TRIED & TESTED: WIG OR WITHOUT
Hair today, gone tomorrow. For the quickest beauty makeover, why not buy yourself a wig? Our panellists step out in a range of styles
Sunday 09 August 1998
Hairdresser Flavien Abbas of Michael-john on Albemarle Street, London W1, was our wig expert - and assistant, when required. He was joined by Caroline Harber, Stephanie Rich, Anna MacLellan, Lindsay Stewart, Emma Bartlett, Nicola Scicluna-Warren and Philippa Yeoman. Some of the testers had bought or hired wigs before.
With fashion our priority over necessity, we tried out synthetic rather than natural hair wigs. The latter are cooler to wear (though not necessarily more comfortable, since confidence comes from secure attachment), but they cost around pounds 800 each. And as they require professional washing and setting every week, even chemotherapy patients and alopecia sufferers are often advised to invest in a couple of synthetic wigs which they can wash and style at home. From a large selection of products, the panel chose pieces either to match their own colour (so making it longer or thicker or shorter or curlier), or to contrast with it utterly, allowing the wearer to fantasise about assuming a completely new identity. We looked for glamour as well as realism, ease of styling, good colour ranges, imaginative cuts and reasonable cost. We found the differences between products at the medium price range minimal; but it is worth going to a specialist wig retailer to be fitted by an expert -remember, a wig is not a hat.
Michelle 34 wig, pounds 95; Candy, pounds 95
"I absolutely love this," said Caroline Harber of Natural Image's three- quarter hairpiece Michelle. Attached to the crown with a circular comb, the piece felt "less secure than a full wig," and lost points for being difficult to put on by an amateur. "People presume three-quarter pieces will be easier to wear because they don't cover the whole head," Flavien Abbas commented, "but it takes a lot of practice to attach them." The wearer's own hair (which must be the same colour) is styled to cover the front of the wig. The Michelle is also reversible: turn it over and the dead straight style becomes a layered cascade. "Very Farrah Fawcett Majors," the testers agreed, admiring its versatility. Candy, a sleek brown wig with a fringe, was a radical disguise for Emma Bartlett's natural Goldilocks appearance. But this wig however failed in the twentysomething wearer's main aim, sophistication: "I do want to look more than 12 years old, so I can order drinks at the bar without being asked for an ID card," said Emma.
Short Bob, pounds 55
Our winning wig, a henna red bob, exemplified the instant glamour that can be achieved with a fake coiffure. Astonishingly for such a vibrant colour, it suited several testers, including Philippa Yeoman: "I've always wanted to dye my hair red, but it would never look this smooth and lustrous." It was generally agreed that she bore a sudden, striking resemblance to Linda Evangelista. The price was to everyone's taste, and Flavien Abbas set the seal on our vote by revealing that: "I tend to use Trendco wigs for fashion shoots and film work because they are great across the board: good quality and easy to style. And as we've seen, people can look very different in the same wig."
Mega Afro, pounds 9.99
Hours of bargain-basement fun are to be had with Smiffy's Party Wigs, which range in colour from lime green with fluorescent blue streaks, to fire- engine red, passing through some natural shades on the way. As the panel pointed out, the construction of these wigs is quite different from that of serious fashion pieces. On a base which is not finely woven lace but something more akin to a stretchy shower-cap, you can clearly see the widely spaced tufts of hair "just like a bedraggled doll's"; but then nobody looks that closely at a party. Because they are so loosely constructed, the Party Wigs are more comfortable to wear; and the natural-looking styles would pass muster if, say, you wanted to appear as Cleopatra. Nicola Scicluna-Warren essayed the huge, brown "Mega Afro", saying excitedly, "Look - I could have been in the Jackson Five!"
Sally, pounds 83; Angelica, pounds 125
Anna MacLellan, whose hair has been "long, straight and messy since I was 10," felt that wearing the Noriko's black, bobbed Sally was "a revelation"; it caused her to revise her ideas about dying her hair red or blonde, since this colour suited her much better. Unfortunately, as with all the long-haired panel members, she suffered from what was quickly dubbed "the Mekon eff-ect" - an alien-like protuberance at the back of the head caused by so much hair pinned under the wig. Short-haired Lindsay Stewart had no such problems with Noriko's Angelica, which matched her own hair colour so well that the transformation was thought "nice, but not overly exciting." Flavien Abbas declared the Noriko wigs to be of equal quality to Trendco's own brand - but they are imported, and therefore more expensive.
**THE HEAD GARDENER
Hair Genie, pounds 9.95 (plus pounds 1.50 p&p)
Surprisingly, the testers were not inspired by the Hair Genie, a sort of scrunchie (elastic hair tie) covered with curly synthetic hair. Genies are available in 34 colours (including high- lighted) and are despatched by mail order on receipt of a snippet of the customer's own hair (with cheque). The Head Gardener, a London salon which specialises in hair accessories, claims Genies are popular for tying up damaged hair on holiday, while the ends are covered in conditioner. "But a hat protects the top of your head as well," said Anna MacLellan, while general objections were that Genies are unfashionably curly and the hair too sparse. Nobody wanted to wear two twisted together for the "Grecian Look" described in the instruction leaflet. Emma Bartlett reluctantly agreed to model a blonde one, tied as a top- knot. "I feel as though I'm going to a wedding in Essex," she said, adding, "although I'm sure it might look nice on the right person."
Natural Image available in London from John Lester, 0171 791 1945, or call 0171 403 2440 for stockist information; Noriko and Trendco both from Trendco, 01273 774 977 for stockists; Smiffy's Party Wigs, 0800 590 599 for stockists; The Head Gardener, 37 Knightsbridge, London SW1X, 0171 235 4995. !
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MURIEL BOUQUET l COMPILED BY SUE WEBSTER
Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 3 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 4 Mafia's wall of silence broken: Victim of Cosa Nostra's extortion rackets in its Corleone heartland co-operates with authorities for the first time ever
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Game of Thrones season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as it’s not him
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Phil Tufnell, Heather Mills and co take to the slopes
Costa Book Awards 2015: H is for Hawk named book of the year
New Ghostbusters movie lands all-female cast with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures