We bought the data.
We’ve long guessed at the size of the USA hair ties market but we didn’t have specific data to back up our guesses. Now we do.
And here’s what we found: the top 10 selling hair tie packs in the USA are indeed made by the brands you’d be most familiar with: Goody and Scunci. And while that didn’t come as a surprise to us, what was notable to us is that of the top 10 selling packs, the smallest pack configuration of the top-10 was for 30 hair ties on a pack.
That’s probably not a surprise to you. A simple glance at the hair accessories section of your local pharmacy or grocery store will confirm as much. But here’s a question you may not have stopped to ask yourself
To each their own but in our experience, it’s rare to wear more than 2 hair ties at any given time. So why 30 on a pack?
Well, if you think about it there are really only two conclusions that can be drawn:
- You have that many because you lose them and you’ll need more on hand.
- You have that many because hair ties snap on the regular so you’ll need backups.
Both are totally logical and fair premises on the surface; however, that logic doesn’t really hold up when we start to ask bigger questions.
Problem 1: My Hair Ties Keep Going Missing!
First, what kind of waste are we generating with a product as simple as a hair tie?
We’ve got you covered on this one as we've done the math and have the receipts (read the story of the lost/missing hair ties here). As that brilliant article outlines, our conservative estimates show that 15 million plastic hair ties are being lost or tossed every single day in the USA alone. That’s like driving a city bus (or a Hubble Telescope) worth of plastic into a landfill daily, all in the name of ponytails.
But that narrative would be too simplistic as we all deep down know those 15 million plastic hair ties aren’t going straight to out-of-sight-out-of-mind landfills; rather, look down and you’ll see those hair ties are everywhere - on our streets, paths, beaches, sidewalks, parking lots. And all those lost hair ties aren’t being picked up and placed in garbage bins (assuming we’re personally not in the area) but rather they’re ending up in stormwater drains, soils, and our waterways.
OK, a quick aside: why do we say plastic hair ties specifically? Well, that’s because every major hair tie manufacturer uses synthetic materials to make their hair ties. Those materials are given pleasant-sounding names like nylon, spandex, polyester, Luon, etc, but at the end of the day, they’re just plastics disguised in a prettier name. And as has been well documented at this point, plastics are here to outlive us - and our grandchildren, their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren too. While they may eventually break down to microplastics, we’re talking about generations upon generations until that happens - and all for a simple hair tie!
OK, so how did we get here? How is it that hair ties are given a societal litter pass? The only other product that gets a hall pass like this are cigarette butts, and that’s not exactly enviable company.
Over the past 50 years, hair ties manufacturers have been on a race to the bottom. Cheap materials and cheaper labour (often without oversight) have seen pack sizes grow while prices decrease. In America, value is worshipped and value has become associated closely with volume. In other words, the more you get for less, the better the ultimate value.
This sounds great, right? Everyone wants their money to go further. No fault in that. But here’s the thing: if something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Hair ties manufacturers ultimately chose to pursue profits in the now at the expense of unknown consequences in the future.
And as consumers, we’re part of the problem. It’s not a comfortable truth but ultimately, we dictate what gets made by what we buy. Our dollars really do work like votes. And we’ve been voting for bigger and bigger pack sizes for years, as the USA Hair Ties Market Data proves.
But wait, there’s more.
Problem 2: My Hair Ties Keep Snapping!
With bigger and bigger packs, the presumed implication is that you should be set for longer and longer without needing top-ups. Well, when the name of the game is profit, setting you up with a year’s worth of hair ties ain’t good for business. So what then?
Well, what if half those hair ties don’t just go missing; rather they also snap on you. As a customer you won’t be too upset as you likely got a wear or two out of them before they snapped, and plus: you’ve got 29 more more so what’s the big deal?
And having personally been in hair ties factories in several countries now, we can tell you for certain your hair ties snapping ain’t a flaw; rather it’s a feature.
Profits mean customers should be buying more hair ties quarterly, no matter the pack size.
