Arts & Culture » Culture

A hair above


Detroit is the capital of many things — cars, Motown, garage rock … and hair entertainers.

That’s right — not barbers, hairdressers or even hair care specialists. Hair entertainers.

This genus of performers was spawned by the one, the only and the original Hair Wars, a Detroit-born collision of hair, fashion, dance, competition and a heaping dose of sass.

It started back in 1985 when David “Hump the Grinder” Humphries was DJing at a Detroit club, looking for a way to spice up his parties. Humphries saw something in the black hairstyles of the time: intricate, colorful and aggressive. He invited a few stylists to show off their skills at his club night, and the ball was set rolling. Two decades later, Hair Wars is a nationally recognized phenomenon.

A typical Hair Wars show is far from typical. Over the years, stylists have upped the ante in a friendly game of one-upmanship; each year their dos become more and more outrageous.

Past entries have included a giant beehive that unzips to reveal Champagne service for two and the hairycopter, a toy helicopter perched on a model’s head.

Models don’t just strut, they engage in complex, choreographed, often thematic routines. (Last year’s most memorable entry was Detroit stylist Mr. Little’s Matrix routine, complete with trench coats, flying kicks.)

And how can one forget the stylists themselves? Predominantly straight black males, they take on larger-than-life personas. Take, for example, the hulking Big Bad D of Ypsilanti (that’s his legal name, by the way), a former professional bodybuilder and aspiring pro wrestler who also happens to design outrageous, towering hair creations. He’ll be the guy wearing the alligator claws. (Yes, he hunts and kills them himself, in case you were wondering.)

This year will look to the next generation of hair entertainers. “We’re dipping into the beauty school circuit, looking for new future stars,” Humphries says.

“It’s like battle of the hair heavyweights,” Humphries says. “There are a lot of hair shows in Detroit, but with this show you have world-class stylists and entertainment.


Hair Wars takes place at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at the Milennium Center, 15600 J.L. Hudson Dr., Southfield. Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For more information call 313-534-8318.

Sarah Klein is the culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to

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