Wigs are a funny thing – for most white women, the only time they might consider wearing one is for a fancy dress party, or if suffering from extreme hair loss. For black women, however, donning a wig can be as much a part of their daily routine as choosing an outfit, or applying their makeup.
So what is the story behind black women and wigs? Well it’s a lot more complex than you might think…
Ancient wig customs
Back in ancient Egypt, black women wore wigs to show their status. The nobility would shave their heads, and only wore “hair” when they felt like it, which was a huge privilege in that heat.
The wigs they wore were often very ornate, featuring a lot of decoration of gold and jewels to demonstrate their wealth.
More recently however, wigs were worn by black women in an attempt to force their hair to conform with either the fashions of the day, or even regulation styles in the workplace.
In 1960s America for example, women often found they were expected to have a certain hairstyle that their afro hair would not conform to. Air stewardesses, nurses and even secretaries found that they were forced to wear a wig if they wanted to keep their job.
Wigs and Hair loss
Another reason many black women today wear a wig is to avoid or to cover up hair loss. Black women suffer disproportionately from hair loss. About 50 per cent will experience it in their lifetime.
A major reason for this is traction alopecia, caused by very tight hairstyles like braids, or weaves and extensions. These styles pull at the roots of the hair, resulting in patchy hair loss.
Wigs can be used either to mask this hair loss or to achieve a similar hairstyle to that desired, without causing the damage.
But it’s not all about oppression and hair loss. Many black women wear wigs because they enjoy the freedom of having a new hairstyle every day. From a sleek bob one day, to a full Afro the next, black women are taking control of their appearance.
The take home message is that whatever your heritage, wigs don’t have to be all about hair loss. With a wig you can reinvent yourself. Whether it’s every day, or just on special occasions, a wig gives you the confidence to try new things.
But with so many hair replacement systems to choose from, speak to an expert before you commit. If you’d like to find out more about wigs, hair pieces, or you have another hair concern, please get in touch with us at our Birmingham (0121 809 2747) or London (0208 159 9067) clinic.