OK, that’s a lot of gloom and we’re sorry. We’re not writing this piece to make you feel bad. While it may not be immediately obvious, we’re writing this to empower you. As we said before, every dollar you spend on hair accessories (or any other product) is a vote for the future you want to see. And a brighter future is indeed possible.
The Good News: KOOSHOO is Bringing the Value - and the Receipts!
Here at KOOSHOO we’re committed to combatting the notion that anyone needs 30 hair ties on a pack. Here’s how we do that:
First, we make hair ties that don’t snap. Simple, right? If your hair tie is built to last then you simply won’t need so many hair ties. And we’re coming to this conversation armed with data because you should be skeptical if any hair tie brand tells you “our hair ties don’t snap”.
We make 2 types of hair ties: Flats and Rounds. Our Flats are hand-sewn by a Fairtrade certified, Nun-owned social good business in Southern India. Our Rounds are hand-glued by a 4th generation Japanese family business in the hills outside Tokyo. We chose our partners because of their shared commitment to quality and ethics.
But don’t just take our word for it.
We sent both our Flats and Rounds to 3rd party laboratories that have measurement tools to determine the breaking-point of an elastic. To account for outliers, several hair ties are tested and an average score in Newtons (N) is given. In simplistic terms, the higher the N number, the stronger the product (the less likely your hair tie will snap). For comparison, we also submitted the top-selling hair ties from the Market Leaders data, as well as Terra Ties (not a market leader but a well known plastic-free brand). The summary tables of the findings are below:
As you can see, our Flats at 279 Newtons strength are in a league of their own. A flat hair tie can be sewn closed (a Round hair tie cannot) so there is an inherent advantage here. Looking through the hundreds of 5-star reviews for our Flats, you’ll be able to read many in which a customer has used just one hair tie for years at a time. That incredibly strong yet soft-on-hair attribute is what has made our Flats so universally loved and acclaimed.
While our Flats have always been popular, we heard from customers that they also wanted a plastic-free Round tie too so when we made these, we were determined to make a better product than anything else on the market - a product made from plants, not plastics, no less. Evidence for this is in our results, with our Rounds Mondos coming in at nearly twice (92.6 N) the strength of the market leading products from Goody and Scunci (49 N for both).
So you’ve now got a hair tie that won’t snap on you after a few wears. That’s awesome, but what about all those ties that are lost, not tossed. (Pictured below: KOOSHOO Flats, KOOSHOO Mondos, KOOSHOO Minis)
Quantity vs. Quality: A Tale of Two Cultures
Here’s an anecdote that might have you reconsidering how you look at your hair ties:
In Japan, hair ties are most commonly sold in packs of 2. Yes, you read that right: just 2 hair ties in a pack.
Sure, you can buy more on a pack but this is the most commonly sold pack-size. We know this because our Japanese partner who makes our Rounds also makes the majority of the hair ties sold in Japan and they told us that their most common configuration for Japan was a 2-pack. When we showed them the data of the top 10 sellers in the USA, they were very surprised that anyone needed 30 or more hair ties on a pack.
You see, in North America, the UK, and Australia, we’ve been conditioned to expect 30+ hair ties on a pack and therefore decided that it’s only with volume that we get value. In America, all too often value is associated with volume. In Japan, value is associated with quality and if you’re selling a high quality hair tie, then good value can be a pack of 2.
And it’s no wonder that a culture with Marie Kondo acting as emissary to the USA (OK, not in an official capacity) that value comes with products that spark joy, rather than products that are all about quantity.
So here’s the penultimate question for you: if there exists a hair tie that won’t snap on you, a hair tie that is machine washable, a hair tie that’s made from plants rather than plastic, then do you really need 30 plastic hair ties on a pack?
Better quality, made in a better way. That's REAL value and that’s what KOOSHOO is all about. And if we can cut down on the number of plastic-filled city busses ending up in our landfills and waterways on a daily basis, I think we can all agree: that sparks real joy!