Monday, January 28, 2019

A Quest for Perfect Hair

By Sally Stone

I remember so vividly the first time I wore a wig. It was one I "borrowed" from my Mom, a style that really didn't flatter me much. Still, it was a feminine hairstyle and I just couldn’t get over much it changed my appearance.

Way back then, my funds were minimal, so my access to wigs was limited making my acquisitions mostly opportunistic. Usually they were well-worn and often discarded by the original owner. In short, I was wearing wigs that were not particularly suited to my facial structure and skin tone. Of course, at the time, I knew little about the art of personalizing a hairstyle or about how to select the right wig.

Later, when I could afford to spend more, I made purchases mostly via mail order catalogs to avoid outing myself. When the Internet came along, ordering wigs got even easier, but like mail order, I was still making a wig purchase based on how it looked on the model in the catalog. Unfortunately, the wigs I ordered didn’t look nearly as good on me as they did on the model and in many cases, the wig I received bore little resemblance to the picture in the catalog. Obviously, it would have been much smarter to buy a wig in person from a salon where I could try it on and be fitted properly. At the time, however, I simply didn’t possess the courage or the confidence.

Eventually, I worked my way out of the closet and at some point, I forced myself to go to a salon for a wig fitting and purchase. And while it was clearly a much better method of purchase, the downside was the extra cost. On that first visit, the specialist fitted me with a beautiful blonde wig that really looked great, but it cost me well over $200. Because it was such a huge hit to my “girl” budget, I was forced to wear the wig for nearly four years, even though after only two years, it was already beginning to show its age. This is a typical failing of even the most well-made synthetic wigs, a fact that adds even more to the cost of maintaining a well-coiffed appearance.

Human hair wigs are an alternative to synthetic, but they are extremely expensive and require the same high-level of care and preparation as real hair. I did give thoughts to trying one, but the cost deterred me. The best solution, something I have always dreamed of, was to grow out my own hair. Unfortunately, that isn't currently a realistic option for me, so, synthetic wigs have always been my solution for maintaining a feminine hairstyle.

Since a hairstyle is such a powerful form of camouflage, choosing the right wig is critical. A wig can counter or at least soften masculine facial features, helping to feminize the appearance. I have discovered through trial and error that sometimes it is subtle wig characteristics that can make the most difference. The sweep or length of the bangs, the location of the part, the fall of the wig can each help to feminize a face. The trick is to find the characteristics that work best for individual facial features.

Whether online or in salons, I have spent a tremendous amount of money on wigs over the years and finding that perfect wig has always been elusive. However, five years ago, while searching online, I found a style called "Glow Girl” by Forever Young. Like Internet and mail order purchases from my past, I held out little hope the wig would end up being my go-to style. Additionally, the wig was priced at $29 and certainly, a wig this inexpensive couldn't possibly look as nice on me as it did in the online photo. Still, there was something about it that pushed me to buy it anyway.

Honestly, I was fully expecting to be disappointed when the wig arrived in the mail, but surprisingly Glow Girl proved to be the most flattering wig I'd ever owned. In fact, I was so happy with the way it looked on me that I ordered two more in slightly different shades. This particular purchased taught me that,while a challenge, it is possible to find a very nice wig without spending a fortune. Unfortunately, this discovery was mostly luck since I purchased it based on how it looked on the model instead of getting it fitted on me first.

Today, I own five Glow Girl wigs. The last two I purchased cost $39 and $49 respectively, but I still consider them bargains. All of my wigs are color variations of either blonde or red shades as they tend to flatter me best.

I learned something else interesting after acquiring my collection of Glow Girl wigs: each of them was slightly different. The differences were subtle, which didn't change the overall style, but the subtleties; how much curl, texture and fullness and the fall and length of the bangs gave each wig its own unique personality. I don't know if this is a quality control issue associated with this particular manufacturer or if the nature of wig construction generates slight variations in all wigs of the same style.

Owning multiple wigs allows me to rotate them, which significantly increases the amount of time it takes for any one of them to wear out. And these five wigs actually cost me less than a single high-priced salon wig would have making Glow Girl even more of a bargain. Rotation also allows me to vary my color choices from day to day, something I believe keeps my hairstyle looking fresh and new.

Finally, after so many years, I have satisfied my personal quest to find the perfect hairstyle at least for now. I must assume that as I age, the hairstyle I wear today may not suit an older me in the future. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but for now I'm extremely happy with this style as it accentuates the feminine characteristics I possess very effectively.

I’m not trying to advocate for the style or the manufacturer of the wig I currently wear. That wouldn’t make sense, because a hairstyle that works for me may not be a good match for someone else. In fact, choosing a wig is an intensely personal choice and each of us has to pick a style and cut that best suits our feminine and dare I say it, our masculine characteristics.

Ultimately, I can't guarantee that someone else will be as lucky as me finding a go-to hairstyle. After all, it only took me 25 years, but there are beautiful, well-made wigs out there and they don’t need to break the bank.

Source: Rachel Zoe
Wearing Rachel Zoe (Source: Rachel Zoe)

Gene Chandler
Professional femulator Mr. Gene Chandler, circa 1965 


  1. I waffle between wishing my hair was long enough that I wouldn't need a wig to being happy I have a wig on. The big plus for long hair is, I can have it styled and it would be wonderful to take care of my own long hair. I had shoulder-length hair (even permed for a couple of years) when I was too young to take advantage of it. The big minus is, well, you all know how different putting on a wig makes you look. It makes it more likely that you will "out" yourself, just by your hair. I walked past a co-worker once in a mall and still wonder if she would have ignored me if I hadn't been bewigged.

