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Oct 23, 2010

Whither the Wig?

What is it about wigs?

Some people love them.  Some people hate them.   But few people think of them as fashion accessories on par with, say, designer sunglasses.  This despite the fact that a wig can totally change a person's look.

When I was growing up, there was a brief period where wigs entered the mainstream -- or tried to.  Wiglets, switches, and all kinds of hair accessories helped women acquire the bouffants, beehives, and renaissance-inspired hairdos that were popular in the Sixties through the early Seventies.

Briefly, wigs and wiglets suggested glamour, sophistication, and the sort of jet-setting lifestyle too hurried to permit sitting for hours under a hair dryer.

Even Barbie wore wigs.

But times change.  Blame it on Charlie's Angels, Ali McGraw or something, but it seemed that suddenly it was all about looking natural.  Gradually wigs developed a somewhat unsavory reputation.

While there's certainly no lack of wig stores where I live -- they're everywhere -- I think many people associate them with 1) cancer, 2) porn stars 3) drag queens, 4) orthodox Jews, 5) little old ladies.

This despite the fact that a good wig costs hundreds of dollars, and are big business for the likes of Raquel Welch, Jaclyn Smith, and of course, the late Eva Gabor.  Many celebrities wear them all the time.

Of course the best wigs look totally natural.  (It's sort of like men's toupees -- you only notice the bad ones so assume all wigs are bad.)

It's when the match between the wig and the wigged is poor that one looks twice -- or can't stop looking.

Which might just be the point.

Readers, both tress-blessed and bowling ball(d), what's your take on wigs?  Do you own any?  Do you ever throw one on casually just to enhance your look, or are they strictly for the occasional evening of fantasy play with a loved one?

Do you agree that wigs -- while widely available -- simply aren't the fab fashion accessory they used to be?

Could it all be a conspiracy perpetrated by the folks at Procter & Gamble to make us buy shampoo?

Put on your thinking cap -- the ash blonde number with the spit curls -- and share!



  1. A few years ago I wore wigs all the time. Loved them! I only stopped because 1) they are not that comfortable and 2) I wanted to grow my real hair out and it didn't under wigs any more.

    I had a great time with them and would still wear them if I didn't live in the too-hot south!

  2. My grandmother wears wigs and it makes me crazy.

  3. Omigod! It's HER! That barbie! I played with her... she was the lone the barbie left at my Grandma's from when my aunts were little. She didn't have the bathing suit anymore (there were other various clothes) but the wigs were all there. Though my favourite was her "real" hair, brown and braided around her head. My cousins got to wear their hair like that for Ukrainian dance and I always loved it... I wonder if she's still there?

    Sorry. Anyway, wigs. Sadly, I fall in the "just weird for everyday" category. This is too bad because I think they really can be fun to play with, and with my hair (very fine, straight, and dark) there are certain looks I just can't get. Like anything long. When I was about 12 I had cut my hair truly short for the first time, and I wanted a wig so I could feel like I still had long hair, some times. My mom actually bought me one---a good one---and I even wore it a bit---even to school once, I think. People asked "Is that a wig?" No, brainy, my hair spontaneously grew two feet last night. Here's your sign.

    But, I got a bit older and it was swiftly relegated to the realm of costume prop. I think it would be fun if they were more "acceptable". Ah, well.

  4. My cousins had that Barbie growing up too. I loved those wigs and I think they changed color if you ran water on them or something...

  5. My mother had a couple of wigs to rings the changes with her style - I think now people would be scared of being 'found out' by a wig slipping or something. Someone as glamourous as Cathy must have a whole wardrobe of wigs - I'd love to see her as a firey red-head.

    And more posts with 'Whither' in the title, please!

  6. First off...I had that Barbie and I kept her since 1963. I just moved and your post reminded me that I had not seen the box with "all my Barbie's" in it. I went looking and still can't find her. This is a very sad day. I even still had the red wig and the black wig. I think the blonde one was lost years back. I also still had the bathing suit. BARBIE...where are you?

  7. I love wigs and I used to wear them, but none would ever be mistaken for actual hair. My favorite was a bright pink pixie haircut.

    I think one of the things that put wigs on the wayside was extensions. These are still word by oodles today. Here in Colombia they are incredibly common, almost as much as fake boobs.

  8. I have several wigs that I wore when I was bald from chemotherapy. I plan to donate them all back for folks who need them and can't afford them otherwise.

  9. I guess I'm just naive but it never occurred to me that women wear wigs, with the exception of cancer patients and Cher because she's so known for them..... and Jan, who could forget that episode!

