Meet that man behind the weave: Wade Menendez is being hailed as a pioneer of nonsurgical hair replacement for black men.
The 35-year-old Maryland barber’s 90-minute technique involves gluing natural and synthetic hair pieces to the scalp. He then scissors and clips them into submission, fading them into any remaining natural hair.
Yes, glue might sound messy and uncomfortable — but the visual results are remarkable.
“I’m doing this to help other people — and that’s not just with that confidence but helping other people even make money,” Menendez tells VICE News. “I’m always here to do whatever I can, and I feel like that’s what I’m called on to do, so I’m operating in my purpose and my destiny.”
Menendez, who owns The W Hair Loft in Glen Burnie, Maryland, has taught his technique to more than 500 stylists in the last four years. (BTW: He knows the “man weave” hype is real — after all, @wadethebarber has more than 120,000 followers on Instagram — but he prefers the term “cranial prosthesis.”)
“There’s balding, thinning people in every city that each of you live in,” he tells one class of assembled pros in the video. “There’s always gonna be a market for it.”
The demand is undeniable: Black hair product consumers account for 85 percent of all sales in the nation’s beauty industry, according to a 2017 CNBC report.
Global research firm Mintel values that market at $2.5 billion — but the industry is actually worth much more. The exact number, however, is hard to pinpoint as overall sales figures exclude hair accessories, wigs and electric styling products, since most are imported from India and China.
But while US companies are failing to maximize this lucrative, fast-growing market, Menendez is making bank.
Charging from $650 to $2,000 for unit installations, he reports earnings of more $400,000 last year through his hair business alone. Maintenance runs $100 to $200 every one to three months, depending on the style.
Menendez says his customers are willing to pay for something that operates like a traditional toupee, but looks “like it’s yours; like it’s growing out of your head.”
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