City Style: Fashion Masochist: Hair Extensions

Alyssa Giacobbe gets extralong locks—and finds herself feeling completely stranded.

THE TECHNOLOGY: Oscar season begs for total transformation. Twelve hours before I’m due to present at the “Boston Oscars,” a.k.a. the Boston Choice Awards, a crash diet is out of the question. Luckily, my Lohan aspirations aren’t altogether shot: The new Double Hair extensions, imported from Europe and locally available only at Emerge, promise long, voluminous locks in less than two hours, compared with the five to six formerly needed to acquire a full head of someone else’s hair. What’s more, Double Hair is reusable, which makes it ideal for short-term events like parties (though once applied, the extensions can last for up to three months).

THE EXPERIENCE: Most salons that perform extensions require a pregame consultation. But I’m a busy, busy girl. When I arrive at Emerge, extensions expert Shaun O’Connor picks at my ear-length bob with wide-eyed befuddlement: “We really should have met before this.” I tell him I respond poorly to demands. “Right,” he says, reaching for the first 6-inch-by-2-foot strip of very real, Chinese hair. “Well, let’s just get started.” O’Connor weaves strands of my own locks through six Double Hair strips and fuses them using a glue gun filled with keratin, a sticky substance that exists naturally in human hair. The “deep brown” he’s selected matches my own with eerie perfection—something achieved not by a $300-an-hour Newbury Street colorist, but by a several-day soak in a dye vat halfway around the globe.

When I leave not two, but five hours later (O’Connor blames his lack of forewarning about my bob), I’ve got nearly 2 feet of hair atop just over 5 feet of me, my head like a pea in a plate of spaghetti. O’Connor has given me big, loose glamour curls that help disguise where my real hair ends and my Asian hair takes over. That night I spend the preshow party wandering from one champagne tray to the next, talking to no one, feeling a little like an outcast—until I decide the disguise is actually quite liberating. I stuff an egg roll into my mouth and don’t care who’s watching. When it’s my turn to present, following Miss Massachusetts and Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle, I even manage to crack a joke.

THE VERDICT: The next morning, after an itchy night’s sleep, I dry my hair until my arm hurts. Without the curls, my new do is ratty, and not unlike a giant hockey mullet. Despite a few plaintive pleas by my long-haired colleagues that a flatiron would make it all okay, I’m already dialing up O’Connor. He squeezes me in, bless him, on one condition: Next time, honey, don’t skip the consultation.