When it comes to fashion accessories and style trends, nothing has stood the test of time like wigs. The earliest wigs date back to ancient Egypt and were crafted from plant fibres to protect the scalps of the Pharaohs and rulers from the scorching desert sun.
While wigs were a sign of wealth and power in some cultures, they were purely theatrical in others. In Asia, wigs were relegated to stages for plays or adorned only by Geishas as a part of their performances and personas.
In early Europe, wigs were a status symbol, often replacing the damaged, lice-ridden hair that afflicted both the wealthy and poor during that era. Marie Antoinette became one of history’s most celebrated fashion icons with her over-the-top wigs. Unfortunately, it was that showmanship that ultimately cost her her head.
Wigs have come and gone throughout history and are even associated with political power and the civil rights movement during the 1960s. In the latter part of the 20th century, wigs had fallen out of fashion entirely. The dawn of the 21st century brought them back.
The development of wigs and wig-inspired hair pieces have dramatically impacted the hair industry. In the early 2000s, stylists were tasked with learning new skills surrounding the use of extensions. While hairpieces date back over the 20th century, the birth of the hair extensions as we know them today didn’t occur until the 1990s. You can thank the Spice Girls for introducing clip in strands of brightly coloured hair.
While modern stylists are now well-versed in adding woven, tape, and micro link hair extensions, wig styling is mostly a lost art. Many modern stylists are tasked with unrealistic expectations from their clients, who see influencers like Kylie Jenner go from platinum blonde to chestnut seemingly overnight. These clients don’t always understand that they’re witnessing what amounts to an illusion created by costly wigs.
In her book, Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes perfectly encapsulates the shock that many clients face when they discover that their idols and inspiration wear wigs. So, how can stylists convey the idea that not only will their client likely be unable to accomplish a certain style, but the person who seemingly has accomplished that look can’t either?
On the other hand, many celebrities are vocal about wearing wigs. Keira Knightly shocked everyone when she confessed to wearing wigs on the red carpet, to cover her stress-related hair loss. Cardi B shamelessly flaunts her wigs and makes no move to hide her style secrets.
This openness has also created a challenge for stylists with minimal wig cutting experience. Whether it’s working around the mesh of a full lace wig while trimming (see full lace wigs at the EvaWigs) or cutting synthetic hair to suit someone’s face shape, cutting wigs is an advanced skill. Synthetic wigs, in particular, offer such a range of materials and textures that they can be especially challenging. These accessories aren’t meant to function like human hair and won’t react the same to certain techniques and products. And let’s not fail to mention the incidents when someone attempts to trim their own wig and needs professional help to save their investment.
As wigs have once again found their place in modern fashion, it’s important for stylists to keep their skills current and relevant to better make recommendations and service their clients.
For many wig-wearers, the goal is to accomplish challenging styles while protecting their natural hair. Stylists have a responsibility to help those clients look and feel good, even if that means focusing more time on mannequin training.
Fortunately, hairstylists are an adaptable breed. Dedicate yourself to continued education and skills advancement to help you stay ahead of the ever-changing hair trends.