Hair Supply

Errant Euros, Yen, Deutsche Marks, Kronor, and New Zealand dollars lie dormant in my desk drawer, cherished not for their monetary value but for the designs and illustrations they bear and the memories they conjure. Collectively, they function as featherweight souvenirs, reminders of the vastness of the world with its many systems, histories, and people. 

And yet I’ve always been struck more by the sameness of banknotes than by their differences. Countries (and cultures) so otherwise diverse from one another have settled on designs that are relatively similar in size and shape, typically bearing the portrait of a figure of some political, historical, or cultural import, and almost always men. 

Hair Supply subjects these figures to au courant makeovers, borrowing from precedent established by popular reality shows in the vein of Extreme Makeover, Queer Eye, and The Swan. We can’t help but love a metamorphosis, it seems. As we do with their reluctant reality television counterparts, we gawk and marvel at each transformation, assuring the Queen that she looks more confident with her new mint lob.

Korean banknote, embroidery floss
6 × 2.675 in

Shin Saimdang was a 16th century artist, writer, calligraphist, and poet. In 2009, she was selected to appear on Korea’s highest denomination note for both her talent and for embodying the cultural ideals of being a dutiful daughter, devoted wife, and wise mother. This move wasn’t without controversy: some applauded the decision as an equal rights gesture, others claimed the selection only reinforced outdated, sexist stereotypes. In 2017, Shin Saimdang said “F*ck it,” reclaimed her agency, and got herself some unicorn hair.

Swedish banknote, embroidery floss
4.75 x 2.625 in

British banknote, embroidery floss
5.825 x 3.15 in

Three Children
Eritrean banknote, embroidery floss
5.5 x 2.75 in

Young Girl
Yugoslavian banknote, embroidery floss
5.5 x 2.65 in

Polish banknote, embroidery floss
5.5 x 2.5 in

American banknote, embroidery floss
6.14 x 2.61 in