Synthetic Hair, The Ultimate Fashion Accessory
If youre anything
like me, youve probably spent a good deal of time envying people with unreal amounts of fantastically multi-hued hair. To me, good hair is an integral part of a great look. Throughout the years, I tried everything from bleach, dye, Manic Panic, crimping and curling irons and that crappy hair mascara, all in the futile effort to achieve the hair of my dreams. Id heard of hair extensions, but it always conjured up mental pictures of Lita Ford and various heavy metal bands of the 80s that are best left forgotten. Besides, I knew it cost several hundreds of dollars that I simply wasnt prepared to spend.
It wasnt until I went to London in 1998 that I discovered the reality of hair extensions today. Light years away from the Sunset Strip of the 80s, these UK scenesters had hair that Id never imagined could exist knee-length, straight or dreadlocked and braided, and the most vibrant, remarkable colors Id ever seen. I decided I simply had to join the club and spent $450 on a full head of black and purple waist-length extensions from Purple Circle in Los Angeles. At first, I was delighted. But then it became apparent that my hair still wasnt quite as huge or extreme as the ladies of London, no matter how many times I tried to recreate the look that had impressed me so much. Finally, someone let me in on a little secret most of the looks I admired were created with hairpieces, not permanent extensions.
There are loads of advantages to hairpieces over permanent extensions:
Cost As reported, a full head of permanent extensions will run you anywhere from $350 - $600 USD. If you want to keep your extensions, you need to get them re-tightened every 8-10 weeks, and that will set you back another few hundred dollars. Hairpieces are a bargain by comparison, with most places selling them at about $10 for a pair of Jumbo Braid pony falls, to $75 and up for a high-quality piece made from monofiber or human hair.
Ease of use / comfort. Permanent extensions are a real drag. Theyre heavy. They prevent you from being able to properly clean or even scratch your scalp (resulting in gorgeous cases of dandruff). They get ratty-looking unless you take care of them, and they look like crap once they start to grow out. Almost everyone Ive talked to ultimately reaches a point about seven weeks in where they simply cant stand another second and end up ripping them all out of their head. Hairpieces, by comparison, are easy to put in and take out. They dont damage your hair or scalp, and because they are so inexpensive, you can always throw the old one away when it starts getting too tangled and yucky.
Versatility. One thing I never realized until I started getting permanent hair extensions is what a pain in the butt it was to be committed to one color scheme. No matter how well I tried to plan my hair colors to my makeup and wardrobe, I always ended up clashing somewhere along the way. I personally like to wear lots of different colors of lipstick and eye shadow, and I found that I was only able to work one distinct cosmetic palette when I had multicolored permanent extensions. Hairpieces are great because you can buy or make them in any color scheme you want to match your favorite outfits, and youll still have enough left over for drinks at the club.
After spending hours on your makeup and outfit, there is nothing more discouraging than finding yourself in the middle of an extremely Bad Hair Day. Hairpieces are easy to put in simply tie them into your own hair and your ready to go. I never spend more than five or 10 minutes on my hair, and its usually the one element of my ensemble that appears to have required the most effort. Once youve got your hairpiece, its easy to add finishing touches to make your hairstyle even more elaborate. Feather boas, silk flowers, ribbons, tiaras, plastic tubing, tulle the more you play around with your hairpiece, the more options youll find for a look that is uniquely you.
There are several different types of synthetic hair to consider when you start investigating the possibility of buying or making a hairpiece:
Monofilament, or monofiber, is the highest quality synthetic hair you can buy. It is very expensive ($20-$40 per packet, when Ive seen it in the States), but it feels exactly like human hair and is available in the widest variety of unnatural colors. The most popular brands are Stargazer and Dome, and as far as I know, they are only available in the U.K. Monofilament is almost always used in permanent hair extensions. You will wind up with a terribly tangled mess in a matter of hours if you use anything of lesser quality. This hair is excellent for permanent extensions or hairpieces, and can be worn braided or dreadlocked as well as left alone for a straighter style. Ive seen monofiber for sale in the U.S., but the colors aren1t that good and the lengths are very short only about 24", compared to the 60" found in a typical bunch Kanekalon.
Silky Straight Kanekalon
This is the hair I use almost exclusively in my hairpieces. It is perfectly straight, silky and shiny almost like floss. It is available in a wide variety of natural and unnatural colors. Each packet contains a length of about 60" at 3/4" in diameter. The brand I use is called Zury Silky Braid. It is good for straight or braided styles only, as it is too fine and silky to dread. It costs anywhere from $5 - $10 per packet.
Silky Braid Kanekalon
This is my new favorite hair. It looks and feels almost exactly like human hair, and at $2 - $4 per bag, its a bargain. It has a coarse texture and is a bit fluffy, but doesnt look at all frizzy or crimped. The only bad thing about this hair is that it is only available in about 8 colors, and none of them are fun (except the black and burgundy the rest are varying shades of brown). This hair is excellent for dreadlocks, braids and straight styles. I now use this hair whenever I make a hairpiece with a black base, then I add contrasting streaks of color in the silky straight hair described above. This makes for a more natural looking hairpiece (i.e. not as wig-like) that wears better with fewer tangles.
Jumbo Braid Kanekalon
This is, in my opinion, the worst of the lot. Jumbo Braid does have some advantages: its cheap (about $1 - $2 per bag), it comes in fun unnatural colors, and it dreads up reasonably well. It has a crimped texture that some people like because it makes for an extremely large, poofy hairpiece. However, I dont prefer Jumbo Braid because to my eyes, it looks remarkably similar to pubic hair and it is almost impossible to manage. It snags and pulls on everything and almost always ends up looking like shit in a very short span of time. Jumbo Braid is great if youre short on time and want to make a disposable hairpiece quickly, or if youre experimenting for the first time and just want to play around. Jumbo Braid comes in a 60" length and it takes about two seconds to create a basic ponytail. Check out the alt.gothic.fashion FAQ to learn how.
Braids and Pre-Rolled Dreads
You can also find mini-braids and dreadlocks pre-packaged and ready to go. Ive not had very good luck with either of these things, but sometimes Ill add mini-braids to a straight hairpiece to add texture and definition. The wildest the colors Ive seen in stores are black, burgundy and gold, although some places on the Web sell them in a much wider variety of colors. Braids are usually pretty cheap, no more that $5 per packet. The pre-rolled dreads are harder to find and cost a bit more.
When youre ready to make your first hairpiece, I recommend that you start with a bag of Jumbo Braid, a hot glue gun, and a length of ribbon to use as an anchor. I cant give away all of my secrets, but its not too hard and I guarantee youll have fun trying. If you dont want to get that fancy, just take a large fabric-covered rubber band and loop it through the middle of the hunk of hair instant ponytail. If all else fails, you could always purchase a custom piece.
Now that youre all fired up about hairpieces, I recommend that you check out Kathryn Quinns Guide to Hair Extensions, a great Web resource where you can learn more about DIY extensions and hairpieces, as well as places where you can buy all types of synthetic hair online.
If you have any more questions about my favorite subject, feel free to e-mail me
any time. Im always happy to help people discover what Ive found to be an extremely rewarding and creative diversion in my eternal quest for the Ultra-Glam.