Stylists said the crime trend does not surprise them, given the popularity of sleek, shiny hairdos and the investments clients make.

Higher-end salons charge from $750 to $1,500 for a weave. Salons that permit clients to bring their own hair still charge around $200, and, depending on the look, might require several bundles of hair. The styles also require regular maintenance and clients are encouraged to get them shampooed at the salon.

Reggie Dowdy, the owner of Reginald Promise Dowdy salon in Middle River, said he does not keep the hair at his salon for fear of thefts; he orders it before clients come in for an appointment.

"If it's real quality, a four-ounce pack costs $200 to $300. A salon can easily go through $10,000 worth of hair with ordering just a few boxes," he said.

While synthetic hair is much cheaper — around $10 a pack, Dowdy said, stylists are limited in what they can do with it. Any heat from hair dryers, or curling and straightening irons will melt it. It can't be dyed.

Spruill, from the Canton salon, said the bundles of hair have been popular for some time. But with more natural-looking hairstyles coming into vogue, longer, unprocessed hair is in high demand.

In the 1980s, "it was more like you were wearing your crown," Spruill said. Now clients have moved from stiffer, sculpted styles to "more of a natural look." She said many younger girls in Baltimore want very long hair that reaches to the waist, with a more authentic-looking wave.

And the longer the bundle, the more expensive it is.

"To get hair that length is a big thing," she said, adding that two years ago, hair bundles longer than 24 inches were almost nonexistent.

Driving the trend, like most fashion, is Hollywood. Spruill said, "every African-American movie star with hair beyond their shoulders is going to have remy hair."

In high-quality, remy hair, she said, all of the strands run in the same direction, making it smoother and stronger. Lesser quality hair has strands that go in opposite directions, which can cause tangling.

Although the process is often associated with African-American women, Spruill said she has many Caucasian clients who are seeking added length or body.

"Everybody wants extensions, no matter the race," she said. "People want long, thick, shinier hair. They want good hair."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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