For some women, slipping an extra pair of heels in their purse is the secret to a perfect day-to-night transition.
But for Monique Robinson — a beauty blogger who has more than 16,000 followers on YouTube — it’s all about having a spare wig on hand.
“I recently went to a friend’s wedding — it was really formal and I didn’t want to upstage the bride, so I wore a shoulder-length wavy wig that was a mix of brown and blond,” says Robinson, who goes by Glam, of her natural-looking ‘do that day.
But afterward, the 42-year-old Harlem resident wanted to turn it up for a buddy’s 50th birthday bash. “I only had an hour and a half to transform into a sassy, chic bombshell,” says Glam, who popped into a bathroom stall to change as the wedding was winding down. Off came her demure tresses, replaced by an “edgy, short wig,” she says. “One of the bridesmaids saw me come out of the stall and said, ‘Wow! You look completely different.’”
Chic women such as Glam are treating their hair like just another accessory, as easy to change as a purse or a pair of statement earrings. They’re taking their cue from coiffed chameleons such as Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, who all mix up their ‘dos using store-bought styles. They’re also inspired by the Emmy-nominated “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” in which contestants use wigs to create a number of show-stopping looks to impress the judges.
It’s no wonder then, that wig sales are up, according to Arizton, a market advisory group: The global market is growing rapidly — by an estimated 9% every year — and is projected to be worth over $10 billion by 2023.
Chris Appleton, a self-described “hair artist” who helped create Ariana Grande’s signature look with a cascading sew-in ponytail, credits Kim K. — another of his famous clients — for making wigs mainstream. “The Kardashians have really helped with changing the whole stigma,” says Appleton, referring to the old idea that wigs were a hush-hush hack for hair loss, caused by medical issues such as alopecia or chemotherapy. Now, he says, “It’s not a hidden secret … [the Kardashians] will wear a wig, and are not afraid to admit it.”
Glam says her grandmother used to wear wigs, but due to her “fear and shame” about it, only sported ones that “were styled to look just like her hair.” Glam, on the other hand, keeps hundreds of wigs on hand in a rainbow of hues and an assortment of textures and lengths, for “experimenting.”
Appleton says that Glam’s attitude toward her tresses is becoming typical at a time when so many different hairstyles are “in.”
“In the ’60s, you had the bouffant, the ’80s it was the perm, the ’90s was the ‘Rachel’ cut,” he says. “Now, the trend is not one particular thing, it’s just the constant need to change.”
He adds: “People want long hair one minute, short hair the next, one day blond, the next day green hair or blue hair. And our own hair can’t cope with that, so we need wigs.”
Rosa Oh, who owns Mane Beauty in Midtown, says she’s been getting more foot traffic from the Instagram generation. “More young women are coming in, and they’re excited” to experiment with the store’s 600-plus styles. She says they often go for outrageous colors, such as pastels and neons. “When Kim [Kardashian] came out with a neon wig [in Miami] … everyone came in asking for it.”
Student and rapper Destinii Donawa started wearing wigs three years ago, when she noticed that chemical straighteners were destroying her hair. But after the 19-year-old began playing with all the fun new styles at her fingertips, she was hooked. “I get bored easily,” says Donawa, who lives in East Flatbush.
Now, she loves going back and forth between different colors and lengths: a flowing purple wig and a chin-length pink one are some of her favorites. “A friend told me recently that I have different personalities with different wigs,” says Donawa. “It definitely gives me a confidence boost when I rap, and turns on that alter-ego side.” She has even started making and selling them with her friend Shay Akinó, for her Kino Kollection.
Beauty queen Lauren Vizza, 29, also appreciates the power of a fake mane.
The former Miss Louisiana — who repped her state in the Miss America and Miss USA pageants — is no stranger to pumped-up hair and makeup. But for her bachelorette party last February in New Orleans, she wanted to take things up a notch. And so she booked a “wig party” for her and 15 friends at Fifi Mahony’s salon, where $50 each got them a wig, styling help and a glass of Champagne. (Fifi’s has been hosting these hair-centric parties every weekend since 2014.)
Vizza says she originally got the idea from her bachelorette party-planning service, Jetset Bachelorette, and it was a hit. “We were new people, the party was immediately on,” says Vizza. “Everyone wanted photos and boomerangs,” she says, adding that her long, platinum-white wig made her feel like “Kaleesi mixed with a Real Housewife.”
Appleton says that wig-curious customers should go ahead and start living out their hair fantasies.
For a natural look, he suggests choosing a wig with fine lace mesh that “blends into the skin,” and then tweezing the hairline at the front of the wig to make it look more realistic.
As for the budget, Oh says that those in the market for a novelty item can get away cheap; for a fun night out, a $15 synthetic item might do the trick. But she notes that the fake stuff can’t stand up to heat styling. For a more durable piece, she suggests splurging on human hair (these wigs start at $30 and go up to $2,000, at Mane).
Glam says the key to rocking a wig is embracing the fun of it all. “Don’t limit yourself,” she says of dipping a toe in the world of delightfully unnatural hairdos. “The possibilities are endless.”
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