How to wear wigs
A seasoned manga lover tells you how to choose the right wig for your face shape, which wig colours suit you, social stigma, and how much you’d pay – from cheap cosplay costume wigs to Kanekalon fiber. Plus: How to make a wig cap!
I bought my first wig from eBay about a year ago; it was chin length and the colour of strawberry milkshake. I have fought a long and arduous battle against the stuff growing out of my head. I have tortured it in innumerous ways: I have dyed it and bleached it until it fell out. I have had blue hair, purple hair, pink hair, orange hair… my hair suffered. In the end I shaved it down to almost nothing. And, surprise surprise, I hated it. It was not flattering.
So I started searching for wigs. I am a huge fan of anime and manga, and I have seen the power of the wig to utterly transform a person’s appearance. I love them; with a good wig it is possible to look like anyone you want. You can go from Tank Girl to Rapunzel in five minutes or less, or simply hide an unflattering haircut. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you a Guide to Your First Wig!
How To Choose The Right Wig For Your Face Shape
Working out your face shape can be a nightmare. Is it round, square, oval, diamond…?
So use this tip. I call it Through The Looking Glass. You will need…
- A mirror
- A lipstick/ Eyeliner
- Hair band
- Wet Wipes
Push all your hair back off your face, and that includes those annoying tendrils that decided to flop down at the wrong moment! If they’re too short to scrape back with the band, then gel them.
Okay, now that you’ve got all that out of the way, it’s time to grab your lipstick/eyeliner. Look closely at your face, then draw around the outline of your face on the mirror.
Look at the outline: this will tell you your face shape.
Important note: the wet wipes are for cleaning off the mirror once you’re done. Don’t forget to do this.
Choosing your ideal wig length for your face shape
Now, the rules for choosing a wig length are no different to choosing a hair cut.
For example, if you have a round face you will generally look better with a longer wig, (i.e. shoulder length or longer) as this will give the illusion of a slimmer face. Assuming this is what you want, of course.
If, on the other hand, you want to make the most of a cherubic appearance, or if you have a thin face and want to make it look fuller, choose a wig that ends at the cheeks or chin, as this will emphasize the widest part of your face. Curls are also good for this, at any length. Curls can be worn at any length to give this effect; however, if you have an especially slim face, then the effect may not be as obvious.
Are cheap wigs or expensive ones better?
Well, that depends on what you want. Wigs are divided into two broad groups: human hair and synthetic hair. Personally, I do not own a single human hair wig, as these are both more expensive and can be ethically questionable. I order mine from Japan and they are all made of a fiber called Kanekalon, which is quite simply the top standard for synthetic hair.
In my experience, a good Kanekalon wig will set you back between £15-£20 (on eBay at any rate – and who doesn’t love eBay?). The £20 ones tend to be long, well past shoulder length. Elaborately styled wigs, such as those used for cosplay, tend to be at the higher end of the price range and can cost between £30-£70.
Important tip here: never expose a synthetic wig to heat. That means no styling tools, hair tongs, or straighteners, and try not to stand too close to the oven while it’s on. Heat will melt the fibers and look like a hot mess.
That said, it is possible to buy synthetic wigs that can be styled using heat styling tools. These will normally say ‘Heat Resistant’ in the information section (again assuming you are buying online). If you are unsure whether a wig is heat safe, then always email the seller and ask. Better to be safe than sorry.
Obviously a human hair wig can be treated exactly as you would your own hair. You can dye it, bleach it, curl it or anything else you like, but just be a little more gentle than usual – wigs don’t grow hair back.
Which wig colour is right for you?
If you are choosing a wig that is what can be considered a natural colour, examine your skin tone first. If you have pale skin, you will most likely suit colours such as platinum blondes, cool coffee tones or light red.
If you have warmer skin tones (pink or red undertones), colours such as the warmer blondes, darker reds such as flame red or wine red, and coffee browns will most likely complement your colouring best.
Another little tip – especially for warm-skinned folks: if you are particularly keen to try platinum, but you feel you look washed out when you wear a pale blonde wig, I have found that using a foundation a shade darker than you would normally use can help solve this.
Black can be a hard colour to wear for some people. If you are aiming for a gothic look, wear it with a foundation one to two shades lighter than your own skin tone, or one that matches exactly.
Never be too afraid to try any colour wig: what some people may say makes you look ‘dead’ or ‘weird’ may in fact be quite striking.
However, do be prepared to listen to advice from those that love you. So if a friend whose opinion you trust says that your new black wig is too harsh for your colouring, you might want to consider asking their opinion on what would be a more flattering choice.
That said; if there is a colour that you are just dying to try, give it a go! Even if it’s just in the privacy of your own room…
The wig cap.
