You don't have to know football to know of one player's hair. Laid strand by strand, end to end, it would span 100 football fields. It set a Guiness World Record as the "Highest Insured Hair," starred in a bunch of commercials, and even has its own website, troyshair.ca. I spoke with the famous hair's owner, Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu.
How does it feel to have your hair take on a life of its own?
Honestly I could never envision something like this. It started off as a grungy stage in college, where I didn't really care what I looked like. I just let my hair grow – and all of a sudden it really has taken on a personality of its own.
Was your hair an important part of your identity before university?
Culturally, Samoans have always had long hair. Hair's always been a big part of any great warrior society. Samuri warriors, Spartans, American Indians... I guess I grew it out as part of a subconscious thought of being Samoan.
When was the last time you had it cut?
About 7 years ago, which coincided with the first time I met my wife [Theodora]; I haven't cut it since.
Not even a trim? You don't worry about split ends?
I'm a guy.
You're a guy, but I hear you like Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky.
When I was growing up, my family always had Head & Shoulders, and it just worked out that now I still continue to use it. I use Smooth & Silky, but what I use more than anything is the conditioner. It helps with controlling frizz. My hair gets pretty crazy -- if I didn't use [the conditioner] it would probably get dreaded up.
How long does it take to do your hair for the commercials?
It starts the night before [with shampoo and conditioner], then the next day I go into hair and makeup. The makeup takes a long time because I've got the football face, then the hair guy does his thing. In the last one we did, I had to wear huge wigs -- it was almost 30 pounds of hair and they spent hours and hours with the curling irons.
What was your reaction to having your hair insured for $1 million by Lloyds of London, who also insured Celine Dion's vocal cords?
I thought it was a crazy idea because I never thought my hair could be that important. I didn't want to tell my team because I knew they'd give me a hard time. My coach did in front of everyone: "As long as Troy's hair is ready to practise, is everyone else ready?"
Will your boys, Paisios and Ephraim, have long hair too?
My hair has become such a big part of my life, part of my identity, and part of the identity of our family, so I'd expect my sons would have long hair as well.
How strong is yours?
I've actually had my wife grab my hair and hold herself up with it.
How often does it get pulled in games?
It was really only pulled once, when I was tackled by my hair. If I played offense, more people would tackle me all the time – I was tackled that time because I had the football.
Does your hair feel heavy?
I'm used to it, so it doesn't feel heavy, but those wigs in the commercial.... I guess strengthening your neck is also a big part of the game of football, you know. I could always say I'm training because I'm carrying this huge head of hair around.
How do you like filming the commercials?
I'm a football player, not an actor, so it was really uncomfortable for me at first. I've been fortunate to be able to do commercials for other brands, and the more you do the more comfortable you get.
The Superbowl and all the other stuff that's part of the game of football -- I could imagine things like that happening when I was growing up. But when I'm on set for these commercials, and I'm looking at all these people fixing my hair, spraying sweat on my face, putting on makeup, that's when it hits me. I'm like "Where am I? Where in my life could I have ever imagined being here?" That's when I think this is crazy.
Do you think you might ever grow it long enough to cut to donate?
I've had thoughts about that. When it does come time to cut my hair, if ever, that's what I'd definitely do.