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A wig or toupee is a head of hair—human, animal, e.g. horse-hair, or synthetic—worn on the head for fashion or various other aesthetic and stylistic reasons, including cultural and religious observance. The word wig is short for periwig and first appeared in the English language around 1675.

Some people wear wigs to disguise the fact that they are bald. Actors, on the other hand often wear costume wigs in order to better portray the character they are playing. Wigs are also commonly used in the transgender community by transsexuals, and cross-dressers for cross-dressing, gender-bending and for drag performances. In addition, some people have worn pubic wigs or merkins.

Shopping for wigs

Shopping for a wig can be fun or fraught with anxiety for transgendered people. Purchase decisions that have been made while panicking over being found out can turn out to be disastrous at worst. At best, they can cause one to lose a good bit of money. Finding a good source for wigs, where a transgendered person is welcomed and treated with respect, with styles that suit and flatter the head and face's shape is important in developing the desired presentation.

Wigs can be purchased from many on-line establishments. Bargain wigs can be found on Ebay, but be aware that there have been problems with some less reputable suppliers copying photos of high quality wigs and supplying cheap imitations. The biggest advantage to on-line wig stores are selection, price and anonymity. They can be a very good choice if the type, color and style have already been decided upon. If these issues have not been settled, however, a retail establishment can be a better choice. A good style, color and fit can be chosen with the help of the store's owner or employees. But where to find one and how to insure that they will not drive their potential customer out of their store under a hail of humiliating laughter?

One of many places to shop for wigs are those establishments that serve the needs of cancer patients as they generally have good experience dealing with both males and females of all ages and types as well as the sensitive issues they face. Local hospitals, medical clinics, doctors offices etc. might have contact information. A local cancer support group may also be able to provide some recommendations.

Other options include local transgender friendly wig shops, hair salons/boutiques, and costume stores. A gender specializing therapist may know of such places. Local transgender support groups can also be good sources for recommendations. Support group web sites often have lists of TG friendly establishments and wig retailers are often included in those lists. You may end up paying more at first for a wig that could be gotten less expensively on the web but the help and advice from the assistant will probably make the extra expenditure very worthwhile.

Types of wigs

Human hair


  • Can be cut and styled
  • Can be curled and straightened
  • Can be coloured and highlighted


  • Cost !!!
  • Do not last as long as synthetics
  • Have to be restyled after every wash



  • Cost
  • Easy maintenance


  • Can look artificial
  • Cannot easily be colored, if at all.

Synthetic wigs are often better for every day wearability, durability, look and feel. They are often the most cost effective choices for hair replacement.

Wig care

Wigs are not shampooed often unless one is in a hot climate - perhaps once every 6 weeks or so. Keep some old wigs to wear when swimming or hiking. That helps keep 'work' hair fresh. One strategy is to buy two of the same style wig, alternating them at regular intervals or using the secondary wig only when the primary wig is being cleaned.

Wig shampoo can be purchased online or from retailers that specialize in wigs. Some people use a mild, regular, off-the-shelf shampoo. Baby shampoo is one that has been recommended by a number of persons on-line. The wig is first gently brushed and detangled. It is then turned inside out and placed into a sink or tub of cool water that has a tablespoon or so of shampoo dissolved in it. If perspiration odor is apparent baking soda can be mixed into the water as well. Soaking time should be in the order of 5 minutes or so.

After soaking the wig should be thoroughly rinsed in running water. Do not, however, squeeze or wring the wig. Doing so to a wet wig can destroy its shape and styling.

A mild, diluted fabric conditioner may be used to change the condition of a wig. This is not in the suppliers handbook but the materials used for wigs are very similar to those used in certain clothes and fabric conditioner has the same effect on the wig as it would have on clothing. Use very dilute and gage the conditioner's effectiveness before trying a stronger solution. Fabric conditioner certainly reduces the risk of static and can help the movement of the wig fibers.

After rinsing the wig should be returned inside in and hung somewhere to drip dry. A faucet handle, spout or shower head are good choices for this. Once the dripping stops the wig can be transferred to a wire wig stand or other device that allows for adequate air circulation until it's completely dry. Do not place the wig onto a styrofoam head stand since the stand will inhibit air circulation to the inside of the cap and could, in fact, stretch the cap material to the point of adversely affecting the fit.

Once the wig is completely dry it can be brushed or styled as desired. Overly heated curlers and curling irons that are safe on natural hair can be very detrimental to synthetic hair wigs so they are not recommended. The synthetic hair is made of a polymer, a plastic, that will shrink or frizz up if too much heat is applied.

A small amount of heat can be used on synthetic wigs, however. Tangles at the ends of the synthetic hairs can be smoothed out by very carefully blow drying on the lowest heat setting at the same time as brushing. The hairs should be warmed up just enough to get the tangles out but not so hot as to damage the hair. Recommended only for those tired out wigs that would otherwise be thrown away !!!

Preheated curlers can be used to put a "soft" curl into synthetic wigs. Since too much heat can damage a synthetic wig, it's best to practice on an old one before risking it on a new creation just out of the shops. Start the curl at the end of the hair and loosely curl the hair. Pin the curler to stop it unraveling. Quickly move round the wig curling the hair in sections where you want your curls. Then release the curlers in the same sequence you put them in so that each curler is in for the same length of time. The results can look fantastic, but don't leave the curlers in too long or you will damage the wig.

Human hair wigs can be styled using normal blowers, curlers and straighteners, etc.

Lace front wigs

These are natural looking wigs that are glued to the forehead. When correctly applied they look like natural hair growing out of the scalp. The lace coming from the front and back of the wig can be trimmed to fit the individual's head. These are high end products and are the first choice of many celebrities like Tyra Banks ans Beyoncé.

Wig sizes

Finding a wig for a big head can be a problem. Wigs are usually sold in three sizes, petite, average, and large. The main measurement is taken around the head using a cloth tape measure starting from the natural hairline at the top of the forehead, around to the top of the neck or base of the skull, keeping the tape above the ears. Sizes are not standard but generally run from 20 to 21 inches for petite (505 to 530mm), 21½ to 22½ inches for average heads (546 to 572mm) and 23 to 24 inches for large (584 to 610mm). The greatest number of colors and styles are available in the average sizes.

Receding hair lines & bangs hairband

Forum thread http://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,2357.0.html reply #4

For long hair but also a receding hairline try wearing a headband with it and it can look very real.

External links


This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff. *Some information provided in whole or in part by http://en.wikipedia.org/