Leila's Hair Museum
Unique and odd attractions have always been a favorite of mine. I scour websites like RoadSideAmerica and Atlas Obscura when planning vacation looking for the less than touristy points of interests. The bizarre and kitsch have always appealed to us and make for fun stories to retell. Don't get me wrong, Mt Rushmore may be the focal point of a trip but I wasn’t going to pass up the 2 headed sheep or 100’ Paul Bunyan made of muffler parts on the way.
Close to home we’ve long had a unique interest tucked away on the East side of town. Like many fun finds I first learned of Leila's Hair Museum through geocaching. The cache itself was a simple magnetic keyholder on the backside of the building but the signs on the front peaked my interest. They were closed at the time but a google search yielded a video that proved it was exactly what you’d expect with a name like that, a museum about hair and hair art.
I made plans to return but didn’t follow through right away and kind of lost track till my sister-in-law and mother-in-law came to visit from Romania in the fall of 2016. They had been to Kansas City before so I had already introduced them to the typical tourist fare of the area. This seemed like a good alternative, a deep dive if you were, so the 5 of us planned a trip one weekday afternoon.
We found Leila herself manning the front counter watching a soap opera on her ancient TV when we arrived. She perked right up when we entered and gave my 4 year old daughter a big smile and a grandmotherly wink. She was excited we chose to visit and was fascinated that I had thought visitors from so far away.
The museum is small and consists of a few rooms and hallways but no space was wasted. Hung all around we’re mixed media art pieces many of which combined human or animal hair (usually horse) with photographs or beads.
She explained that when material was scarce people used what they had available and hair was growing right out of our heads. The art form had fallen out of favor when the industrial revolution made a wide array of products available to everyday citizens. As a young cosmetologists she learned of the dying art and sought to save it.
Near the front were several newspaper and magazine articles on her and the museum. After the guided tour she let us soak it all in giving us postcards and bumper stickers when we returned to the front. The admission was only a few dollars and to witness up close something unique with a passionate commentary from the collector I’d say was worth every penny.