“We're out of stock,” says Annie Stamper, a Marriott's employee who, for the last few months, has seen her job description change from fly expert to resident fashionista. “We can't even get them anymore. And if a few trickle in, they're gone within hours. I dont know how [the girls] know.”
Annother employee, Gary Spencer, says the store still gets “10, 15, 20 calls a day” for the wispy saddle feathers…
… plucked from a specially bred type of adult rooster that has been all but eradicated from the American farmland since its plumage was re-imagined into a hairthing.
Stamper says the fad began in the hipper corners of Hollywood last Thanksgiving. Via NPR:
JENNIFER COLLINS: Gabrielle Aquaro has worked in Southern California hair salons for 15 years, so she's always on the lookout for the latest trend. About six months ago…
GABRIELLE AQUARO: I saw these feather pieces in this girl's hair. She had some wild, curly hair. And I thought that looks really cool, what is that?
So she mentioned the feathers to her dad.
AQUARO: He says, 'I've got just the thing for you kid. Come on over.'
TED AQUARO: Well I thought it was a great idea and I had all my fly tying stuff in the garage just gathering dust.
In his kit, Ted Aquaro had a stash of long thin feathers. Gabrielle bundled them, a few at a time, and layered them into her clients' hair for $25 a pop.
“They were designed for fly fishing, and then the fashion industry stole the idea,” says Spencer today.
According to the average shelf life of a boom-trend, Marriott's should see the dust settle sooner than later. The earthy hair-feather phenomenon has reached peak popularity: Long rooster feathers, clipped in as hair extensions, have grown exponentially from a Burning Man obscurity to a Miley Cyrus-vetted middle-school staple. You know a fad is about to nosedive when swarms of tween mallgoers begin to parade it through the food court, awkwardly poking from their chick fuzz.
But for the last six to eight months, the fly-fishing industry has been completely trampled by ravenous trendsters and the hairdressers that feed them.
“It effects everybody,” says Spencer. “Just imagine if, all of a sudden, everybody took up fly-fishing. It makes it difficult for everybody to buy.”
Stamper, the feather lady at Marriott's, says rooster-raisers tell her it may take up to a year for a new generation of chicks to grow up and sprout saddles long enough for hair extensions.
In response, an Associated Press story today claims fishermen are infuriated over the superficial looting — and, says Stamper, “some other fly shops have been negative toward the girls, not wanting to sell to them” — but at Marriott's, “the guys have liked seeing all the young girls coming into the store.”
The NPR piece conveys a similar sense of amusement, not resentment, among the true pioneers of the rooster-feather business:
AQUARO: Everybody's into it.
Which is fine for Steve Ellis, owner of a fly shop in Southern California. He supplies Aquaro's feathers and says business has been booming.
STEVE ELLIS: Oh, we love it. We love to see all these cute girls come and we have a good time with all us old crotchety guys in here. We just love it.
Stamper agrees. In the end, she says, “business is business.” Marriott's doesn't have exact sales figures on hand, but according to Stamper, when the feathers were in stock, both full saddles and baggies of 10 were flying off the shelves “all day long” at $1 per feather.
And now that the trend's staple specimen is fresh out of stock, “anything we have colorful, with any kind of length, they will buy.”
It's adorable, really: Hollywood hipsters co-existing with bewildered hicks in some hokey fly shop out in the suburbs. Added bonus: Plenty of fodder for character study.