Wearing wigs

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If your hair is a hot mess and you’re short on time to fix it, what do you do?

  1. Cancel your plans (leaving you with plenty of time to fix your hair)
  2. Pull your hair into a bun and go through the day feeling kind of blah
  3. Cover your hair with a scarf or other hair covering
  4. Wear a wig

Most of my colleagues would go with option 2, but options 3 and 4 are probably equally likely for most Africans. But it’s option 4 that fascinates me: the wig.

Over here, wigs are generally reserved for grannies, people who are wearing a costume, or people who’ve lost their hair (usually due to cancer). Wig wearing as an everyday hairstyle is not something I’ve seen among my peers (though maybe they just have good wigs!). This is a different story among African women, however.

One thing I love about Nigerian women, regardless of age, is how so many of them really explore the versatility of hair. It doesn’t matter if she has hair to her bum or the tiniest of afros, most women experiment with tons of different styles and hair textures in their lifetimes, from weaves to dreadlocks to wigs (and everything in between). They don’t shy away from hair that isn’t theirs (one girl I know says “if I bought it, it’s mine” in response to being asked if her weave was her own hair). If one complains about how annoyed they are with their hair or about seeking low-key suggestions (*cough* me *cough*), wearing a wig is often suggested as an option. Most Nigerian women I know have a wig in their arsenal: they may not wear it regularly but it’s perfect for those times when your hair has reached its limit: it’s in need of a relaxer and you don’t have time, it needs a rest from braiding (due to the dreaded receding hairline caused by over-braiding!), or for there’s an event where you want to dramatically change up your look.

My mom added wigs to her arsenal recently, and they look amazing on her (it helps that she’s gorgeous!). I’m always surprised by how much they change her look. When she first wore one after years of braiding her hair, her colleagues asked if she had “decided to wear her hair curly” now, thinking that she just started using rollers in her hair rather than having braids. She set them straight and that was that, except for one woman who actually wanted her to remove the wig to prove it wasn’t her hair.

For me, I guess I have the North American mentality when it comes to wearing a wig, but let’s face it: my biggest wig fear would be having my wig fall off in public! Even with all the precautions one can take (clips, wig cap) I’d still be too self conscious to carry myself naturally while wearing a wig—in my constant attempts to ensure it was in place I’d be touching my wig all the time, leading people to think I either have lice or I’m narcissistic.

Have you ever worn a wig (as part of a costume doesn’t count!)? If so, did you have any interesting interactions with non-Nigerians who were curious about your new ‘do?

28 thoughts on “Wearing wigs

    • Na wa o: that’s the only part of this post to elicit a comment?!

      You’re right though: I use the term North America to refer to Canada + the United States, but in addition to Mexico it includes all those Caribbean Islands, and probably other countries too (let me go to Wikipedia).

      Oooh, I just checked: Northern America is more accurate, though that includes the dependent territories of Bermuda, Greenland, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon (combined population: approx 127,000).

  1. Non-Nigerian here (as you already know hehehe) but I’d totally wear a wig if they weren’t so expensive. Since my hubby almost did away with me once he found out how much my extensions were, I’m too scared to even look into one.

    Wigs are great as long as you have a really good one I think. Cheap ones can just look…cheap. I don’t know how it is in Nigeria but in eastern Europe hair services are tons cheaper than in North America. Tons. It’s 5 euros for a blow dry/styling. It can be $50 here. It’s ridiculous!

    • Lol Ves! Welcome, non-Nigerian! ;)

      You’re right about the difference in the cost of hair services! I could afford to regularly treat myself to a new hair style in Nigeria, but here I look a hot mess most of the time (can’t blame the cost of hair services entirely though)!

      If I ever got over the fear of my wig falling off, I’d definitely have to get a quality because you’re right that looking cheap would be another issue!

      You’re definitely up on the latest in beauty—do you think wigs are more common among the non-granny crowd than I’ve suggested?

  2. I have worn wigs before. To me it’s just like wearing a sewn in weave except you can remove a wig more easily. Wig wearing is quite common in USA. In fact they no longer have that ‘granny’ connotation or look due to new designes/technology. If a wig is selected to suite your facial features and frame, with the right style, length and color, it can work and perhaps look like your hair.
    I haven’t worn a wig in over two years, but I’ll pull one out in a heart beat if I need a break, or just want a fresh/different look.

    • Hello, Highly Favored! You’re right: there are amazing wigs out there—the one my mom wears is an example, it’s why her colleague was convinced it was her own hair. I’ve noticed that demographically, the grannies here are more likely to rock wigs compared to younger women (but maybe they just have good wigs on that have fooled me!).

  3. Some wigs are cheaper than installing braids so I go for them. The “bigger” the stylist—licenses, type of clients, salon ambiance, etc., the more expensive their services.

    When I was in college, I patronized college students who wanted to make quick bucks by offering cheaper rates but the experience has been sour. My edges suffered, hair loss from unnecessary knots and tangles, bad attitude, i.e., “I’m doing your hair for less jor!” etc.

    After all these things I decided to put my hair in braids and invest in wigs. The are more manageable and I’m protecting my fro at the same time!

    • Lol I can totally relate to your experiences with um, less than professional hair stylists who have um, shall we say, big personalities? I could write a book about unprofessional business people, especially among our community, sadly!

