You’ve seen those GIFs, right? They flash through about 30 anime characters at an astounding speed, and then, you realize–they’ve all got the same face. In the 2D world, identity is contained in hair. That why wigs are integral to cosplay.
But wigs are feisty things. They get tangled, burn when you curl them, or look ridiculous when you try to sweep them back. But how a wig acts is predetermined by a number of factors: how thick it is, for example, or if the hair’s sewn onto the base in wefts. Let’s break it down.
How to Choose a Wig for Cosplay – Buying Guide
How do you know you’ve found the perfect cosplay wig? Well, if it successfully changes you into someone else. This time around, we asked Ginny Di–a cosplayer who knows a thing or two about metamorphosis–how she goes about looking for wigs.
Singer, Cosplayer, Professional Nerd
Ginny wears many hats--or wigs, shall we say? She sings, she's on YouTube, she constructs spreadsheets, and she cosplays (of course). And she doesn't just cosplay in a single genre; she's in both 2D and 3D, her repertoire spanning from Disney princesses to Final Fantasy to Pokemon to Game of Thrones. It stands to reason that she owns around 50, 60 wigs.
She runs her own site and Youtube channel, where cosplay is just one of the topics she talks about. You can also see more of her creations on Instagram or connect with her on Twitter.
・The ginny di Site: http://ginnydi.com/
Cheap and Convenient, Synthetic Wigs are a Cosplayer’s First Choice
Wigs can be made out of hair harvested off of a human head, synthetic fibers, or a mix of the two. Human hair is more versatile, durable, and natural. But if you’re cosplaying an animated character–whether it be a Disney villain or anime protag–honestly, the wig doesn’t have to look all that real.
Cosplayers turn to synthetic wigs for a number of reasons. First of all, they’re thicker, which means they can stand on end. (That’s going to come in handy for Super Saiyan cosplays.) They can also come pre-styled. Unless you’re amazing with scissors, it’s going to be difficult to cut out, say, Giorno Giovanna’s hair. But you can get a wig made in his image, donuts and all.
The thick strands are also amazing at retaining style–though this tenacity’s a double-edged sword. The fact synthetic fiber wigs stay put means they can be difficult to restyle. And some aren’t heat resistant. (The manufacturer should tell you these things–and if there’s nothing written in the product description, then it’ll probably burn.)
But they’re way cheaper than human hair wigs, so you can amass a collection–one for each of the million and two characters you cosplay–without robbing the piggy bank. Bottom line: most cosplayers go synthetic.
Also, I know that there are a lot of methods people use to style or color synthetic wigs that are specific to them being synthetics. For instance, with synthetic wigs, people might color them using acrylic ink. Basically, some of the materials that people have learned to use with synthetics probably aren’t effective with human hair—though I imagine that there are alternatives that you would use.
The Base Under the Hair Determines How You Can Style a Wig
Want to figure out how you can wear your hair? Flip the wig upside down and see if it’s wefted or monofilament.
Your Standard, or Wefted, Wig: Cheap and Customizable
A bit of wig terminology: take a strip of fabric, sew a bunch of hair into it, and you’ve got yourself a “weft.” Bring the wefts together, form planes of hair, and, eventually, you’ll end up with a wefted wig.
The bad news first: these wigs look the least natural. They don’t flow like real hair does. You’ve got to be careful when styling it too; if you pull it into an updo, you’ll reveal the base, and then your wig just looks artificial and awkward. But there’s also a big advantage to going for wefts.
Some characters have funky hair–streaks of color in odd places, complex spikes, or elaborate curls. Before you give up cosplaying them altogether, try gathering a few wefted wigs, styling them, and piecing them together. You can add in extra strands for braided crowns, for instance, or join two wigs together for length and volume.
I don't customize my wigs much, but I have a few times. Some characters demand a very specific wig look—and you can do all kinds of crazy stuff with a cheap plastic wig. I know somebody who uses acrylic paint and hot glue to style anime character wigs, and she only feels comfortable doing that because she’s working with $10 wigs from eBay. You have a lot more flexibility.
Monofilament and Lace Front Wigs: To Get a Natural Hairline
First things first: monofilament is a see-through mesh that blends into your skin. Strands of hair are attached to it, so the hairline–or anywhere your roots meet your scalp–is very realistic. As long as there’s monofilament underneath, you can pull the hair into any style–a ponytail, lolita pigtails, or those dango buns–and have it look natural. Also, mesh is breathable.