    For buying wigs in person, I have found wig shop staff to be incredibly helpful and in many cases REALLY enthusiastic. I don't know if they like the challenge or know they're going to make a sale if you went this far, but they are really really helpful. And the shops I went to have a "private" area in the back so you can be hidden from the street and other patrons. I haven't bought a wig dressed though.

    And I find it a bit weird to be wearing Someone Else's Hair. I should just get over that!

    1. Hi Meg,

      I don't understand your comment, "The big minus is, well, you all know how different putting on a wig makes you look. It makes it more likely that you will "out" yourself, just by your hair."

      Are you saying that if you wear a wig, it is obvious you are wearing a wig and that gives you away?


    2. Posting before coffee = poor phrasing. If your hair is always long enough to be girlish, makeup may not disguise you as much as you hope. Watch some t-makeover videos ("I turned my brother into a girl" etc) and when the wig goes on... it's like a different person appears.

      I have a good friend who has way-past-shoulder-hair, and has it cut and styled into an "either" look. But (I don't think there's a preferred pronoun preference so I'll say) they don't care. Half of the time, when I see them, I can't tell which gender they're trying to pass as. If it matters.

  2. Julie M ShawJanuary 28, 2019

    I need a wig - growing out my hair is not an option because there's not enough left to grow out! ��
    I also have experimented over the years - with color, mostly. It is hard to settle on one style, length and color. I understand better why some women change their color now and again!

  3. A well written piece Stana. I personally love wigs as you change your personality with the change of your hair. ie,You have to watch out when a real woman does a drastic hair style change. Usually something is brewing.

    1. I'm not sure what you mean by "real woman," but you might consider that some may take offense at your use of that term. Just so you know.

    2. I think you know what I meant Fab..........but it was a bad word choice non-the-less. Right now I don't know what would be a better word choice without stepping on someones toes.
      No offense intended and no offense taken by being corrected. We are all ONE.

    3. Simply leaving out the word "real" would be the easiest way. Even if a woman's hair may be fake, it does not alter her legitimacy as a woman. ;-)

  4. I wear a wig every day. I wouldn't, if I didn't have to, but the combination of genes and testosterone did my own hair in by the time I reached 30. Even the hair I had in my youth was rather thin, so a transplant would not have favorable results. I've always joked that, if they harvested hair from where I do have it, to put it where I don't, I would just end up being completely bald on the back and sides, instead; not a flattering feminine look, necessarily.

    I think Meg means that, if one wears what is obviously a wig, this not only subjects you to the scrutiny of your gender, but it also raises scrutiny about wearing a wig at all. I have been told by another trans woman that I can't truly be transitioning, because I wear a wig! As if her scraggly hair and decidedly male hairline were making her more of a woman...

    Of course, it is true that finding the right style is important, and the price doesn't always dictate what's best. I have found, though, that many women - cis or trans - don't know how to wear any wig properly. I often see wigs pulled too far down on the forehead, far beyond what could be considered a natural hairline. I'll admit that, having no hairline myself, I have the advantage of placing my wig at just the right height to look more natural. If I had a nice natural hairline, though, I would probably opt for a "topper" hairpiece that exposed my real hair at the front, but served to add volume and length to the rest of my hair.

    Because I am around the same people every day, I tend to stick to my one chosen style and color, but I do also try to have at least two to rotate (three is better). Just as I wouldn't wear the same clothes too often without cleaning them, I need to be able to have a clean wig at the ready. Also, just as clothing will wear out, so do my wigs.

    I wish that brick and mortar wig shops would not have such a high markup. The same style I buy online for $49.00 on sale is at the local shop for $210.00. They might do a little trimming for me at that price, but $161.00 is an awful lot for a trim. Not to mention, my online wig has no sales tax and no tip involved. I have never tried to bring my online-purchased wig into the wig shop for a trim, so I don't know what they would charge for just the labor - or if they would even do it at all. I either do it myself or have my cosmetology-trained daughter trim it for me.

    Even if the wig I'm wearing outs me, I still can have control over how good it looks, and how I look in it. It's not a disguise, rather, it is another accessory in my feminine expression. Without it, though, I fear I would find myself in a hairy situation! :-)

  5. Velma just loves wigs.... I would bet that I now have over 65 wigs..
    I ventured into a 'consignment store' last week and found a BIG box of NEW wigs, allindividually packaged and priced $20.00. I simply picked up the ENTIRE BOX and told the clerk (they know me, and my CD proclivities, and simply dont care)I was going to the fitting room.
    I found a few promising wigs, but kept the purchase to two, as well as a PILE (17 pair!)of BRAND NEW EYEGLASSES (apparently never picked up from the eye clinic).
    When I got to the checkout, the price of the wigs was dropped to $5.00, and the glasses was dropped to $0.50/pair. I would have bought more, but I had to get to another obligation. I plan to return and shop more...
    I look at wigs as a 'quantum randomness/random walk' kind of venture, 'just go for it', and see what image 'the NEW Velma' reveals.
    Velma Dinkley