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A sweater made from human hair

Human Material Loop, a project founded by Studio Zsofia Kollar, explores the possibilities of waste human hair as a material and its integration into the textile industry. As proof of concept, they created a sweater made of Dutch blond hair.

In Europe alone, an estimated 72 million kg of human hair is generated annually. This hair ends up on landfills or clogs drainage systems. Human hair is a natural filamentous material, containing about 80 per cent keratin protein. The latter ensures hair’s complex architecture with extremely high molecular weight.

As a material, human hair is abundantly present and locally produced. It is also a non-toxic, non-irritant and anti-allergenic material. It has a strength-to-weight ratio comparable to steel, being able to stretch up to one and a half its original length before breaking.

Hair has the potential to be used as insulation, or, thanks to its oil-absorbing quality, can be used to scent spaces or help clean up oil spills. But it has another potential use: in the textile industry.

The textile industry is the second-largest polluter, after the oil industry. The production of textiles makes up of 10 per cent of the carbon emissions, and the fashion industry creates 20 per cent of the world’s waste water.

As proof-of-concept, Human Material Loop created a sweater made of 100 per cent Dutch blond hair from Amsterdam, spun and knitted in the Netherlands.

You don’t have to worry about being identified through the hair, because shed hair contains no nuclear DNA. The hair follicle at the base of human hair contains cellular material rich in DNA. In order to be used for DNA analysis, the hair must have been pulled from the body. Hairs that have been broken or cut off do not contain nuclear DNA. Therefore, hair that has been cut off by a barber or hairdresser cannot be used to identify people.

Photos: Kwadwo Amfo