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Give Your Lover A Lock Of Hair

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Tiffany & Co. Brooch, 1868

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Bracelet, mid-19th century

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Bracelet, 1850-69

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Brooch, 1850-69

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Locket and brooches, ca. 1850

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Fob, late 18th century

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Coat lining from Alexander McQueen's 1992 collection

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A mail-order hair bracelet from Gody's Lady's Book circa 1855

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Tiffany & Co. Brooch, 1868

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Bracelet, mid-19th century

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Bracelet, 1850-69

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Brooch, 1850-69

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Locket and brooches, ca. 1850

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Fob, late 18th century

Alexander-McQueen-Hair-Coat

Coat lining from Alexander McQueen's 1992 collection

Gody's-Lady's-Book

A mail-order hair bracelet from Gody's Lady's Book circa 1855

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replies

Well, it's Valentine's Day—if 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.