The Sunday Mail
ROCKING authentic Brazilian, Peruvian and Italian weaves and wigs has become a leading fashion trend for most women of means.
Those who can afford them are prepared to part with between US$200 and US$600 depending on the length and quality of the wigs and extensions.
In fact, when these high-end extensions first came into the market some years ago, prices ranged between US$350 and US$1 000.
However, a subsequent influx of these trendy products led to a decline in prices.
Some of the quality hair extensions are imported from Brazil, India and Peru, among other countries.
While hair extensions are meant for people suffering from hair loss, they have become a fashion accessory that “defines” one’s status.
But soaring demand for cheaply priced authentic wigs has led to a concomitant increase in the number of wig snatchers, especially in downtown Harare.
In most reported cases, women wearing expensive weaves, wigs and hair pieces are considered soft targets by the criminals.
The snatched wigs, which are often resold at giveaway prices, unsurprisingly, have a ready market.
And Brazilian, Peruvian and Italian wigs are the choicest products that are targeted.
In Zimbabwe, the hair business is booming, with statistics showing that women are spending a fortune on imported hair products.
From as early as 2014, Zimbabwean women have been infatuated with various hair products.
Statistics show that in 2014 alone, the country spent more than US$13 million on hair and hair care products, which include hair extensions such as braids, as well as human and animal hair.
Huge sums of money were also spent on hair sprays, shampoos and preparations for permanent waving or straightening.
Women also splurged on synthetic fibre eyebrows and eyelashes.
The trend continued in 2020, as Zimbabwe imported hair products worth US$1,85 million, making them the 298th most imported product.
Wig snatchers have naturally been making a killing.
The better the quality of hair extensions, the more appealing they are to criminals.
In Harare, criminal gangs that operate in the central business district are targeting expensive hair extension wigs, which they later sell for less than half the price.
Areas such as the corner of Leopold Takawira Street and Speke Avenue, as well as Julius Nyerere and Samora Machel junctions have become convenient hunting grounds for snatchers.
Mobile phones and handbags used to be targeted in the past, but now hair extensions, designer hats and sunglasses are part of the sought-after items.
Women who will be coming out of fast-food outlets constitute the bulk of the victims.
Unfortunately, most onlookers often ignore victims’ distress calls.
Only a few women would muster the courage to challenge the criminals.
Mrs Esther Chinyariri, a vendor, told The Sunday Mail Society that there was a worrying increase in the number of women falling victim to the wig snatchers.
“I noticed that the snatchers are now operating in full swing. Women are now scared of using some streets,” she said.
It is believed the criminals are working in cahoots with some hairdressers and individuals to whom they sell the hair extensions for prices ranging between US$20 and US$50.
The hairdressers go on to re-invent the wig into a different style before reselling it to their clients.
Second-hand wigs, also known as pre-loved wigs, are sold for anything between US$30 and US$120.
Sometimes they are also marketed and sold on various social media platforms.
Purporting to be a client interested in buying a second-hand wig, this writer engaged Ashton, a popular wig maker and seller who operates under the moniker “Stallion”.
Stallion indicated that he buys the second-hand hair products from various sources.
Nester, a shop owner who specialises in hair products, bemoaned the proliferation of second-hand hair products.
For a Brazilian weave that she imports and sells for US$200, syndicates are selling the same for US$40.
“Most people rush to buy second-hand wigs because of the prices. Sadly, those who buy the second-hand wigs are not aware of the fact that some might have been stolen,” she said.
Zimbabwe Republic Police deputy provincial police spokesperson for Harare, Assistant Inspector Webster Dzvova, said most of the wig-snatching incidents go unreported.
“We identified the hotspots and we have already put measures in place to curb these criminal activities,” he said.