Locks of Love: Friend or Faux?

I'm sort of an itinerant critic and encourager. Each semester I travel to speak in a handful of college classrooms where I offer criticism and affirmation regarding both the ad world and the approach students take as they prepare to enter it.

Of course, this assumes I know what to criticize and what to affirm. It assumes that I have something definitive to say; that I'm able to put a period at the end of all my sentences. But this isn't always true. In fact, I often have to use an ellipse.

The subtext of advertising is replete with ethical questions and social concerns. Sometimes it pushes advertising into the light to promote good will, but often it lurks in the shadows as manipulative propaganda. The continual need to seek wisdom about every product, campaign, account, client, line of copy, media plan, etc., is challenging work.

I've been posting about faux products recently because of a few classes I taught this month. If you've read any of them, you know that I'm not a fan of faux.

But in the midst of talking about "pleather" and "diamonelles" and vinyl flooring and toupees (My grandfather wore an atrocious rug-like piece of material on his head for years. On anyone else, I would have suggested adding a clown nose, but it was my grandfather and I had never seen him without it so it seemed quite normal.), a student asked:

"But what about Locks of Love?"

I didn't know.

I still don't know. It's an ellipse for me. Locks of Love "provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis." On one hand, what an intimate and generous ministry: You and I give our own hair to needy kids.

On the other, the hairpieces are used "to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss...." Doesn't this sound similar to why people wear make-up and use Botox and trick out their cars? I mean, don't we do these things "to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to [men and women] suffering from [insecurity]..."?

So I'm stuck on this one. Hairpieces are toupees and my grandfather wore his for some of the same reasons why these kids wear theirs. In his case, I condemn the faux. Yet, they're kids. This is a time when their identities are soft and easily bruised. Isn't it OK to let them fit in and to protect them from embarrassment and ridicule from peers, especially with such a visible problem? In their case, I think I condone the faux.

If Locks of Love called you to help them with PR or securing TV spots or increasing brand awareness, I'm guessing you'd do it. I might, too.

Or, would I suggest that the child's friends and family shave their heads bald instead of donating pony tails? Without having a child in that situation, and never having been in such a situation myself as a kid, I don't know.

This is just one of the ellipses for me in advertising. As I asked in an earlier post, "Should Christians produce and market faux items, or not? (Or does it depend on what the faux item is?)"


Alison March 1, 2010 at 11:05 PM  

I would join you in your disapproval of faux, but this post left me with the question: Is a Locks of Love hair piece really faux? Sure it is not the child's hair, but it is REAL human hair (only in special circumstances do they give out synthetic hairpieces). I agree with your dismissal of botox and other extreme beauty enhancers, but what is wrong with this beautiful and personal gift to a child? I also appreciate your self-sacrificial head shaving idea as a way of bringing acceptance. My personal conclusion is that childhood baldness can have a huge negative effect on children (just look at Lex Luther on Smallville and he didn't even have the medical issues these children face), and my hair grows to a length much longer than I need, so I will continue to give my excess hair to Locks of Love.

Sam Van Eman March 4, 2010 at 9:36 AM  

I'm glad for your donations, Alison. And I hope others follow your example. The faux question related to Locks of Love had to do with the recipient wearing someone else's hair, not the hairpiece being real or synthetic.

The whole question came up because it seems to be one of the very few examples of justifiable faux (again regardless of whether the hairpiece is real or synthetic).

I see the potential negative effects on a child, but I guess I dream of a world where childhood baldness doesn't matter.

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