    I had an aunt that wore them, she was like the Cher of our family, and everyone talked about her and her wigs, and nails, and leather pants (which she was still wearing in her 70's). I suppose that gave me a negative impression, not because it wasn't her real hair but because of the way my other aunts rolled their eyes when they talked about her. Now that I'm older I can see that they were just jealous because she was gorgeous and glamorous and all of the things they weren't.

    Would I wear one, probably not, I'm more of a fade into the background type but I definitely wouldn't be nasty about someone else wearing one the way my aunts were.

  10. In a moment of synchronicity, iTunes played "Wig" by the B-52s just as I started to read this post.

    I used to work in senior housing, and the ladies would don their wigs for special occasions, whilst going about normal life with nearly no hair. It was a bit bittersweet.

    I like the *idea* of wigs, but I doubt I could pull one off. Besides slippage concerns, I think it requires a certain panache to flaunt a wig.

  11. I've never worn a wig in my life, but I guess I was born after their fall from grace. I guess it's a harmless way to try out a whole different look (if you don't fall into any of those 5 categories)

    However, people (mostly women) have been wearing some form of fake hair almost throughout history. I seem to remember from history books that some Roman ladies wore blonde wigs made from the hair of women from nothern regions. And in early christian Europe, priests apperently worried about the fact that, if they touched the heads of the members of their congregation when giving them the 'body of christ', they might be touching the hair of people who were now in hell... (according to a fascinating book on 'dress and morality' which I'm reading now). Nevertheless, fake hair peices or wigs were in use in most fashions from the Middle Ages upto the 1920's. Often just for women, sometimes for men as well (like the powdered 18th century 'lion' wigs.
    So, maybe we are in the strange and deviant era with regard to the wearing of wigs right now.

  12. I have alopecia totalis, so wigs are the only time I have hair! I love them but not every day. They itch, get sweaty, bits go in your eyes (and without eyelashes, trust me, that's uncomfortable) and on the whole slinging on a hat or a headscarf is much quicker and comfier.

    That said, I do love the chance to change my look and to wear styles that my natural hair would never, ever work for. Before it all fell out, I had very thick wavy hair with cowlicks and all sorts of general insanity. Now I can wear smooth sleek bobs with fringes (bangs) that would simply have been impossible with my old natural hair. My very favourite wig is a candy-pink chin length bob with a side swept fringe. You'd be surprised the number of people who think I've just dyed my own hair that colour!

    Wigs and hairpieces are very popular here with afro-caribbean women. I've bought all but three of my wigs from afro beauty shops and they have a HUGE range. I've started noticing women in the street and on the bus who I suspect are wearing them, not because they look fake but because I recognise the styles and colours!

  13. I have 4 short bobbed neon wigs, bought at Walmart. Their fun for nights out with friends, each of us will dress in one color with the neon wig on. It's very Fanta-girl-esque.

  14. Oh, one other point from my wig-wearing experience - they tend to come out of the box fairly thick and bulky. I've had most of mine trimmed and thinned by a suitably trained hairdresser and the difference it makes to how well it suits me and looks natural is amazing.

    So if you fancy wearing wigs but are worried they'll look fake, try having one trimmed suit to your own face shape. Personalised wigs are the way forward, I swear.

  15. I used to be obsessed with my mother's hairstyle in 1967/68 when my parents were married and I was born. She had a sleek heavy banged short blonde do and it had height too. Especially with her fake eyelashes on, my mother was my own personal movie star. Years later when I was trying and trying to create that perfect Bardotesque bump myself, Mom came in while I was in the midst of backcombing frustration and gently told me that even with tons of hairspray I wouldn't achieve the look I was after without a fall, or at very least a rat to comb my hair over.

    My 12 year old daughter loves wigs and got 2 for her birthday. A burgundy page boy and a long violet wig with bangs. They are cheap costume wigs, but she treats them well and bought a wig cap. I love that she's embraced style to that level, since 12 is such a great time to start to have fun with your persona that way.

    Having just recently watched the bathroom fight from Valley of the Dolls I laughed at Neely's glee over Helen's wig being that she was wearing a spectacular headpiece herself.

  16. Never had a wig, but a long fall which was bleached and dyed brownish Asian hair. Nasty and impossible to do anything with. That was the 60s. Didn't look at another in person, even though very tempted by the Raquel Welch ads as hers look so natural, until shopping with my girls. Ooooh! hot pastel colours and silky, bobs with bangs. Of course, they're cliche now, but gee, I loved them. And got the eyeroll, at your age, mum, from the girls. So, now, all I have is an elbow length yellow fright wig and a clown wig for Hallowe'en.

