “There are strong feelings behind much of the work. Most stylists will tell you that their work is fueled by passion.”