Wigging Out: The Joy of Fake Hair

by Zeynep Memecan

I am a casual wig wearer. And I have no shame in that.

I love my real hair, and take pride in the Middle Eastern-Mediterranean combination that created my curls. I enjoy having something to twirl around my finger when I'm flirting. And the unpredictable nature of my hair keeps me looking forward to what the day’s special will be: crunchy, springy, well-defined, or out of control. But sometimes I just feel an itch for something radically different. Sometimes I want to cheat on my curls.

Wearing a wig allows for just that. It's an exciting new presence surrounding my face, if only for a few hours. It’s an accessory, like a purse or a ring, only more functional. It’s a reflection of my mood. Today I might feel like a sultry Cleopatra; maybe tomorrow I’ll jump into a bold Lady Gaga.

I’ve used my wig for passport photos, feeling just a little nervous when the photographer begins touching my “hair” to adjust for the lighting. I greeted my mother at the airport as a blonde (subsequently freaking her out). But my wig comes in most handy when I’m going out on the town. I feel a surge of confidence when I'm wigged out, not necessarily because I feel prettier in jet-black straight hair, but because I’m hiding a mischievous little secret under my innocent-looking bangs. Each time someone compliments how healthy my hair looks or asks me who my stylist is, my veiled curls go tee-hee under the plastic netting.

There are practical reasons for going synthetic, too. Money, for one. If you happen to have and extra $50-plus lying around (add an extra $10 for us curly girls), be my guest. Hit up the hair salon; get your hair washed, dried, and styled; and leave happy. But weekly salon visits are a luxury not everyone can afford. Buying a wig is like subscribing to a hairstyle for an indeterminate amount of time with limited commitment. At $29.99, a worthy investment.

Then there's the time I save. In my pre-wig days, preparation for a night out would entail a depressingly boring hour of sitting in front of the mirror, bending my arm in painful angles to reach that nasty clump of frizz on the back of my head, trying to work the round brush and the hairdryer and the product and the flat iron at the same time, followed by a good 15 minutes of staring in the mirror, wondering what I could improve. Now, I put my hair in a bun, don my wig, adjust my bangs ... and voilà! A 12-second effort, and I'm out the door. No burn marks on my forehead, no strands on the floor, no feelings of guilt about mistreating my hair. And I don’t even care if it’s raining outside. My hair is weatherproof.

Finding the right wig is an art, and once you pick out your wig, there might be a period of acclimation. A wig's constant squeeze is a mild discomfort, but one that usually disappears after your first drink. Avoiding awkward wig-adjustment moments while getting intimate with a beau is a talent that can be mastered. More annoying is the necessity to explain to friends and loved ones why your hair grew six inches between the office and cocktails. But don’t be surprised if they soon begin to causally ask you where you got your wig and whether they have it in a darker shade.

In this day and age, when a single shampoo brand offers more than a hundred products to choose from, why shouldn’t I expect the same kind of freedom of choice in my hairstyle? I’ve thrown out my pathetic hair gel and my useless leave-in conditioner and made room for a colorful collection of hairdos on my shelf. Skeptics can go ahead and reach for that hair iron. While you're spending hours on your hair, I'll be getting the best seat at the bar.