“When taking photos, make sure you don’t see any lace, this wig is secure like money in a safe.” So goes it Song Chloé x Halle, Do It. And those lyrics signify how normalized wig wearing is for black women. Growing up, it was normal to see his mother, aunts, and even grandmothers wearing one.
But the state of wigs has come a long way since they started wearing them.
I was 17 when I first ventured into the world of wigs and it was the time of closures. A closure is your standard wig that usually features clips or an elastic band to ensure it stays in place all day. In fact, they’re great for everyday use because they’re so easy to put on and take off.
Now we also have the frontal wig, which has really taken off in the last couple of years. When Chloe and Halle sing “Make sure you don’t see any lace,” they’re referring to the lace of a frontal wig. A frontal differs from a closed wig because it is usually glued to the hairline, so it looks more like your own hair.
As Martha O explains on the Natural Girl Wigs blog: “One way to identify frontals is that they are used to recreate the hairline from ear to ear, while closures are used to recreate the natural parting of the hairline.”
Frontal wigs have grown in popularity, especially online. But head to TikTok and you’ll see more and more black women getting tired of their wigs too.
This sentiment isn’t part of the natural hair movement per se — many black women still like to wear fake hair — but we want to explore different options. Options such as tape in, ponytails and natural hair extensions. The kind of options that have been available to white women for much longer.
It’s something that Tendai Moyo and Ugo Agbai, co-founders of Ruka Hair, also observed. Ruka is a black-owned hair company that aims to provide black women with hair extensions in different textures and sizes. As well as selling online, he now has a physical store in Westfield Stratford City and also works with a network of “co-creators” (in his lingo) who test products.
“What we’ve noticed is that black women are less attached to a particular style. We have seen more people experimenting with their own hair in various formats like ponytails and clips,” Moyo told HuffPost UK.
She continues, “One of the things a co-creator said in our Community Interview last year is that historically white women can walk into a salon and say, ‘I want longer hair that looks like exactly mine.’ But, historically speaking, black women haven’t been able to do that.
The fact that more black women are dropping their wigs is down to two Cs, she says: compromise (or not wanting) and choice (the availability of alternatives). “Three years ago, white women used things like micro-links. This option was not a thought for black women at the time, as it did not exist in our texture.
Agbai also sees the wig-wearing trend declining. “I think with wigs, especially with frontals, it was something that you only saw in theaters, or only seen done by famous stylists. Then he became extremely accessible and prominent. Now I feel like people are experimenting with other styles,” she tells me.
Wider choice is certainly a factor, but let’s not underestimate that front-end maintenance can be tedious. Regularly wearing a frontal requires a lot of time and effort. You need to glue the wig (which can take some time) then straighten it, apply a lace tint to give the wig a natural look. Sure, you get used to it, but it’s not fun.
As Ruka’s website points out, Black women spend six times more than their white counterparts on hair care products and services. But that could start to change.
“I’ve seen black women come to terms with the fact that their hair doesn’t have to take a ridiculously long time,” Moyo says. “Especially since frontals are usually done by professionals, if you do it yourself, you don’t always do it right, which causes more damage and time. I’ve seen more black women find styles that take less time.
Agbai agrees and suggests that it frees many of us from some long-held, in some cases inherited, habits. “All the language we learned to use around our hair influenced that,” she says. “We think our hair must take a long time, that it can be laborious to style. I’m excited to see this change and to see that black women are truly looking for faster fixes.
“I felt like I was forcing myself…when I put on a browband, I didn’t look like those other girls.”
– Akua Ntiamoah, 26, Essex
The phrase “where’s the lace?” is too often used in reference to frontal wigs. There’s an obsession with making frontals look exactly like the hair on your head when most of the time, that’s just not the case. This push for wig perfection has caused some black women to consider other options.
Such is the case of Akua Ntiamoah, 26, a civil servant from Essex, who says she doesn’t like wearing wigs because her hair has never looked like what she has seen online.
“I felt like I was forcing myself. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen girls on Instagram wearing them, but when I put on a frontal, I didn’t look like those other girls,” he says. her.”Black girls always say, ‘the lace is invisible,’ but I can see it in real life.”
She stopped wearing wigs two years ago. “I was fed up that my wigs didn’t look natural so I cut my hair. I used to wear wigs once in a while but still didn’t look good so now I wear just my pony hair. She says she likes braids too.
Moyo and Agbai have received positive feedback about Roka’s ponytails which don’t require a lot of work for the wearer. As they tell me, “We had women say, ‘We don’t need to put a lot of gel in our hair, we can just tie the ponytail and go.’ It’s the best thing!
Although wigs are often considered a great protective style, wearing them too often can also damage your hair. For Joy Olugboyega, 25, a photographer and filmmaker from London, wearing wigs has ruined her hairline – so she doesn’t.
“I stopped wearing wigs in 2019. I haven’t worn a wig since,” she says. “My relationship with wigs was pretty much on and off. I hated what it did to my hairline, but at the same time, I appreciated the convenience.
And now that she’s taken the break, Olugboyega is getting back more than just her hair. “I realized that I looked much better with my natural hair and Afrocentric hairstyles like fulani braids, faux locs, feed-ins. Not only do I look better, but I feel also better, like a queen,” she says.
“I just feel like I’m more myself when it comes to how I present myself. It is the most faithful representation of me and where I come from.