Episode 76- Hair Collecting with John Reznikoff
want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy
Ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming
Streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied”
-Hair, the Musical
John Reznikoff has samples of hair that pretty much cover off every one of those adjectives from the theme of the legendary musical. His collection includes everything from presidents to authors to assassins. It is revered as the greatest hair collection in the world and John has been courted and pursued to not only sell pieces, but also to allow the hair to be utilized for DNA research and beyond.
Before you start to think that’s super creepy and weird, you need to hear John’s story and the depth of his collection. You also need to remember, as John points out in our interview, most of our mothers captured a lock of hair from our first haircuts and saved it in our baby books. Plus, back in times of yore, a lock of hair signified anything from the equivalent of an autograph to a symbol of love and affection. It only started to seem weird in recent years. We’re not sure why, but things go in and out of fashion, just look at the mullet.
So, how does one get into obtaining, categorizing and capturing the history of hair? It all began with a college side hustle that turned into a lifelong wildly successful career as an authenticator and seller of everything from autographs to artifacts. Early along the way he had the opportunity to purchase a pretty impressive collection of hair. He knew this would be something he could build as a collection of his own without being a conflict to the ephemera he buys and sells professionally, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The stories of the provenance of each of the locks are as fascinating as the people whose heads they originally sprouted from. Some were obtained directly from barbers, some from the scenes of crimes and death masks but all are positively riveting. He goes into depth on a number of the stories during our interview.
When we say the collection is amazing, we mean it. He has both Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. He has Jimi Hendrix. He has Edgar Allen Poe. It doesn’t seem so weird when you really think about it. In his possession Reznikoff literally has a piece of many of the most legendary people who molded the history of the world through their existence. If it seems like a lot of weight on the shoulders to be the steward of this snips of history, it is. He shared with us a number of ethical dilemmas he’s been faced with in maintaining the collection and those who approach him for access to it.
John was an incredibly captivating interview. His career is as storied as his hair collection, and definitely something we hope to explore deeper in a future episode. If you’re a collector yourself looking for an exquisite piece to call your own, we encourage you to check out John’s company University Archives.