Most “monofilament” wigs, however, are a mix of weft and mesh. How much mesh you need really depends on how you want to style the wig. (Just remember: the more lace there is, the more expensive the wig.)
The most common type of monofilment is the lace front, where just the hair that lines your forehead is tied into the mesh. See, with wefted wigs, when you sweep the hair back, you expose all the seams along the base. However, with lace fronts, you can’t see the base, and it looks like all the hair in front is sprouting straight from your forehead.
Generally, if you see the character’s hairline, I want to use a lace front wig for that—like Arya Stark. She wears her hair in the later seasons pulled back into a half-ponytail, so the hairline is really visible. Basically, I only use a wefted wig if the character has bangs. And if they don’t have bangs, I use a lace front.
Unsure about Color? Check Reviews, or Buy Lighter Shades–They’re Easier to Adjust
The number one pain of online shopping–it’s so hard to check for color. Pictures and lighting always play tricks on your eyes (as the blue-dress, gold-dress conundrum taught us). If you must have an exact shade, you can browse customer reviews. Usually, people will compare the color of a wig to a character’s hair color, and say if it’s too saturated, too pale, or just right.
There’s one more trick cosplayers can use. When in doubt, always go for a lighter color. That’s because it’s relatively easy to darken wigs to the right shade–but it’s notoriously hard to go the other way around.
Darkening a wig is much easier; you can use synthetic fabric dye—like polyester dyes and stuff—on a lot of wigs. You can also use acrylic ink, which you apply with a spray bottle. Some people even use Sharpies; you can actually cut open a Sharpie and take the ink out and use that.
Volume: Thick Hair for Animated Characters and Thinner for Live Action
For some reason, animated characters have all got thick, gorgeous manes that would never fly in real life. That’s holds true for every Disney princess ever, 90% of Shonen Jump protags, and poppy cartoons–think Panty and Stocking or Adventure Time. To recreate that effect, you want a wig with a lot of volume. That way, you can spike and layer it–and still have strands to spare.
On the other hand, we three-dimensional humans have hair that sits flat against our head. That’s why, when cosplaying live action series–whether it be sci-fi or fantasy–you want a wig that’s a little thinner. They look more natural. How do you tell how thick a wig is? Pictures and the brand.
Arda Wigs is a popular cosplay wigs supplier that has very thick wigs. Lots of fiber, so if you need to style it into spikes or big curls or have huge bangs, you can usually do that with Arda. Sometimes I buy from Wig Is Fashion. They have very full wigs, and most of their wigs are super longs—for big glamorous curls.
When looking for thinner wigs that are more fitted to the head, lately, I’ve been using Pose Wigs, which is a small independent business. They have some very good, very realistic lace fronts that sit flat on the head. I often get asked if that’s my real hair when I’m wearing their wigs.
Sizing: Learn the Tendencies of Different Brands
First off, 90% of people will fit into any standard wig caps. How do you know if you’re in that lucky majority? Take a tape measure and wrap it around your head, following your hairline–right above your forehead, over your ears, down to the bend in your neck. If the tape reads around 22, 22.5 inches, congratulations. Your head is of a normal size. (And you’re free to buy anything claiming to be one-size-fits-all.)
If the circumference of your head runs larger or smaller, however, you may not fit into standard wig caps. In that case, you’re going to have to do some research. Some brands offer wigs in large or petite sizes. Or some brands have wigs that simply run large or small. It’s all about a) reading wig cap dimensions carefully and b) sniffing around.
It's common for cosplayers to know which brands have larger wig caps and which brands have smaller. I think that Arda tends to have slightly larger wig caps than average, and so, if I were recommending a wig to someone who had a big head, I’d probably say, “Oh, you should check out Arda wigs.” And if you’re buying wigs online that are produced overseas, like in Asia, they tend to be a little smaller, I found. Stuff like that, you learn over time.
Top 10 Best Wigs for Cosplay to Buy Online
We’ve talked about material, about feel, and about color. Now, let’s effect your transformation. Here’s our picks for the 10 great wigs for cosplay available online.
10. K’ryssma Glueless Synthetic Hair Lace Front Wigs
The Color’s Natural, the Hairline’s Natural–Everything’s Natural, Pretty Much
It’s an exclusive club, yes, but there are anime ladies without bangs–think Boa (One Piece), Sakura (Naruto), or Marie Antoinette (Rose of Versailles, if anyone still watches that). K’ryssma’s got wigs in all their colors. And the pink, by the way, is just as it appears in the picture–no florescent bubble gum. The shine’s a little plasticky; for a more natural look, just dust on a bit of baby powder.
