Detroit’s Hair Wars

THE CUTTING EDGE: Motown stylists sharpen their skills for Hair Wars // Photographs by Jenny Risher
Jessica Steinhebel (Marie Antoinette)

Detroit has acquired quite a few nicknames over the years: Motown, the Motor City, the Arsenal of Democracy. In addition to those well-worn monikers, the city’s also earned a more unusual title: Hair Capital of the World.

While countless hair salons, barber shops, and beauty-supply stores dot its streets, Detroit is also home to Hair Wars, an annual showcase that displays and demonstrates cutting-edge and extravagant hairstyles and techniques.

Stylists and teams from across the region and elsewhere are allotted 5 to 10 minutes to present up to 10 models. There are virtually no limits on the kinds of hairstyles, makeup, and fashions they can present.

Former club promoter David “Hump the Grinder” Humphries created the concept as a party theme in 1985. The idea took off from there, growing into bigger locations and attracting larger audiences, eventually leading it to expand into shows across the country that have garnered Hair Wars national recognition.

Today, over a thousand people — hair professionals, models, and curious spectators — attend the Hair Wars in Detroit. The performances take place on two separate stages this year, a first for the event. The second stage will be used exclusively to showcase only the most unusual looks. According to Humphries, the crazier the hair, the more entertained the crowd.

Keith Matthews (Tootsie Roll stylist), O’kela Neveaux (Marie Antoinette stylist), Khalife’L Scissorhands (Hairy Copter stylist), Kristina – The Glam Tech (Flying Saucer stylist)

“Every year there’s somebody who’s never done anything crazy who starts going all out because they realize that’s what the people like to see,” he says. “But some of them do have reputations for always doing crazy stuff, and we always expect the unexpected from them.”

LEFT TO RIGHT: David “Hump the Grinder” Humphries, Jessica Steinhebel, and Amber Sanders.

This year’s theme, “Back to the Future,” gives stylists the opportunity to draw inspiration from history, while predicting future ’dos.

Hump the Grinder’s Hair Wars 2013: April 28 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Tickets and info:, or 313-534-8318.

Khrissy Mua (Hairy Copter), Amber Sanders (Flying Saucer), Rays Danielle York (Tootsie Roll)

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