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A Beginner's Guide to Wigs and Hairpieces

Updated on May 21, 2019
Jessica Beasley profile image

Jessica has been a professional entertainer for 14 years and loves all things creative in the world of entertainment, crafting, & cosmetics.

For some of us, wigs are a part of everyday life. Whether you are bravely fighting a cancer battle, or have been wearing them for years as a fashion accessory, there are some that have mastered the art of wearing a wig, not only gracefully, but fiercely.

But for many others, it is a place full of scary unknowns. How do I wear one, which one do I wear, will I look like I'm wearing one, CAN I wear one? It can seem very black and white, but it is not.


History of the wig

The wearing of wigs dates back centuries. In ancient Egypt, it was more comfortable for Egyptians to not have any hair of their own, so they would shave their heads and wear wigs when they wanted to present themselves to the world. It wasn't just the women either, men also wore wigs. What the wigs were made out of depended on social status. They were made out of everything from human hair, to sheep's wool, and even, vegetable fibers.

In America, founding fathers wore wigs to cover premature balding and wearing a wig became a symbol of the upper-class and elite. Wigs lost popularity in the 1920's as women started wearing their own hair in sleek bobs. What goes out of style almost always comes back in, and it did in the 1950's. Wigs are also very popular in the black community as a means of being able to style and wear their hair without the use of harsh chemicals. Iconic stars, like Diana Ross and Tina Turner, made wigs glamorous by wearing them and people followed. Whether black or white, it was a means of convenience, as well as, style.

In the 1990's, wigs became unpopular among women of all races as the trends geared more towards braids and pixie cuts.


Wigs today

Today, we are in an "anything goes" kind of style. I believe that, as long as you feel beautiful, that is what is in style. May celebrities of our time,such as Kylie Jenner and Zendaya, both famously and proudly wear wigs, while other celebs, such as Lupita Nyongo, have been seen wearing their natural hair. You are also allowed to switch it up and not commit to any one things. That is probably the biggest difference between today and yesterday's standards.

Types of wigs/hairpieces and basics on how to use them

Full Wig

These are what most people think of when they think of a wig. They range from cheap, Halloween costume quality to really expensive, high-end. Sometimes, celebrities will come out with their own lines, such as beauty Raquel Welch. Full wigs come in so many varieties these days. There are also lace front, full-lace, and freestyle wigs, that allow you to part the wig anywhere making the result closer to looking like natural hair that is growing from your scalp. To start, you put your hair in a wig cap, which are readily available both online and in beauty supply stores. You don't need to do this, but I think it makes it easier to put the wig on and to keep your hair from falling. Of course, the result will vary based on the quality of the wig itself, as well as, whether it's a flattering cut and style for you. Also wig position is key when wearing a full wig, be it a regukar, no lace wig or lace front. Here is where you experiment. You don't want it too far down or too far back, so consider working with your natural hairline to find where the wig suits you best. I have very limited knowledge about lace-front wigs. I know there are several people that will glue and/or tape them on and some people (I believe) even apply makeup to the lace to help it blend in with the skin. Of course this is the most dramatic way to change your hair by using a wig.


3/4 Wig

This is what I am most familiar with because I wear one of these everyday for my performing job. Basically, the name says it all. It is the back three quarters of a wig and they are designed so that you have your own hair in the front. I buy them in straight, curly, and wavy styles so I can switch up the texture of my hair. Often, the ones that I purchase can't be styled so I like to have a variety. It is also very important to get as close as you can to your hair color. This just takes some trial and error. I have found though that if you are unsure between 2 colors, the light one is usually best if your hair is one color, as it looks more natural for your roots to be darker than lighter. If you hair has darker roots, you may have a little more leeway to go darker or lighter. To put one of these on, I will separate the front part of my hair and tease the back 3/4 of my hair to give the combs something to stick to. I think the wig feels more secure if I secure the hair under the wig in a low bun but you can also wear it down if you choose. Although these normally come with combs attached inside, I tend to also use a few straight pins to secure it along the base of the wig. Then you just style the front part of your hair as usually. I sometimes wear it back to make it like a half up, half down hairstyle or leave it and blend the wig with my hair. These also tend to get better with a little age and will look more like real hair after a few wears. These take a little experimenting but this is my personal go-to. (See pictures below)


Ponytail Hairpiece


If you are unsure of where to start, ponytails are a great place to start. They usually attach by either a jaw clip or a drawstring. I have been known to remove the jaw clips and use bobby pins. I also use a couple of bobby pins with the drawstring ones too to give it a little extra support. To wear one of these, you put your own hair in a bun and attach this to give the illusion of a ponytail. These also come in an array of colors, textures, and lengths. When choosing a color, you choose just like you would a 3/4 wig. If you have dark roots, you can get a shade lighter or match your roots. If your hair is evenly colored, just match it. If in doubt, go a shade lighter as it will look more natural than if it darker.


Clip-in Extensions

I personally don't ever use these, but I've known a few women who love them. I have always had a hard time blending them into the cut of my own hair. But with the right hairstyle, this could be the perfect option for you. Usually you get a long strip and/or shorter strips of hair that you place throughout your own hair. A lot of times, they can be styles with your regular hair to be curly or straight.

Me wearing some of my favorite styles :)

A “half-up” look for when I don’t want to spend a lot of time styling the front if my hair. This is a wavy 3/4 wig.
A “half-up” look for when I don’t want to spend a lot of time styling the front if my hair. This is a wavy 3/4 wig.
A longer 3/4 wig that has some darker pieces so I can wear it when I need to touch up my roots.
A longer 3/4 wig that has some darker pieces so I can wear it when I need to touch up my roots.
This is my super curly 3/4 wig.
This is my super curly 3/4 wig.

Wigs and hairpieces aren't that scary. There can be some trial and error but any of us who wear them have gone through it. We have all acquired tricks of our own to make the make them work for each of us. Start small and build up your courage.

Where to buy

I buy a lot of my 3/4 wigs on Ebay and, most recently, on Amazon. I find them to be so much more affordable than on websites that sell wigs. I also find there is a much better selection of styles and colors and an ease to narrow down what your criteria is. With careful though t and a little knowledge, purchasing online isn't so scary. I have only bought one 3/4 piece that I wasn't able to make work with my hair and I passed it onto a friend of mine whose hair was perfect for it.

Below I have included a link to Amazon where you can purchase my personal, all-time favorite 3/4 wig. I have bought them in various colors over the years. The quality for the price cannot be beat!

Questions or advice

Please feel free to message me with any questions and I will help in any I can! <3

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