Wigs and cosplay are usually synonymous with each other; where one occurs, the other is sure to follow. But, for many people, wigs are not a viable option when cosplaying. There are, of course, a plethora of reasons why you might not be able to wear a wig. Whether it’s because you can’t afford them, they cause you pain, or for a spiritual reason. Luckily, there are ways to circumvent all of these situations. So, the question is then: what do you do for your cosplay when you can’t wear a wig?
First and foremost, let’s talk about wig pain. If your wig is painful, you may have bought the wrong size. This may not be the only reason why your wig is causing you pain, but if you feel any pinching or get a headache after a few hours of wear, the wig may be ill-fitted.
Before buying a wig, you should always take measurements of your head to determine the best size for you. Most people fall into the ‘average’ category, but many companies also make ‘petite’ and ‘large’ size wigs. Just in case you fall between sizes, it’s important to note that many wigs have adjustable straps that can increase or decrease the size of the wig by about half an inch. A word of caution though, wig sizes can vary from brand to brand. So, it’s important to recheck the size chart each time you buy from a new store.
Wigs can occasionally cause excessive itching, sweating, and, for those with a sensitive scalp, rashes. A wig cap can help with all of these problems. But, it can also make matters worse. It really depends on your skin and your limitations. Only you know your skin well enough to determine if a wig cap is sufficient.
A Bit Occam’s Razor
In the case that wig sizing isn’t your problem, the simplest solution is to not wear one. As a rule, I avoid any situation in which I would need to wear a wig. My solution is to cosplay as people who cover up their heads, usually with the use of helmets.
For many people, a wig is out of the question for spiritual reasons. But, that should never stop you from cosplaying! Your situation may just require a bit of creativity. For example, look at the ways Muslim women are incorporating their hijabs into their costumes. The results are phenomenal. Check out the hijab heroes below:
— Maliha Fairooz Hijab Heroes (@malihaness) October 7, 2018
Hoods, Hats, Headwraps, and Bandannas
As I mentioned above, I avoid wigs by covering my head. Head coverings can range from helmets, hoods, or masks. Therefore, if your character has an outfit where a hat is involved, go that route. Also, consider wearing a beanie if your character is in street clothes. In a similar vein as what Muslim women are doing, you can use a headwrap or bandana to emulate hairstyles as well. I am in no way saying that you should wear a hajib if you are not Muslim. What I am saying is you can take these amazing women as an example and use fabric to emulate hair.
Use Your Own Hair
Cut, dye, and style your own hair. You’d be surprised by what you can do with a brush and a lot of hairspray and gel.
Now, this suggestion may not be feasible if the character you want to mirror has pink hair and your job doesn’t allow you to dye your hair an unnatural color. However, if all you need to achieve is the illusion of very short hair, you can either outright cut your hair or do something similar to what Jannemama instructs in this youtube video:
In the video, Jannemama shows you how to go from long to short hair without cutting a single strand. To achieve this, she pulls her hair back into a ponytail and then flips the end of her ponytail over her head to create bangs. She then puts on a headband to keep her hair in place. With a bit of styling, she achieves the illusion of having short hair by then throwing on a beanie.
This trick obviously won’t work if your hair isn’t long enough or if it’s too long. However, if you have bangs already, another option is to style your bangs like the short hair you want to emulate (similar to the process in the video) and then throw on a beanie or a hood to cover up your ponytail.
Wigs, especially long wigs, can be quite heavy. If it’s the heft that is uncomfortable or painful, you may consider making a wig out of lighter materials. To put it simply, wigs can be made out of literally anything. If you think I’m joking, check out a couple of examples below:
Borderlands cosplayers have made this type of wig famous. The cell shading art style of the games is only accentuated by the use of foam. A lot of these wigs look absolutely stunning and really aren’t that hard to make. If you’re interested in going this route, check out the tutorial Schmemycosplay posted on their Tumblr.
I wanted to remake my Rhys wig in a way that would compliment the cel shaded style of Borderlands, rather than fight it the way wig hair does.
Feathers are super light and impose their own kind of beauty. From afar, these wigs can look like real hair and only upon closer inspection reveal their true colors. These wigs can be made out of short or long feathers, using natural or manufactured feathers. For an example of working with feathers, check out this tutorial by Onlinekyne on Youtube. The artist only makes a feathered headpiece in the video, but, the same techniques could be used to create a full wig of feathers.
Remember, no one can tell you how to cosplay. Period. It’s entirely okay if you cosplay a character that doesn’t have the same hairstyle as your own and you forgo wearing a wig. Most cosplays are not exact anyways; most people don’t make their cosplays accurate to the source material. Cosplayers are constantly adding and subtracting elements from their costumes for both creative and functional reasons. So, in the end, it’s okay not being exact. It’s much more important to have fun anyhow.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions have helped you on your cosplay journey. Let me know if there are any other ways you know of to circumvent wearing a wig. After all, cosplay is for everyone. Something as simple as not being able to wear a wig shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying cosplay and having fun.