The other day I posted a pic on Instagram and someone DM’d me about my hair. She asked if it was mine or a wig and if a wig, where I got it. I love these sorts of questions, cuz I get to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years. So, I thought I would share the same with you.
To the first question: Why yes. That is my hair – I bought and paid for it. Seriously though, there’s not much of my natural hair left and I keep it cut rather short. The main reason is that short hair under a wig is cooler and is better for keeping the wig in place – actually completely shaved is probably the best, but that style doesn’t exactly fit with my boy mode personality. In addition, I always wear a stocking wig cap, which keeps the natural hair in check and further stabilizes the wig.
When buying a wig, especially synthetic, there are 3 things you should know about. The first is monofilament, which describes how the wig is constructed – basically that says that individual fibers are tied to the cap. Now, this is not required for the entire wig, but it is important for the hairline and at the part – it makes a huge difference with regard to realism. The second is lace front, which refers to the hairline. It’s basically the fabric the individual fibers are tied in to. When it’s laid on your forehead it becomes kinda invisible and it looks like the individual fibers are coming out of your head, as they should. When you first get it out of the package, the lace front is often huge, like an inch and a half wide. So you should expect to cut it down to a 1/4 or 1/8 of an inch. Supposedly there are special scissors for doing this, but I just use regular sewing scissors. The third thing to know is what is called shaded. This is probably only relevant for blonde wigs and refers to having dark roots. The idea is that if it was your natural hair, then a few weeks after getting it dyed, your dark roots would grow out and be showing. Years ago, that was a no no, but today it’s actually quite fashionable. Okay, enough of the lecture, let’s get to some pictures. Many of these pics are from my recent trip to Boston, where I packed 5 wigs and all of them got worn at least once.
The oldest wig I still have in rotation is my short blonde bob. It’s called Haute by Jon Renau (https://www.wowwigs.com/jon-renau/haute-wig/ ). She’s monofilament with a lace front and shaded roots. Her color is Shaded Praline, which is 12FS8 – the S stands for shaded and 8 is the color of the roots. I remember the first time wearing this wig and my wife was like, “Um … I think most women are trying to avoid showing their roots”. This was like 10 years ago, so I think the exposed roots style was not yet on her radar. Also, noteworthy of this wig is that it’s heat resistant, so one can curl it with a curling iron as long as it’s not too hot. I’ve done it a few times, but I’m not very good at it, and I think I fried the short side a bit – if you look closely you can see the strands on that side have a strange wave to them. In any case, it’s a really high quality wig that I got at a pretty decent discount. I’m quite surprised it’s lasted so long, given how much I’ve put it through. It’s definitely in better shape than my more recent purchases.
My next oldest wig is my signature long chestnut girl. She gives me a sultry look that is oh so Julie. She is the Brandi wig by Amore and of course in the color chestnut (https://www.wowwigs.com/amore/brandi-wig/). She is monofilament but not lace front. Because it’s not lace front, you would think that I need to be careful not to expose the hairline. But, I don’t seem to have much trouble there. The hairline looks pretty good, as long as one is not up really, really close and inspecting my hairline. In any case, I’m not all that concerned, because I fully expect people know it’s a wig – although many people I’ve talked to in person don’t know, which is quite surprising to me. Now, here’s a little factoid that might surprise you. This is not 1 wig but actually 3, all of the same model and color. Because this was my signature look for so long, I was afraid that it might be discontinued and I would be left without a look that essentially defined my Julie persona. The oldest of the 3 sisters I got in early 2017, just a few months before my first time out. I think she had a lot to do with me gaining the confidence to go out for the first time. I wore her a lot in those early days and she has definitely aged. Her beautiful strands in the back have become frizzy and definitely look like a wig. Here’s a pic from when she was relatively new.
Concerning the 2 younger sisters, the lesson here is that every wig has it’s own personality. They say that the knots of the individual strands move as you train the wig. It took me years to get that short Haute wig to lay the way I wanted it to. For the longest time, it was always falling in my face. So, the two younger sisters don’t lay exactly the same way as the original, which is quite irritating. With those 3, I basically wear the newer ones during the day, because they’re less frizzy, which matters in the full light of daytime activities. Then, the old girl comes out at night, where the frizziness is actually an advantage, because it results in more volume, which is a great look out on the dance floor.
A couple months after getting the original chestnut, I got Miranda by Jon Renau (https://www.wowwigs.com/jon-renau/miranda-wig/) in the color Shaded Peach (30A27S4). This was just a few weeks before my first time out and was the wig I wore on that fateful day (here’s a link to the story of my first time out, which we revisited the past two Fridays!
She’s also the wig of my profile pic on Facebook and other social media. She was really awesome when new, but she has never been an essential go to look, On occasion she’s a lot of fun, cuz her look is kinda frisky. She’s got a body wave in the back, which is a bit challenging to manage – after brushing, I have to comb it with dripping wet fingers to get the curls to come back. However, the biggest issue she that she’s a bit unpredictable with regard to the side part in the front. Sometimes I can get it to work and look super cute, but other times it’s just out of control. I love her, but sometimes she don’t love me back.
