Monday, 28 February 2011

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

I received an interesting email from Larry Shortt the other day. It seems that a new fashion trend is threatening the available supply of the long narrow feathers on the neck or saddle of roosters and other birds known as hackle. These feathers are highly valued by fly tiers and now apparently by beauty salon owners too.
The fad is feather extensions in the hair. The Hannah Montana set is crazy about it.

FineFeatherheads: Spring 2011 from Dakota Hills on Vimeo.

The situation is simply that the growers of high quality hackle have found a new market and are cashing in as hard and fast as they can. The down side for us in the fly fishing community is that the law of supply and demand is driving the price up. I’m guessing few tackle shops are able to risk stocking expensive necks that may not move as fly tiers experience the sticker shock.

To the hair dressing trade, seven hackle feathers in a bundle cost $15 wholesale! And to get that price you must buy multiple bundles. $15 for seven feathers! No wonder the growers are ignoring the tackle shops and fly tying community. We expect to buy a whole neck for around $50 give or take.

If there is an upside to this I guess it is that the feathers come from a farmed bird, bred and raised for its plumage rather than from a wild creature. History tells many ugly stories of creatures driven to extinction by the whims of fashion.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is that a ton of little bundles of super high quality hackle will be available from the Dollar Store in about six months as this fad runs its course. The speculators will go broke and need to liquidate the Metz Grade A necks they’ve been hoarding.

For an interesting perspective on these sorts of price bubbles check out this article from Bloomberg Businessweek on the tulip bulb craze that happened in Holland back in the 1630’s. “When the Tulip Bubble Burst”.

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