The FBI’s Guide to Hair

Despite its reputation for sporting nearly-identical conservative haircuts, the FBI – the Federal Bureau of Investigation, America’s government gumshoes – assembled and published an all-inclusive guide to hair. And despite its reputation for tight-lippedness, it made its guide available to anyone who might have a use or desire for it.

Hair Bibliography for the Forensic Scientist might make a fine gift for anyone who cares about the sometimes-tangled relationship between hair and crime. You might regard this as completely legal intellectual pornography for those who watch CSI [Crime Scene Investigation].

The author, Max Houck of the FBI’s Trace Evidence Unit in Washington DC, at least pretended that his 17-page report, published in 2002 in the journal Forensic Science Communications, would appeal strictly to professionals. “It is hoped that this listing will provide some assistance to forensic hair examiners who are seeking information and support for courtroom forensic challenges,” he wrote.

Some light, even playful, touches suggest that Houck knew his paper would also find its way to amateurs, and even to casual fans of the hair-and-crime game….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.