December 27, 2011
This is one of the most common questions I see being asked around Cosplay forums by those who are new to the hobby. If you look up pictures of cosplayers, particularly if you come across the more passed around photos,you’ll notice that many cosplayers do wear wigs but that some (such as this Aeris costume by Adella) don’t.
You don’t have to!
Your costume is your creation, your representation of the character, and you can do what you want with the costume including use your real hair. Use your best judgement based on your budget and what is available to you. Not everyone can afford wigs, not everyone can buy wigs, not everyone can wear wigs or even wants to and the majority of cosplayers can respect and understand that.
In most cases you should probably get a wig. There are quite a few reasons for this:
- Wigs can be easier to style since you can get a 360 degree view, which can’t really be done with your own head. The back can be just as important as the front, and in some cases is even more important.
- Wigs can be taken off, meaning no lasting damage. Extreme hairstyles and colors can have effects on real life, some workplaces and schools have restrictions on what is allowed.
- Wigs are re-usable. You’ll have to re-do your own hair each time you plan to wear the costume!
- Wigs don’t get a greasy unwashed look like hair can, wigs also hide dandruff.
- Wigs can have items hot glued to them, wires poked through them, be stubbed, and have foam pieces added in, real hair does not give you this luxury!
- Wigs are one consitant color (unless you choose otherwise), while your hair might have issues with certain dyes, color can wash out, or the roots might show depending on when the job was done.
- Wigs can be styled way ahead of time, meaning (a bit) less time in the bathroom on a convention morning.
Though that doesn’t mean that you must wear a wig, as mentioned in the short answer it is best to use good judgement based on your budget and what is available to you, real hair can be an option! Real hair works best if you have hair that is similar to the character’s in color and length that is doable with the regular styling products.
So how do you make real hair look it’s best?
- Get it cut, and colored if needed, right before the convention. It will still have the style that was cut into it, and the color looks best early on – before it has time to fade / wash out / grow out.
- Make sure you wash it the day of the convention and each day you pla to wear the costume. This will make sure that it isn’t oily or dirty which can make it look bad!
- Use products to help achieve the style. Spend time to make it look good!
- Avoid spray-in color, which often doesn’t color the hair well and can make the hair stiff and chalky – which often rubs off on clothes