Give Your Lover A Lock Of Hair

Tiffany & Co. Brooch, 1868
Bracelet, mid-19th century
Bracelet, 1850-69
Brooch, 1850-69
Locket and brooches, ca. 1850
Fob, late 18th century
Coat lining from Alexander McQueen's 1992 collection
A mail-order hair bracelet from Gody's Lady's Book circa 1855

Well, it's Valentine's Dayif you celebrate that kind of thing. Me, I celebrate my love for my boyfriend every morning by shoving the single pillow we share over his face before turning on the light so as not to shock his delicate eyes. I guess his very own pillow would be a good V-Day present this year... But back in the day, people were weirder about love and exchanged dead cells that grow in strands out of their bodies. Then they made jewelry out of it. You can find specimens like this on Ebay, labeled "mourning jewelry" because when people died, their survived-bys would clip and encase a strand of their hair to keep in remembrance. My mom actually clipped a strand of my hair when I was a baby in anticipation that the gentle, kind, loving little girl would eventually die...and be replaced with the the saltiest little bitch to enter into day care. Seriously: it's in a chest next to the one time I apologized to her on a notecard attached to a hideous clay sculpture glued to a plastic fork.

But the hair lockets weren't all made from dead people—living, breathing lovers gifted each other locks of hair as well. Imagine a young blond farm girl snipping off a ringlet and tucking it into a locket before handing it off to her beau who just got a job with the Pony Express. (They all died of dysentery...or something. The farm girl's father was relieved; he didn't like the guy that much anyway.) It's pretty! Pretty creepy. But don't all romantic gestures make someone cringe? I feel nauseated every time I see a couple bragging about their nice, clean living room on Instagram, so to one-up their obvious attempt to disgust me, I've created a keychain of my hair to give my boyfriend [1]. Because—alert Pinterest—real-hair braided keychains are the new mourning jewelry.

This isn't the first time I'll be giving a guy some of my hair. Once I sent a lock of my virgin, spun-gold ombré (Jared Leto-level ombré, I swear) to a long-distance boyfriend. And thank god I did send it out, because now I can ask him to return it, to bring in to show my colorist on my quest to get that perfect color back. "Hi, hope you're well! Sorry for the break up. Hey, do you remember that time I sent you a piece of my hair? You wouldn't happen to still have it would you?"

At the time, it felt very romantic, and it's because the gesture, while bizarre as all get-out, is very romantic! You're giving someone you love an actual piece of you. Just make sure it's not a piece of you that you really need, like hair from the top of your head or the nape of your neck—clip from the middle-back section of your head where nobody will ever notice the absence of a small chunk. And rather than snipping off enough to make an elaborate braid, just go with a lock tied in a pretty satin bow and place in a Hallmark card next to that iTunes gift certificate you picked up while in line at CVS (don't worry, the romantic snip of hair cancels out your crappy non-human-made gift), and make your boyfriend happy...after he pays your dowry like in the good ol' days.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Photo [1] by Annie Kreighbaum, Photos [2-8] courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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  • sallieforrer

    HA!!! A thoroughly entertaining read! I'm SO on board!

  • Georgie

    I read in Elle that lovers often gifted each other their pubes...!

    • ITG Annie

      !!! That's next level.

  • Leila

    Or art.. there is hair art people.

  • realmsofbeauty

    This is probably the best post I've read in a while! So bizarre what people do for love ey?

  • Colleen Garrity

    I love that you could mail-order someone else's hair for a love bracelet if you were too attached to your own.

    I wonder- did you have to care for them as carefully as you do dreadlocks?

  • Eat.Style.Play

    I dont think I would give a lock of my hair, I weave wears way too much haha. Anyway its a cute gesture but still very bizzare.

  • Violaine

    I love this post! So funny and so interesting at the same time.

  • Nomadic D.

    Welcome to Creepy Town!

  • kt mo

    nothing makes me as queasy as human hair not attached to a human head.

  • Masha

    I gave my first boyfriend a lock of my hair (oh, teen romance).

    Annie is definitely right, DON'T cut it from the nape of your neck. That little wisp you'll have as it grows back will escape from all your ponytails and buns, and remind you how foolish you were long after you break up with the guy (or at least, that's what happened to me).

  • Always_RIGHT2

    Pubic hair?

  • shjacks55

    "Hair today, gone tomorrow?"


    A lock of your hair is DNA, DNA can be used to fabricate clues against you.

  • Vernon Yost

    As a retired massage therapist, a 90 minute Swedish massage does wonders for the sensual well-being. my gift a few times a year for that someone special

  • DaveM48

    Locks of hair were common souvenir requests to prominent people in the days when literacy was not as common as it is now. Supposedly, so many fans had access to Beethoven's body that he was nearly bald when buried.

    On a more whimsical note, I did once see a photo of locks of hair from a Civil War general (I believe Sherman or Grant), along with one from his horse and the original letter requesting it.

    Apparently there are a certain number of people who collect famous hair. I am not among them, but I do treasure a lock of hair which came from a favorite poet. As she died in 1933 and was cremated, there are times when I ponder the fact that I may well have the last physical trace of her. A bit spooky, perhaps, but there is a curious sort of sentiment about it all as well.

  • Parker Orfield

    What do you do if you are bald?

  • Sharareh Shahedali

    I had heard of this traditions before and I kind of really like that way of reminiscing. And now I am deeply considering to create some hair-jewellery myself as my hair is reaaaally long and I am sure would be easy workable with. Why not… I could sacrifice a strand or two.

  • ygriega

    Lol this read was a fun one!
    I def make sure my fiancee gets his beauty sleep when I turn on my (Ikea desk lamp) vanity lamp to apply my face at 6:54am - I use the same pillow almost-smother tactic... it make me laugh (out loud, mind you) that there are other such considerate dames out there.
    Now, a 40/60 split for wedding cost betwixt the bride and groom, dowry that is not.

  • Alex

    I have been talking with a guy for two months and we have never been able to meet up (he lives in another country). For Christmas he requested that I send a lock of my hair and I was wary, but this article made me realize it's romantic in an old-fashioned way, and a way to break the lack of physical connection.