The youngster of the group is Elle, also by Jon Renau (https://www.wowwigs.com/jon-renau/elle-wig/) in the color Laguna Blond (FS24/102S12). She’s only a year old, but has quickly started to overshadow the chestnut girls as my go to look. She’s super easy to style and that extra bright shade of blonde draws tons of attention. I’m almost never disappointed with her look and she goes with almost every outfit. Because she’s gotten so much time on the field, I can see that she is aging quickly. I think I’m gonna need to be more careful with her. If the lesson of the chestnut sisters tells us anything, it’s unlikely she can be just replaced by ordering a new one.
Well, that’s about it for my quality wigs. However, I do have a number of cheaper wigs ($50-$100 range) that I got at various wig shops – all the others have been online purchases. I always have high hopes for these low cost gals, but after one wear they usually fall out of favor. You’re probably looking at the above links and thinking, wow, those are crazy expensive. Well, yes and no. A human hair wig is easily more than $1000 and probably closer to $2500. That’s way beyond my price range and I wouldn’t even know how to care for such a wig. The synthetic ones in the $250 range are about my speed, but I always wait for the online sales which are usually 25-30% off site wide. The first chestnut girl, I found on clearance and during a sale so if I remember correctly, it was about $150 total. That’s still quite an investment, but think about how many times I’ve used these wigs and they’re all still in decent shape. More importantly, your hair is one of the first things people notice and is critical to your appearance. Very often, my wig is not only the most expensive single piece of my outfit, but frequently more expensive than everything else put together. And I’m good with that that, because hair will make or break an outfit.
Okay, let’s talk about wig care. Oh wait, first let’s talk about style. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that all of my wigs have a side part with a sweeping bang. I like this style because it creates a rounder face shape. And a round face shape is what creates a feminine appearance. There have been numerous occasions where I’m getting ready with a friend and despite the makeup and outfit they don’t recognize Julie until I finally put on the wig. It really is the most dramatic part of the transformation. The most important piece of advice I can give is to avoid center parts. I think it creates an angular face shape that only cis women can pull off. I think it’s sexy on cis women because it creates a conflict between masculine and feminine, but ultimately their natural femininity overrides – I wish we could do the same (although maybe we do, but in the other direction). The other option is regular bangs. I’ve never tried that look, because I never want to hide my eyebrows – the sweeping bangs expose the forehead and lets those sexy feminine brows take center stage. (If your curious about how I create those brows, check out this post about my makeup routine: https://www.kandis-land.com/makeup-madness/).
Okay, let’s get back to wig care. Storage: My first few wigs, I used to keep in a plastic shopping bag. This was a terrible idea and contributed to there premature demise. Ideally, I should store my wigs on a wig stand or styrofoam head. That’s not an option for me, so I store them in their original boxes and I’m quite good about putting them in a hairnet so that flyaways don’t get bent out of shape. (By the way, all of my shoes are also stored in their original boxes – I’m guessing you’re not surprised by this.) Because I’m one of those dirty smokers, my wigs end up becoming smelly, especially in the winter months – if you know about chemical thermodynamics, you probably know that lower temperatures result in a lower vapor pressure, which causes the smoke to settle on the abundant solid surfaces of the wig fibers. That means that I have to wash my wigs pretty regularly. With my first few wigs I screwed up and tried to wash them with dish soap. Somehow I thought that would be a gentle soap – it was not. Regular hair shampoo is also not a good option even if using conditioner. What I’ve found works best is to wash them in Dawny fabric softener. And, that makes sense, because the synthetic fibers are actually closer to my clothes than my hair. It works quite well. The only problem is that it’s not so good about completely dissolving hair spray, which I use to the point of excess – I have this giant can of Aussie (https://www.aussie.com/en-us/mega-hair-spray) and you should see the amount of aerosol that is flying everywhere. They say that hair spray is not good for wigs, but it’s the only method I know for styling, so I ain’t about to stop. I’m thinking about getting some of that wig shampoo, but for the moment, fabric softener is working for me.
Something I just learned about is steaming. Apparently, this is the method of choice to rejuvenate your wigs. I’d really like to try it out, but in addition to buying the steamer, I would need a foam head and a clamp to hold the head in place. It’s a bit of an investment, but I think it might payoff in the end, at least that’s what is suggested by the YouTube videos. Speaking of YouTube, I highly recommend you consult YouTube before buying a wig online. If it’s a quality wig, then there’s bound to be several reviews of it online – the girls with alopecia are an incredible resource (as well as being super gorgeous) and can help you understand all of the color and style options.
Okay, that’s just about everything I know about wigs. Let me close by adding a few pics of my outing last Saturday. Started the day with some mag mile shopping in the Elle wig and a houndstooth skirt and then switched to the old chestnut girl for an evening at a burlesque show followed by late night dancing at Berlin (https://berlinchicago.com/index.html).
And finally, please allow me to put in a plug for Paint the Town (https://paintthetownchicago.wixsite.com/2022) – we’d love to see you show off your sparkle here in Chicago.