Is hair the new gold? $230,000 worth of extensions stolen in Chicago

by Isi Esene

Women have always known there’s a price for beauty and it seems daredevil robbers are in to reap from the growing beauty market.

According to The Chicago Tribune, nearly $230,000 worth of hair extensions was discovered stolen Saturday morning from a Bronzeville, Chicago beauty supply store.

Don Shin, the owner of the 35th Street Beauty Supply who lost his inventory in the robbery, said the robbers “knew what they were doing. They didn’t take any of the cheap stuff.”

Shin added that the stolen hair care merchandise is highly valuable because “real hair extensions have been steadily going up in price as their popularity keeps increasing”.

“This is an investment for me,” he said. “It’s hard to find the natural hair right now, it isn’t always available. So when I have a chance, I buy it.”

Hair weaves have been popular for years, especially in the African-American community, and natural hair is sought after because it looks best, making it a target for thefts around Chicago and elsewhere. But Shin said women of all ethnicities are increasingly interested in lengthening their hair. The market for human hair also includes cancer patients.

He said he expects the criminals will try to sell the extensions on the streets or to other salons at prices below their actual worth which hopefully could tip off the police.

The culprits burrowed their way through the wall Mission impossible-style, entered Shin’s shop, and then “crawled along the floor to evade motion detectors before ripping the wiring out of the alarm system.”

Surveillance footage showed three people carrying out a total of six large duffel bags filled with the hair extensions.

A similar burglary occurred in April 2011 at another beauty supply store when daring burglars made off with nearly $80,000 worth of human hair.

In that burglary, thieves targeted the most expensive brands of the tresses, like Indi Remy, Saga, and Bohyme, which are more durable and comfortable, and left behind poorer-quality synthetic locks.

The most expensive hair type — and the one in highest demand by thieves and paying customers alike — is Remy hair, which unlike most other varieties is sold with its outermost cuticle layer intact. This allows it to look more natural and to last longer without tangling.

Remy hair from India usually comes from women who have their heads shaved as a sign of having mastered their egos.

According to the New York Times, in recent months, packages of hair that may have sold for $80 or $100 retail have sold for as little as $25 out of car trunks in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston.

“They’re selling it to stylists who work out of their house, they’re selling it on the street, they’re selling it out of the car,” said Ms. Lisa Amosu of My Trendy Place whose salon had some time ago been robbed also.

By the time the bandits finished at Amosu’s salon in Houston, they had stolen $150,000 worth of the shop’s materials used for silky extensions.

In addition to the $150,000 Houston robbery, thieves have recently taken $10,000 in hair from a San Diego shop; $85,000 from a business in Missouri City, Texas; $10,000 from a shop in Dearborn, Michigan; and $60,000 from a business in San Leandro, California.

One indication of how quickly the focus of some thieves has shifted to high-end hair is the experience of the Beauty One hair supply store in Chicago: two years ago, thieves went after the store’s cash, but last month, they bypassed the register altogether and took just the hair, which was valued at $90,000.

The threat of theft has prompted salons and beauty supply shops to hire security guards, install bulletproof glass partitions and even require patrons to show identification before they are allowed into back rooms to choose their hair.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, a 16 year old girl sprayed a clerk with pepper spray last year as she made off with extensions.

In Nigeria, there haven’t been such hair-raising crimes, but, just for fun, costs vary from $300–$800 and beyond – a third of the average salary in Nigeria.

If the hair war finally berths in Nigeria, god forbid, fashion conscious ladies and celebrities who can’t do without hair extensions might be forced to hire police escorts, rent bullion vans, and build extra fortified hair vaults to keep it safe. Who says beauty is cheap!

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