The wefts are dense and silky, but the wig itself lets your head breathe and stretches in the back. It’ll survive being curled or straightened with a 320 F iron, so style it however you want. The lace melds right into paler skin (if you’re darker, brush on some makeup to bring it to your skin tone)–which means the hairline is natural.
9. Cying Lin Long Curly Heat Resistance Wigs
Natural Hues with a Natural Part
Orange is a tough color to get right; many wigs turn out a shade of parking cone. This one’s bright, but not fluorescent–and, for the price, the part’s pretty natural. The hair’s soft and moves naturally. The curls are lovely. Leave them as is for Nami (One Piece), or take a straightener to it–the wig won’t melt, don’t worry–and turn yourself into Orihime (Bleach.)
It doesn’t shed much; brush it as gently as you would your own hair, and it’ll last you a while. You can also get it in a rich caramel brown or deep wine red.
8. RightOn Women Girls Short Curly Synthetic Wig with Air Bangs
The Wig’s Soft and the Colors are Toned Down Enough
21 shades, most of which are candy colors–and yet, these wigs tone down the luster just enough to look natural. Unless you can work magic with scissors, you don’t want to get a wig that’s way too long for your character–so this is a good choice if you’re doing someone with shoulder-length hair.
It feels soft against your fingers and flows. It’s full in back, but bangs are a bit wispy–you’ll probably have to trim and style to your liking. The fact that it sheds doesn’t help much; it won’t last through more than 3 or 4 cons. But can you really complain with that price tag?
7. COSPLAZA Cosplay Wig Heat Resistant Synthetic Hair
Versatile Enough To Transform You into Almost Any Anime Boy
Depending on how poofy the character’s hair is–L (Death Note) versus Izaya (DURARARA!!)–this wig could need a lot of styling. It has volume and layers to it, so it’s easy enough to work with without the wefts showing though. (It thins out a bit at the top, though, so you’ll have to tease it there.)
The fibers feel (almost) like silk and have got the same amount of shine. The wig is comfortable, for the most part–but if you’ve got long hair shoved underneath, it’s going to hug your head pretty tight. You’ve got 10 color choices, including blonde-pink (the pink is almost imperceptible) and bright slime green.
6. Cfalaicos Long Straight Hair Wig
Like a Forest: a Million Shades of Green and Thick (Enough for Big Heads)
Just look at that picture, and look at all that hair. This wig is long. It’s full. It’s hot. It’s heavy. But look on the bright side–you can fit it over a huge head and a huge amount of hair, and the wefts won’t reveal themselves.
You have to be practical–use hairspray to prevent tangles and static electricity. If you’re gentle when combing, the wig’ll last you a while. The pigtails are clips–so go ahead and move them around if you need a ponytail. You’ve got 14 hues, a few of them takes on the same color–the fluorescent aqua of Hatsune Miku from “Love is War” versus her smoky emerald hairdo in “Senbonzakura.”
5. DAOTS 32″ Cosplay Wigs for Women
For When You Need Volume and More Volume
These wigs have got volume and length to them–but, by some work of magic, don’t really shed or tangle (considering how long it is, anyway). The hair feels like silk and flows naturally from the base, though you’ll have to style the bangs a bit. They’re thick, so it’s a struggle getting them to lie flat–but that just means you can curl, trim, and thin them out in any way you want.
Your head can breathe, and there’s adjustable straps in the back. The color array’s a lucky seven, including this luscious plum that reminds us of Cars (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure).
4. Alibuy Light Blonde Cosplay Wigs with Pigtails
Those Curls Stay Tight and Bouncy
First off, the clips and the curls on these pigtails are tight–good if you want to cosplay Mami (Madoka Magica) or Elizabeth (Black Butler), but need a more natural look. The wig’s true to the picture, basically. There’s also minimal frizzing, minimal shedding, and minimal tangling. Someone slept in the wig; it survived.
The hair’s thick, bouncy, and silky. The wefts don’t show, even without the pigtails. If you’ve got a medium head and long hair, the wig will accommodate everything. (It’s a different story, though, if you’ve got both a big head and big hair.)
3. Kadiya Short Orange Anime Cosplay Wig
The Orange Isn’t Blinding and It’s So Easy to Style
Here’s another orange wig that doesn’t look like a parking cone. It’s more toned down and more natural, with a faint tinge of honey brown (it is, however, more vivid than shown in the picture). It’s soft and comes pre-styled; you only need to cut and spray it a bit to become Hinata (Haikyuu). It’s perfect if you’re horrible with scissors. It also stood up to a straighter at 480 degrees.
