Forget about earrings. The accessory of the summer just might be a wig. The greener, the pinker, the purple-and-bluer, the better.
These wardrobe extenders are a naughty new twist on the conventional wigged-out theme. They won't quietly hide a case of the thins or conservatively cover the limp, the lame or the lousy. These wiggy wearables are an '80s answer to collectible objets , little nothings to buy at garage sales and trade like baseball cards. They're the stuff to inspire a Randy Newman song: "The Way You Wear Your Wig."
If you're wearing it with style, you're inclined to change it as casually as you'd change from hat to hat. You're playing it like a prank, putting it on--upside down if need be--so that it falls in your eyes when you're on a dance floor and stands up straight when you're in a convertible.
"And if it flies right off your head in the course of the evening, that could be fun too," Christiaan, the New York hair stylist, says. "By the end of the night, eight other people ought to get the chance to wear it too."
Christiaan has done as much as anyone for the new way with wigs. He uses them on models for top fashion shows around the world. These days he puts pieces and falls of fake hair on a head the way another man might put on ribbons or combs. "Don't waste time trying to match your natural color," he says. "Wigs are meant for an extreme change. Long wigs for women with short hair. Short wigs for women with long hair. Think of them as sweat shirts. Just put them on and take them off." (He calls them "hard hair" because they stay in place when natural hair falls flat.)
An "A" list of wig-wearing performers hasn't hurt the revival. Tina Turner, Edie Adams, Diahann Carroll, Olivia Newton-John, Cyndi Lauper, Annie Lennox and Joan Collins all wear wigs or hairpieces to perform (most of them made in Korea, the wig capital of the world). And they make no secret of it.
Carroll and Adams, their hair stylist Arthur Johns explains, "wear hairpieces or wigs because they hold up better under the hot stage lights. On stage, they want the body and fullness they get with a wig."
They want colors close to their natural shades, which puts them in league with most of the 8 million people who bought wigs last year and prefer not to flaunt their fakes.
It is the rock-music world, however, that is inspiring modern-minded wig wearers to want wild colors, Johns says. Think of Madonna, who wears a pink, waist-length wig in one video, or Lauper, who switches from pomegranate to plaid to platinum-blond hair in another video, or Lennox, who goes from fire-engine red to pitch black hair in another.
Karin Boursiar of the Menage a Trois salon says wild-colored wigs are for women who aren't afraid of changing their look. "They're willing to act out their fantasy of having mauve hair." If wigs are accessories, Boursiar says, she recommends them for night. The one she styled for these pages is shoulder length, black and looks like it was styled for Marilyn Monroe.
Allen Edwards, who believes "wigs are just for fun and should look like wigs," styled the stark, wigged-out, shocking pink bob pictured here. He says it is much more time-consuming to cut and style a wig than real hair. When a woman has a wig styled, she should be prepared to pay from two to three times what she pays for a real-hair cut.
Edwards prefers working with super-straight wigs that he can style into geometric shapes. He says he is about to stock wig styles and color samples in his salons and take special orders. (A good synthetic wig costs anywhere from $40 to $125.)
Armando, who is known as a makeup artist as well as a hair stylist, says makeup is key to wearing a wig well. When he put a blue-and-purple wig on the model pictured here, he painted her lips violet and dramatized her eyes with layers of blue and yellow powder.
He says wigs are for whenever the mood hits. But wigs with metallic threads are only for night because they attract light the way sequins do on an evening dress. And he says a fantasy-color wig won't work with what he calls "normal" clothes. Purple hair and a button-down collar "would look peculiar," he points out.
No one knows that better than fashion designers Thierry Mugler in Paris and Stephen Sprouse (a chum of Christiaan) in New York. They started using wigs several seasons ago to accessorize their '60s-inspired fashion collections.
Mugler put shoulder-length falls on models wearing bell-bottom pants. Sprouse put hanks of fake hair on models wearing mini-dresses with halter tops. Until recently, the wigs and hairpieces Sprouse and Mugler used had been glaring fakes, but in natural hair colors such as blond, brunet and red.
Not anymore. For the fall collection he showed last month in Paris, Mugler used psychedelic-colored wigs. And when Sprouse shows his new fall styles later this month in New York, Christiaan says the models will have green hair.