      I’m learning so much about the prevalence of wigs; thank you for being part of that!

  4. I am on low cut and wear wigs when I have an outing. I didn’t know it is mostly the elderly, cancer patients and the few you mentioned that put on wigs. I just believed that most women have one or two wigs in their wardrobe for a change of look or to cover their hair when they don’t have the time to do it.
    I like short Bob wigs with a fringe and I have no fear of it falling off and peradventure it does, the wig cap is there to cover my natural hair.
    Well, from the options you mentioned, if I was not carrying low cut, and I am yet to make my hair due to some reasons, I would bond the hair into a bun and put on a wig, so that if a mishap happens, I can still rock my bun!
    Wig is a hair saver for black women o!

    • Hello, new dawn!

      Here, you don’t really hear of or see oyinbos wearing wigs; Nigerians and other Africans and Black people definitely do though.

      You won’t carry your low cut to outings? Is this a personal preference or do you feel it’s a societal thing? I was going to write about that in another post about hair actually:

      Oh, good point about making sure that your hair underneath your wig is somehow ok so that you won’t be too embarrassed if your wig comes off; thank you for sharing your insight!

      • You would be surprised at the number of Caucasians sporting wigs. The dif being it blends so well you cannot tell. For me, wig is a better option to sew in as sometimes you just want to take it off but errrm when you remember how much you spent getting it in? Ahhh, you best leave it on lol so wig over sew ins for me.

  5. Yes! Yes! yes! Wigs have been part of my healthy hair routine since I started my natural hair journey. Most young people wear lace front wigs brought about by celebrities like beyonce, so I bet many of your friends that you might think have a sew in might be rocking lace front wigs. I sent you a pic with me in my straight lace front on your gng gmail account, and on instagram there is a picture of me in dungarees/overalls with my curly/kinky hair wig. With both those wigs people think it’s my hair curly or straightened. Wigs are awesome not for bad hair days, but for being able to was/condition your hair as often as you would like. I relied on them when I wanted to make sure I was deep conditioning and doing protein treatments every week, because all I had to do was like 4 cornrows and slap my wig back on for the week, so didnt worry about the time styling would add after a hair treatment. The last thing I have to say is that I use the elastic band method of securing the wig which you can you or see ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xz3pMnmntQ
    I remove all the hair clips from the wig because they often snag my real hair and the band is snag free and feels so freaking secure to me. I have worn my wig to yoga and in downward dog, it remained secure :)

    • As usual you are a treasure trove of info, mpb!

      I never thought of using a wig as a protective style—this would be great for someone wary of their look after a big chop, if they are transitioning. Your wigs look great; I would have thought they were weaves for sure.

      Lol I love that you’ve worn your wig to yoga.

  6. Please excuse my typos in the comment above. I was so excited I guess. Now that my hair is back to being healthy and i don’t need all those treatments as frequently, I still rock my wig (s) as a protective (not messing with my hair) style mostly in the winter. So yeah, I like them for a change in my look as well.

  7. I don’t know if it’s really a “North American mentality.” I know a few fashion/lifestyle bloggers of African (or to be more accurate, Caribbean) descent who wear wigs all the time. I admire how they take risks with hairstyles, because, well, these gals do a whole lot more than what I (or other Asian or white girls) do with my hair. I mostly throw it back in a ponytail or tie it up in a bun and get blowouts or updos if I have an event to go to. I’m pretty low maintenance about my hair, especially for someone who constantly goes to fashion-related events. Most of the time, I just wash and let it air dry.

    • When I said “North American” I meant non-Blacks. One unexpected result of this blog post is that I have to get my vocabulary straight! :)

      I’ve bugged you about this before, but I think you should do more with your hair: it’s lovely and thick and you should go medium or high maintenance with it more often, missy!

      • I don’t have thick hair at all. It’s actually super-fine according to stylists (but I DO have a lot of hair). I just have a lot of it. I do get my hair “done” from time to time – usually if I have a major event to go to (galas, weddings and maybe the first (or last) day of Fashion Week), but that’s it! East Asian hair is hard to style because it doesn’t hold without a lot of product.

  8. I used to wear wigs ALL the time! I have one that’s big and looks like blown out natural hair – that’s my favorite. And I have a short bob one that Cakes likes, but seems to have forgotten about. I also had a locs one, but it was a little over-the-top. I haven’t worn them as much this year, but recently pulled out the first one I mentioned because my hair needs a break, but I still require easy access.

    I’m about to get a fab wavy one from my friend… can’t wait!

  9. I have only worn wigs in the past two years (except braids) I love the versatility of it. I love that when I get home, I can remove the hair and be free! I love that it allows me to oil my hair eveyday and wash my hair every week! I got over the fear of wigs falling off my head a long time ago and it has changed my life!!! Weaves are too annoying! and braids cut my front hair so it is a happy alternative!

    • Hear hear! These are all the reasons that I would enjoy wearing a wig…but you didn’t say how you got over your fear…I guess you just decided not to worry about it?

  10. I have been wearing wigs since like forever. There are a lot of synthetic wigs floating around in Lagos, any style you want. It saves me the stress of braiding/fixing a weave and getting it out.

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