Today, wigs command new respect, and offer instant glamour for the woman seeking a quick-change into her (usually naughtier) twin.
For the past few decades, wigs seemed to be back in the closet, relegated to strippers, drag-queens and the occasional go-go granny who found herself between appointments for her monthly blue-rinse. Today, wigs command new respect, and offer instant glamour for the woman seeking a quick-change into her (usually naughtier) twin. Leaps in the technologies used to craft hairpieces, as well as a sophisticated new array of products used to style them, have propelled wig-craft from dowdy to diva-licious.
The question stylists and consumers ask themselves today: should a wig look like a wig? Experts say yes and no. A wig should fit like a second skin, and the faux-hair should fall, flow, move and style like real hair. One of the chief flaws of earlier-generation wigs is that they felt slippery to the touch, yet looked as stiff and lifeless as a scouring pad. Some even gave off the appallingly synthetic fumes of a new plastic shower-curtain, a sure sign that the wearer had something to hide.
Today, texture makes the difference between a stunning piece and just a nasty weave. Much of this has to do with the placement of the faux follicles in the fabrication of the wig; any inconsistency can lead to the patchy, rough look which screams “fake,” and makes chic styling impossible. As far as color goes, however, mimicking nature’s palette may no longer be the objective, as exemplified by singer Nicki Minaj, who favors an outrageous rainbow of candy-colored bobs. True, few of us lead the frenetic life of a hip-hop artist or her hard-working wigs. But the wig-making and styling techniques mastered for stage and screen also offer women in real-life an array of sweat-proof, slip-proof, star-powered looks.
TIPS FROM LOS ANGELES THEATRICAL WIG MISTRESS, LORRAINE ELY:
Multiple hours of hands-on practice are required to mastering the perfect pin-curl, finger wave, roller placement, back-brush and dress-out is the key to any type of hair sculpting—skills which expand the repertoire of any professional. Basic tools to get started: a malleable cork filled block, clamp, T-pins, sectioning clips, wig cap, a natural bristle teasing brush, a four pronged teasing comb (for intricate detail) and a good quality wig in the chosen color, length and hair type.
For the retro 60s flip-up wig I created for the lead character Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray”, all roots are heavily back-brushed using a boar bristle brush. An excellent finishing spray on the roots for extreme lift is Schwarzkopf got2b Glued Blasting Freeze Spray – The mid-lengths and ends are dressed out to ensure clarity and smoothness, increasing shine on stage. The spray can be re-applied once all teasing and smoothing out is complete. It literally freezes the contour of the beehive into shape to withstand the high impact dance routines and heat generated on stage. Only minimal touch-ups are needed with this scaffolding-like product. A great finishing product for a soft, natural yet controlled look on stage is the traditional L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray. The hair will still move in a life-like way; however an all-over polished look is achieved if applied post dressing/styling.
When your do is through with glued, we recommend got2b Squeaky Clean Daily Cleanse Shampoo. Provides gentle, yet deep cleansing to d-gunk styling build-up from hair to scalp. Follow with Instantly Satisfied Instant Conditioner Instantly freezes styleFor the final layer, I use a fine mist of CHI Shine Infusion – perfect for any type of wig as it creates a healthy shine, post freeze spraying.
Once the shape has been formed, the wig is ready to be fitted to the actor or client. Tight pin curls or braiding of the natural hair serves as a strong base for securing the wig. A wig cap is positioned and the wig follows, pinned securely in place. If an actor’s performance involves a lot of movement, I always test how securely it is positioned to ensure its stability.
Styling tools – to pre-set a wig
Conair rollers for wet setting
Conair Boar Bristle Teasing Brush
Remington Pearl Ceramic Ionic Technology heated rollers are perfect for both natural and synthetic wigs because of their velvet covering. The heat is consistent, and does not cause any damage to artificial hair. This is the perfect way to impart curl into a straight wig for further manageability and movement.
Visually picture the finished look before starting and work from that, and draw out your design on paper if necessary. If possible, try the wig on the actor or client prior to final styling determining their face shape, natural hairline and finished width or height to maximize the look.
For day-to-day use on a natural wig, I recommend a small amount of Moroccanoil® Moisture Repair Shampoo, as it provides optimal hydration for both normal and color-treated hair. Follow with Moroccanoil® Moisture Repair Conditioner which features a moisture-balancing formula for hair that has been weakened by heat styling and is gently detangling post back-brushing.
To liberate a wig from product build-up and return the hair-piece to its most pristine state, I suggest a deep, deep cleanse with Schwartzkopf got2b Squeaky Clean Daily Cleanse Shampoo®, followed by Instantly Satisfied Instant Conditioner®.
Reporting by Victoria Thomas and Lorraine Ely
All photos: Dawn Malone