What is a Wig? A “wig” is a head covering made of human hair or synthetic materials. People wear wigs to be in style, for aesthetics, theatre performances, traditions, ceremonies, and medical reasons such as cancer. For persons, who are dealing with lack of hair due to various cancer treatments, wearing a wig can provide a means of great emotional support during a scary time in one’s life. See our post Women and Breast Cancer and Medical Hair loss for more information about causes of hair loss.
History of Wigs
Wigs were popular accessories during the ancient times. The British Museum shelters a wig with perfect preserved curls discovered in a temple dedicated to Isis, dating from 1000 BC. In France, wigs gained a huge popularity during the reign of Louis XIV (known as the Sun King). The wearing of wigs represented an emblem of the social status until the end of the 18th century. The beginning of the 19th century brought a series of improvements like the flesh colored net and silk net, as well as regarding the fitting and knotting methods. Hairdressers used to adorn their clients’ head with false buns and curls. In the 1960s, a new fashion came into view: the wigs made of synthetic fibers. Nowadays, wigs are customary accessories in the world of entertainment: theatre, movies, and television performances.
The first stage of natural hair (from humans and animals) preparation consists of dividing it into small bunches that are lying in the same direction. The short hair and broken strands are separated by the help of a wire brush called “hackle”. Each bunch of hair is washed with soap and disinfectant, rinsed, squeezed, and dried. The clean and dried bundles are passed through “drawing brushes” and sorted in groups of equal length. Then they are curled or waved and dyed in the required color by blending several shades to give the hair a natural appearance. The synthetic fibers are manufactured directly into the desired colors.
Adding the hair The foundation is made of net, synthetic materials or flesh colored silk inserted with elastic or small bones to allow a secure positioning. The edges are cut from fine mesh silk that best suits the hair color. The foundation is placed on a wooden block with the shape of a head. There are two techniques used to add the hair to the foundation.
The first (and the oldest) method, is based on wefts sewn by hand to the foundation placed on the block. The second one relies on attaching the hair to the net by the help of a hook called “ventilating needle”. The tool has different sizes and is used to knot the strands of hair directly to the foundation. The wigmaker’s skills count a lot when it comes to deciding the number of knots and their direction in order to obtain a natural look. A full wig made of human hair contains about 30.000 to 40.000 knots and requires six heads of hair.
For more information about the different types of wig caps please see our post, Types of Wig Caps.
Styling the Wig The last step is reserved to styling. The wig is placed on a soft block and styled just like a hairstylist does in a beauty salon. The hair is combed using a wet comb; the curls are formed with cotton rollers and after the final arrangement is covered with a net and dried.