    Does anyone have a favourite wig make to recommend? Something that doesn't cost the earth?

    About alopecia: one of the ladies I worked with in the late 70s wore wigs as she was totally without hair. Stupid me was the only one in our small office who didn't know. Should have seen the look I got when I told her I liked her new hairdo. Took her a while to figure out I wasn't being nasty. Her wigs must have cost a fortune as they were human hair and a gorgeous shade of blonde. She always had the best hair in the office, very Barbara Eden pretty. Someone finally told me, but I still loved her hair, wig or not.

  17. I can't see myself ever wearing a wig unless I lose my hair permanently. But seeing those bouffant 60's hair-do's, and being born with dead straight hair that will stay in curls only 5 minutes even with all the hair product in the world, I can certainly understand why some might consider them!
    I suppose the introduction of the permanent wave reduced their popularity a lot.

  18. I think wigs went out when blow dryers came in. Women could wash and style their hair every day in 20 minutes.

  19. I'm thinking of buying some cheap wigs. I am so board with my hair right now. Its to short to do any hairstyles with. I want to get some crazy colors just for fun

  20. Actually,
    I think 'wiglets' might be making a tiny comeback. If you go to Sally's they're full of those clip in extensions that are really wigs for half of your head. See Jessica Simpson's line.

    I've had jet black asian hair for all of my life and have always longed to see what I'd look like with an ash brown and highlights. I kinda always wanted to try them on. I'd LOVE to have a wig shop like that near my home.

    But yeah, check out
    They're making a COMEBACK!

    I'd totally buy a dozen if I had the money. I love long hair one day and short the next.

  21. *eg* My grandmother wore wigs. I believe that's all I need to say on that.

  22. If they were readily available and cheap in Australia, I would buy them. I love that you can have so many looks. It's not that much different from choosing earrings or shoes to go with an outfit. I have short hair, but sometimes it an outfit just needs those long tresses. I could have so much fun. I do have some cheap loud coloured wigs that I've worn to parties, including one outrageous purple one the same style as the one you're sporting. All throughout the hair are little tiny coloured lights that change colour as you wear it. There's a tiny little battery tucked inside. Perhaps I should dig it out and send you a photo ...

  23. Actually discovered under the duress of medical treatments, like Gorgeous Things, that wigs can be life-saving. And it was a surprise to me how convenient it suddenly was to be perfectly coiffed all the time! Sadly, my wigs were styled to match my old red hair and now I'm blonde, so I haven't pulled them out since my hair grew back, but I did love all three of them, in a way.

  24. Funny you should post this today. On Saturday night I wore a wig for the very first time in my life - it was bright purple and similar in cut to the Raquel Welch one. I bought it for Halloween, but then was so excited when it arrived that I couldn't wait to wear it. So, I just wore it out for my evening plans. I felt totally fabulous and loved every second of wearing it! I'm already thinking about my next wig...

  25. I love wigs, too! I have very fine hair, and knowing that I'd never have the PERFECT ponytail, I just bought one…and then another…and another. They all clip in, match my hair perfectly and didn't cost a mint. I highly recommend the Tressalure line. It's a fun little switchup!

  26. Anyone remember the All in the Family episode where Gloria comes home with a brunette wig? Mike wants her to wear it when they have s*x, and Gloria concludes it's because he feels like he's with "another woman," and gets p-o'd.

    My mom had a wig or two back in the 60s, I think, although I don't exactly recall her wearing them. When she had breast cancer she bought a wig, but I know she never wore it. It seemed like it was more of a security blanket than anything else.

  27. Nope, never had a wig or any other hair extension. I know I've wanted them in the past. I've looked at the catalogs but never got up the courage to order due to -
    1. sizing/color/style to order?
    2. comfortable to wear? I admit I'm a wimp when it comes to fashion. I do NOT buy into the "must suffer for beauty" line.
    3. price - didn't want to spend that much for something I wasn't sure I'd wear. And the cheap ones look just that - cheap.

    Would I get one if I lost my hair? I don't know. I guess it would depend on if it was permanent or not. This reminds me, I need to get my hair chopped so I can donate it again.

  28. Peter,
    Because of this post I just bought a clip-in bang from that website I mentioned earlier. I'm so psyched about getting it in the mail. I admit, I have my doubts. Based on past experience, things like this don't tend to live up to my expectations. But I'll be crossing my fingers:)


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