Many lessons in autoimmunity - particularly relating to the role of immune privilege and the interplay between genetics and neuroimmunology - can be learned from the study of alopecia areata, the most common cause of inflammation-induced hair loss. Alopecia areata is now understood to represent an organ-restricted, T cell-mediated autoimmune disease of hair follicles. Disease induction is associated with collapse of hair follicle immune privilege in both humans and in animal models. Here, the role of HLA associations, other immunogenetic factors, and neuroendocrine parameters in alopecia areata pathogenesis are reviewed. This instructive and clinically significant model disease deserves more widespread interest in the immunology community.