When DJ David Humphries, a.k.a. Hump the Grinder, gave hair stylists the floor at his Detroit parties, he had no idea how quickly the fringe idea would grow. Now he runs Hair Wars, a travelling hair entertainment spectacle, diffusing the good word of extreme hair art and craft across America

Interview by Victoria Ford

(L to R) recent Hair Wars participants; Hair Wars in the late 80s; hair by Detroit stylist Raphael

So what’s the difference between Hair Wars and a hair battle? Hair battles are mostly competitions where there’s a winner, but Hair Wars is a showcase. We consider ourselves the cream of the crop for hair stylists and hair stars. We call them hair entertainers actually.

There’s so much creativity going on, unique designs, we’d rather not do the competition but you know, the audience makes it a competition. They scream and holler for the people they like best. It’s like a sporting event; it can be a ruckus in there.

You started out as a DJ. How did Hair Wars come out of this? We started Hair Wars in the club.In the 70s and 80s I was DJing parties and nightclubs. Hair stylists had the freedom to go out a lot because of their schedules and they liked to party. They needed a platform to showcase their craft, so we let them do it in the club. They took the stage and never gave it back.

(L to R) Hair Wars in Northern California; Mr. Little and the Hairy-Copter

Has this type of hair design hit its creative peak or are things still developing? Creativity levels are always going up, everybody’s got to top each other – they’ve got to top themselves! So you know, they’re not gonna stop.

They see somebody doing something four foot tall and they’re gonna make something five foot tall with more motors, more lights, more gimmicks, more gadgets, all based around hair. There’s no way they can just relax!

With all these things being added, where do you draw the line between hair and sculpture or something else? That’s one thing about what these stylists do, they don’t just use gimmicks or gadgets, it has to be mostly hair. All the ways of making hair work. We keep it hair.

Is Detroit really the ‘hair capital?’ There’s no question Detroit has been the hair capital for a long time, a lot of hair stylists out of Detroit have gone on to do big things, making themselves celebrity hair stylists.

The hair design magazine out of Detroit [Hair Designer, formerly known as Hair Designs] has a lot to do with it as well. It’s been coming out for as long as I’ve been doing the hair shows. We have a lot of stylists that are doing things no one else is doing.

How do hair trends in other cities differ from Detroit? Well, in L.A. there’s a lot of soft hairstyles, they like a lot of natural hair, they’re not into sculpture. The high fashion hair in Detroit is more sculptured. We’ve always had that degree of difficulty, if it’s not big, it’s little, you know, like micro-curls.

(L to R) Kevin Carter's spiderweb creation; 1980s Hair Wars

In Miami they have to do hair differently because it would melt on them! It has a lot to do with weather and the culture of the city – if they’re aggressive or laid back. And people do like to copy celebrities.

Where do you do Hair Wars now? We go on the road with a travelling show. There are still cities we haven’t reached. We’d like to get over to Europe; we haven’t been to London or any of the European cities. We’re still underground in the US.

Have you seen the movie Hair Show? I did some consulting for the film. The movie had very little promotion behind it and the box office numbers were very low. Personally, I thought the story was just ok and too predictable.

What does you hair look like? My hair’s real short, I’m the conservative guy in the group. You wouldn’t even think I was involved with Hair Wars. Back in the day I had the Afro and all that but it still wasn’t really wild hair, kinda laid back. The opposite of Don King, he would be a good hair promoter. WMO

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Interview © 2009 Wheel Me Out. No part can be used for any purpose without prior consent. Please contact editorial@wheelmeout.com