A wig cap is great. Apart from anything else, it protects your hair from the fibers of the wig rubbing on your own hair. That’s assuming you have some natural hair – if you don’t, then investing in wig tape instead of a wig cap is a good idea. Wig tape is also great – it’s like double sided sticky tape for your head to hold your wig on.
Back to the wig caps… A wig cap gives you something to attach hairpins to, to help you feel more secure in high winds or other situations where your wig might slide about. One moment you’re rocking out at a concert and the next your doing a flawless impression of Cousin Itt – or even Uncle Fester? We want to avoid this.
Many wigs are sold with a wig cap included. A wig cap (or “head sock” as I have affectionately nicknamed them) is a stretchy cap, often made of nylon, that is stretched over the head to cover the natural hair. They help smooth out any lumps and bumps and provide somewhere to tuck those annoying strands that would escape from under your wig.
Wearing a wig cap
First, brush your hair back, or if you feel more comfortable using gel, slick it back with gel against your scalp.
Then take the wig cap and stretch it over your fingers.
Beginning at the front, stretch it back across your head. Pull it down so that it sits just on your natural hairline (or slightly over it if you happen to be covering up a receding hairline…) and behind your ears.
Lastly, tuck any stray hair inside it. I find elasticated wig caps to be best, as they make this part easier.
How To Make Your Own Wig Cap
If your wig didn’t come with a handy wig cap, never fear – you can make one very easily.
Buy a pair of nylon or fishnet tights. Yes, Mookychaps, you read it right – TIGHTS! Boys, that means you too! Did Peter Pan teach you nothing?
Right. Take your pair of tights and a pair of sharp scissors.
Now take hold of the legs. These will need to be stretched away from you somehow.
You can either ask a friend to stretch the legs taut and hold them, or if you’re feeling a bit more funky, knot the feet of the tights around your bed posts and pull!
Now cut the legs off at the crotch. You should be left with the crotch area, complete with elasticated waistband. This will be the bit that sits on your hairline when you wear it.
If you are using fishnet tights to make your own DIY wig cap, then I recommend the ones with the smallest holes possible, as it will give a smoother finish when worn under your wig.
How to secure your wig with a wig cap
You Will Need:
- A wig (obviously)
- Wig Cap
- Bobby Pins
Arrange your hair and place your wig cap over your hair as described above. (If you have long hair, French-braid it as close to your scalp as possible before putting on your wig cap.)
Take your wig and stretch it between your fingers as you did with the wig cap. Again moving from front to back, place the front of your wig on your natural hairline. Now pull it gently into place with your free hand – please note this will take practice to get right.
Make sure your wig is the right size as you adjust it. Most wigs come with tabs to adjust the size on the inside of the wig. You can move the tabs at the back to make it larger or smaller (it works a bit like a bra strap).
There will be two tabs on the inside of the wig to towards the front. If you position these just behind the ears, this should ensure your wig is sitting correctly.
If you have a significantly larger or smaller head than normal, it is possible to get wigs designed for petite or larger than average heads.
Once your wig is on, make sure it is sitting right. Check in a mirror, or ask a friend or family member.
Once you are happy with how it looks, its time to grab those bobby pins.
Lift the top layer of hair on your wig, and carefully slide your bobby pin through the mesh of the wig base and through the holes in your wig cap. Then lower the hair of the wig to cover it. Repeat the process to add as many bobby pins as you feel necessary to be secure.
Another option, aside from bobby pins, is to buy little combs that are pressure sensitive – you simply snap them open and closed. These combs come with tiny holes along the outer edge.
The idea is that you sew them along the inside of your wig, and they help it stay in place. You can buy them online or from wig stores.
How will people react to your wig?
Wearing a wig as an accessory has a certain stigma attached to it.
People may assume that you have an illness, and some unpleasant types may even try to snatch your wig off.
If you can pin it down well enough this might not be a problem; however, if you do find yourself wigless thanks to some fools’ idea of a good joke, the best thing to do is try and see the funny side. Never be too ‘proud’ to admit that you wear a wig!
People seem to think that there is something shameful in wearing hairpieces and that it should, as far as possible, be kept secret; but a costume wig is an accessory, just like a necklace, hair falls or even hair extensions. Perhaps if it was treated as such, the practice of wig wearing would become more socially acceptable, and those idiots would stop snatching off people’s wigs in an attempt to humiliate them.
So wear your wig with pride; and if anyone calls attention to it, they are probably just jealous of how fabulous your hair looks. It can save you masses of time in the morning, and if you get caught in the rain with it (certainly in the case of Kanekalon wigs), it apparently will not ruin the style. (Although I should point out here that I have never been in a position to experience this personally.)
As a precaution, if your wig does get wet, buy an open wig head stand and hang your wig on it to dry. The open stands allow air to circulate between the fibers.