Spinning strands of cotton around hair is my Summer job. I love it.
I have no idea where the popularity of this past-time has sprung from but unnervingly popular it is. Almost a tradition in some families. The longest queue this year was 3 hours.
It’s like some affliction, you see the glint of “I need that” flash in the across the faces as they stroll past and then, inevitably, sometimes after a very public tantrum, they will join the queue with a resigned parent.
They’re not cheap either, to be perfectly frank. We charge 75p an inch, the Padstow/Newquay/Polzeath/Perranporth wrappers (McDonald’s wraps as my dreadlocked co-worker terms them) charge £1.
The thing that makes this job so enjoyable, aside from the shocking freedom of working entirely for yourself, is the creativity, I make a new pattern each time and am getting way better at the symmetry.
I also think there is a weirdly primordial pleasure in arranging and playing with bright colours… I’m new at it relatively speaking, so I am not as good as my colleagues.
The people who taught me to wrap take it really quite seriously. Amusingly seriously from an outsider’s point of view as I once was. However, I am initiated now…
There are too many hair wrappers that do a terrible job, for maximum amount of money in the shortest time as they know they are dealing with a passing trade. Certian restaurants do this too. It pisses me right off. It is even more reprehensible when you factor in the main demographic are young girls who are just excited to get a hair wrap to show off.
There are clear definable rules that make for a good wrap and I will lay these out here for all those who consider buying one on your visit to Cornwall or on your travels around it.
- Do not ever buy a clip-in wrap. They will fall out almost immediately.
- Watch every hair wrapper you come across and what they do.
- Avoid any wrapper that does not put a plait in the hair before they spin colours.
- Anyone who offers you only three colours is being stingy. 5 is the optimum, 6 for very long hair.
- I would avoid anyone who shows you a choice of set patterns and asks you to choose one. This is lazy and uncreative. We put a new pattern in each time and create it is as we go based on how we feel or the colours chosen.
- Personally, I think £1 an inch is too much.
- Check the tightness. This is the key. If a wrap is loose, or looks loose, it will not last. A good wrapper should be tightening the spun cotton as they go. The end result should be a solid stick of colour basically, that softens after a wash. I have seen a hair wrap of mine last for 1 1/2 years and counting. A good hair wrap should last at least 6 months to a year left to its own devices. Admittedly the hair between the scalp and the wrap will start to dread as it grows but whatever.
- The only places I have confirmed good hair wraps are Looe, Bude, Mevagissey/Fowey and Polperro.
See? Serious business. It is hilarious really. You should see the tribalism and territorialism involved.
I’ll leave you with an example anecdote. I was passing through Polzeath the first year I started in earnest and was naive enough to think the troupe that take over the grassy knoll by the road there might offer advice. The conversation went something like this – after politely feigning interest in their activities:
“Do you want a hair wrap?”
“No thanks, we do it actually, just scoping out places to go and pitch up”
“Uhh…You can’t come here…” The others stop making their clip-in wraps and look over at this point.
“Um. I don’t want to come here? This is clearly your pitch..”
“This is our pitch”
“…Yes. I was wondering if you knew of anywhere that might be good?”
“No. Well, maybe Padstow. That’s busy.”
“Yes, it is busy.”
“This is our only source of income you know. We live off this for the year.”
“Yes. You can’t come here”