A lot of people would be surprised to learn that the smartly coifed hairdo that they have been admiring on a friend or family member's head is actually a wig.
For the girl down the block or the corporate executive, these hair pieces have become an essential part of achieving a specific look.
Admittedly, there's the star-look-alike factor.
So you want to look like Whitney Houston? Then throw on a gently tousled shock of curly locks. Or maybe you want to unleash the Beyonce in you. You will need a wig of long, flowing, blond-blended hair.
But many African-American women are donning the store-bought hair to cut down on their morning mirror-time, and to celebrate a new look whenever they want, and with little effort.
Today's wig's are not like the ones Grandma wore decades ago.
"Wigs look a lot better than they used to. They're not as 'wiggy.' They're more modern-looking, and they look like natural hair," says Jodi Scott, a beauty consultant at Lee's Beauty store.
Scott spends her days surrounded by hairpieces, beauty supplies and all kinds of wigs. Long, short, synthetic, human hair, straight, curly, krimped, kinky, locs, afro -- you name it, she's got it. There are wigs in every length, color and texture.
During her 2 1 / 2 years at the shop on Liberty Road, the 20-year-old has developed a knack for helping women find the right wig.
Wig companies "make so many new blends [colors mixtures] that you can find a really natural-looking highlight, and you can go to any color that you want without damaging your hair with chemicals," Scott says.
And her clients aren't of a certain age.
"It's not just older women anymore; all age groups are wearing them," she says.
Many African-American women have several wigs, in different styles. Some cover their short hairdos with bouncy curls, while others conceal flowing tresses under a pixie style.
Twenty-six-year-old LaTease Hewlett wears wigs for the convenience. But she's also discovered the Angela Davis in her.
This makeover of sorts began when she missed a few hair appointments while giving her hair a rest from relaxers.
When the assistant director of admissions at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland placed a wig on her head, her look and her attitude changed.
"In my travels, I came across my 'Angela Davis power to the people' curly fro, and we've been throwing our fists up ever since!" a beaming Hewlett says.
She now owns 10 wigs.
"I own about six of the same style -- my curly fro, aka Angela Davis -- and I have four wigs with light blond highlights in a straight, long, wrap style for a little Beyonce flavor," Hewlett says. "Wigs offer instant versatility, and I am happy to play dress-up! They allow me to express who I want to be."
Many women who wear wigs name them, often basing the name on a celebrity or an alter ego.
Dr. Martina Callum calls her page-boy-styled wig "Pulp Fiction."
She describes it very precisely as an "off-black page-boy style, with bangs ending at the bottom of my ears on the side and just above the collar line in the back." It's very much a look from the movie.
The 52-year-old traveling physician from Northeast Baltimore owns two wigs, but has owned as many as five and plans to purchase more.
Whether she's on assignment in Barrow, Alaska, or working in Virginia, she finds the convenience of an instant 'do invaluable.
"I choose a wig based on the activity and the look I want to achieve," she says.
After meeting model Naomi Sims at a promotional appearance for her wig line in 1973, Callum, then a pharmacy-school student and freelance model, purchased two wigs, heeding Sims' advice that to get modeling assignments she would need to be able to change her look.
"Wigs complete 'the look' for me. They add to my goal of looking good. When I feel like I look good, I'm energized and ready to take on any tasks," Callum says.
If there's a celebrity-trademark 'do out there, there's a wig styled in its image sitting on a store shelf. And the stars have put their seal of approval on wigs by creating their own lines, and revealing that wearing wigs is one of their little beauty and style secrets.
In the December 2005 issue of Hype Hair magazine, Toni Braxton's smoldering gaze is framed in an inset by a cute, short style and, in a larger image, set ablaze by flaming red tresses -- a wig.
Wig Web sites such as Especially Yours and Wigs.com carry lines by models and celebrities such as Sims, Diahann Carroll, Star Jones, Beverly Johnson and others.
Wearing a wig may help you have a good hair day, but experts say those throwing on the pseudo-dos should take care of their own hair.
Tia Brown, a professional stylist at Accent Hair Salon in Mondawmin Mall, warns, "Most women who wear wigs think you can just throw them on and don't think about wearing a wig cap, which will protect your hair and prevent breakage. The netting inside of a wig, what it's made of, will take your hair out if you don't cover it up."
She adds, "Wearing a wig can be a wonderful thing, if it's done properly."
MEASURING FOR YOUR MANE
Wigs are like clothing: In order to look good they must fit properly. And like clothing, wigs come in different sizes.
Three simple measurements ensure a great fit.
Around the head / / Measure the circumference of your head, following the hairline, beginning at the center of the forehead.
Front to back / / Measure from the front hairline to the nape of your neck.
Ear to ear / / Measure across the top of your head, from the front of one ear to the other.
Flatten your hair before measuring your head for a wig.
If your measurements are not an exact match to a wig, select the wig size that matches the largest measurement.
lWigs can be adjusted up and down in fit by 1 inch.
[Source: Especially Yours Quality Wigs and Apparel, especiallyyours.com ]