The fibers are thick, so the base doesn’t show through. It holds onto style, too. Even if you stick it into a bag, when you pull it out for next year’s con, it’ll look the same.
2. MapofBeauty Lolita Curly Clip on Ponytails Cosplay Wig
The Most Versatile: You Can Do Pigtails, a Ponytail, or Let It All Down
Give us a dollar for every 2D girl that’s got a) long, curly hair or b) pigtails, and we’d be rich. This wig will transform you into every one of them. The pigtails are clip-on–wear both, one, or none at all–so start the week off as Clover (Zero Escape) and close out as Luka (Sandplay, Singing of the Dragon). The clips are strong, too, so the pigtails stay on.
It’s soft, pretty, and doesn’t shed much. Downsides? It’s a bit small and, without the pigtails, thin enough that the wefts show when you move your head. But there’s 14 hues–some of them different shades of the same color (like bubble gum pink versus rose gold pink). It’s a different line, but MapofBeauty’s also got bi-color versions of this wig.
1. YOPO Long Big Wavy Hair Cosplay Party Costume Wig
Soft and True to the Many, Many Colors
First of all, you’ve got 12 color variations, from forget-me-not blue (think Rei from Evangelion) to deep apple red (Erza from Fairy Tail) to snow white (Inuyasha from… Inuyasha). And all of them are true to the picture.
The hair’s so natural that, from afar, it actually looks real. It’s shiny up close, but you can fix that with a bit of talc. It’s long, so of course it’s going to tangle–but detangling it is pretty simple. It’s soft, easy to style, barely sheds, and flows naturally. The straps are snug, but the cap’s pretty big–and by big, we mean it’s accommodated dreads and knee-length hair.
How to Properly Maintain a Wig
A wig’s not like real hair–once you lose a strand, it’s never coming back again. So learn how to treat yours right.
Wash Your Wig by Soaking It in Water
First things first–do not brush your wig while it’s wet. The fibers will stretch and get all scraggly. Instead, before washing, gently work out the tangles. In the meantime, fill your sink with lukewarm water (or cold water, which’ll help maintain curls). Pour in just enough shampoo to get some suds. Gentle, drugstore stuff will work just fine–though you can always get synthetic wig shampoos. Swirl the water around; make sure the shampoo’s evenly distributed.
Dunk your wig in the water. Don’t knead it or scrub it like laundry–synthetic fibers are most vulnerable with wet. Gently swish it around and work your fingers over it. Let it sit for about 3-5 minutes. Then rinse it out. Do the same with conditioner. (Swirl, soak, rinse.) Make sure the conditioner really melts into the water; you’ll hate yourself if any clumps get stuck in the wig.
Next, dunk the wig back in clean water. For 5 minutes, swish it about gently; run your fingers through it; wash out all the product. Then drape it over a wig head, and let it air-dry. Do not wring it!
I think that, in general, the more time you spend washing a wig, the more careful you’re being. And the more careful you’re being, the more safely your wig gets through it. I find that if you wash a wig quickly—if it doesn’t take you an hour and a half—then you have usually done a little damage to your wig. If you really dedicate your time to cleaning up a wig, then you’re breaking fewer fibers and you’re ending up with a better final product.
Brush from the Bottom Up and Stick into a Ziplock Bag
When it’s really, truly dry, you can brush it. Gently work your way up from the bottom, and hold the top so you don’t pluck the wig bald. And make sure you don’t use a fine-toothed comb.
After you’ve worked out the tangles, put the wig away. Wigs are weak to dust and sunlight. If the wig’s styled, then you kind of have to keep it on a stand. But stick everything else in a ziplock bag. If the hair’s long, loosely braid it so it doesn’t tangle.
My way of thinking is, I don’t know when the next time that I’ll wear the costume is, and if it needs to be touched up a little for the next time, then I’ll figure that out. I mean, I probably own like 50 or 60 wigs, which is just way too many to keep on the wig heads at all times.
The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran once said, “What do you do from morning to night? I endure myself.” We’re stuck in our own skins from sun up to sun down, from spring to winter–so, when we throw on a wig and step into someone else’s shoes, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
To make the masquerade convincing, though, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Get a lace front if you’re going to pull back your hair, wefted if you need volume. And, finally, make sure that when you stick your wig on your head, you feel drop-dead gorgeous.
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