The Old Curiosity Shop

Living in the Dark
1: Hair extensions by Natasha Scharf
2: Rainbow Hair by Natasha Scharf

Welcome to "Living in the Dark" : Gothic & Alternative Lifestyle.

Many thanks to Natasha Scharf of MELTDOWN MAGAZINE for the articles you can now read below.

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"Hair extensions - what would we do without them, eh?"

Some people use them to disguise fine hair, others use them to add length, whilst the more daring use them to add contrasting streaks of colour without the day. Hair extensions - what would we do without them, eh?
I'd always fancied wildly coloured locks and with my mum being so fascinated with hairdressing, I soon discovered that extensions were the way to go. I hesitantly stood back from the crowd and watched as a friend took the plunge with synthetic streaks of lime green and electric blue in her already technicolor locks. I used to wander past the hair dressing salons in Kensington Market during my youth, whilst gazing admirably at the neo-punks and uber-Goths handing out flyers to unsuspecting passers by. Their gravity-defying, anime-painted tresses put to shame the salon blonde streaks of the Hollywood starlet. Why go natural when you could go pillarbox red?

My own experimentation came about after an accident with some permanent black hair dye, resulting in clumps of my own hair falling out. I started off with a few clip-in streaks and before long I had a hairstyle that could only be described as The Bird of Paradise. I remember going clubbing and a male friend of mine becoming most startled when a clump of purple synthetic hair landed by his feet... a clump of canary yellow followed shortly.

Of course, the great thing about hair extensions is that they last as long as you like. From the clip-in ponytails in the high street stores to heat-sealed, professional extensions, it can literally be a case of hair today and gone tomorrow.

I always preferred the temporary method, which saved me from expulsion at school and disciplinary meetings at work. But then I'd heard enough horror stories to put me off professional extensions. A woman I used to know had fabulous neon red locks with white streaks at the front. One day, I saw her walking along Camden Market in tears. She had come to remove her extensions (you're meant to do this every few weeks to prevent dreadlocks from forming and unnecessary pressure building on the hair line) and found a mass of tangles that had to be shaved off. It didn't put her off extensions but it did put her off using that particular salon.

Now I have several bags of hair pieces (or falls as they're referred to in the US) suitable for any occasion. Synthetic ponytails in vibrant shades of red, blue and purple blended with black for those low-key moments nestle alongside neon bundles of woollen dreadlocks for when I'm feeling a little more bold. It's the best and safest way to change your 'do' as your mood dictates. Unless someone stands near you with a lighter that is...
Natasha Scharf

"Red, yellow, pink and blue… I can see a rainbow"

Goths can't live without their coloured mops, be they black or day-glo pink. Dye-hard Goth, Natasha Scharf speaks candidly about her relationship with the bottle.

Ok, I lied about the yellow but my barnet's been all the other shades. My fascination began young. Memories of my mother wandering around the house, plastic bag on head, dye dripping down her face and ears. I wanted to join in some of the fun.

I remember her telling me that if I dyed my hair, I'd be grounded. I challenged her authority with coloured sprays, gels and hair mascaras. The result was lurid, chalky, lumpy streaks: it wasn't quite right but it looked kinda punky and would wash out in time for school.

Then one day, I went for the plunge. I must have been about 14. Scouring the chemist shelves, I found what I was looking for. Vegetable colour, it said on the box, promising to turn my mousy brown hair a luscious shade of auburn. In retrospect, I realise all teenage girls go through a stage of dying their hair red and I was no exception. So anyway, on it went and out it was washed. Secretly, I snuck out of the house with my hair a gorgeous deep red colour. Everyone noticed and complimented it. My initial foray of dying was complete all I had to do now was face the wraith of my mother! I lied, telling her it was a coloured spray and would wash out. She made no comment when it stayed put for several weeks.

And that was the beginning of my adolescent fixation with dying. Since then, it's been nearly every colour under the sun - well what's the point in dying natural before you're grey?

I can recall countless disasters of course. When I first tried to go black still remains at the top though. My hair was indeed the deepest raven black, until I washed it: then it went green. Over the course of a month, those once black locks went through every shade of the green spectrum ending with the kind of khaki shade you see in army surplus stores. You should see the hat collection I accumulated. Not one to be deterred, I worked my way through an impressive catalogue of black dyes until I plumped for one with "no ammonia, low peroxide" and that was another disaster.

As before, on it went and out came the watch and thirty minutes later, I was washing it out. I pulled on a few strands of hair and noticed, to my horror that said hair came away in my hands. A friend had always expressed wonderment that I wasn't bald from all my dying. Maybe this was D-Day? I had visions of waking up with hair all over the pillow. It was shortly afterwards that I discovered hair extensions.

But that's another story!

Natasha Scharf currently has a full head of burgundy hair

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