Cosplay Innovation: Wig Essentials

Cosplay Innovation: Wig Essentials

0 comments 📅27 July 2016, 09:00


In most cases whether you’re a beginner or a veteran at cosplaying, there will come a time when a particular cosplay will need a wig. If you’re lucky, finding that perfect wig will be an enjoyable affair, and over and complete within seconds of looking online at the plethora of wig stores. But once you get your wig, how do you style it? How do you clean it? And how do you store it? Look no further for I come bearing gifts of wig knowledge, with a few cheeky tips and tricks of the cosplay trade.

Why Should I Wear A Wig?

If I had a penny for every person who has said this, I would be a rich person! When starting out a lot of people will want to use their own hair for their characters, and when things don’t seem to turn out right, they never fully understand why. Let’s start with some of the main points. Real hair can be patchy and thin, a nightmare to style exactly how you want it, and unless you use special sprays or treatments, it can end up looking lifeless and limp in photographs.

The benefits of wearing a wig are that you really don’t need to style your wig each and every time you decide to wear it; a few tweaks here and there, but nothing overly time consuming. Wigs can add to the comic or anime effect with the vast array of colours and styles, so there’s no need for chemical dyes to ruin your own lovely hair. In photos a sheen and shine that comes with synthetic hair can give your wig that extra “POW” which will be cohesive with your already stunning costume, and brings a sense of reality to a fictional character. In the end, you can do away with the burden, stress or strain of trying to tame, style or dye your own hair. You can save time (and the thought of damaging your own hair) by buying a wig.

Where Can I Buy My Wig?

If your character has natural hair colouring, or if you know there is a hair dye that is perfect for what you want to achieve, then don’t look down your nose at local beauty stores or even local hair dressers. As a first step I would recommend that you print off a good reference image of your character (preferably a front, side and back view) and head on down to the beauty stops in your area. Most either stock wigs or extensions, can order them in, or know of places that do them. One thing to note is the fact that beauty stores will generally only carry human hair wigs and extensions, which can be very pricey.

Budget wise (and from a general consensus of cosplayers), synthetic wigs are the way to go. One key thing to remember – “You get what you pay for”. So if you buy a cheap wig, in most cases you will get a really cheap looking wig. If you spend a little more, chances are that you will get a great quality wig. When buying synthetic wigs, there are many party and fancy dress shops around, but I highly recommend you check out the products before you order them if they are from a fancy dress styled shop. Synthetic wigs which range from £2 – £10 are usually really bad quality and not worth your time or effort.

Online there are literally hundreds of wig stores or cosplay stores that stock wigs. I usually go to Coscraft for anything wig related as they are UK based, so shipping is reasonable, they stock a range of colours, lengths, thickness, and they even have accessories to keep your wig safe and guides on how to look after your wig once you have it at home. eBay is another great stop for some quick buys; most of the wigs do come from China, but as they are cheap they are great for the odd con usage. A personal favourite is Wig Fashion, but like most eBay stores, be sure to check for customer reviews and feedback. If you don’t mind shipping in from America then Epic Cosplay or Arda Wigs are also recommended, but please remember that shipping costs can vary on the weight of your item, and you could run the risk of getting custom charges.

How Do I Match My Wig To My Character?

One of the key things about your wig is finding the perfect one for your character. Unfortunately not all of us have Super Saiyan hair or wigs in that specific style, and in these cases it means a little more work than normal. But for the case of simpler more natural styles of hair, there are plenty of different styled wigs out there that can match what your character needs. If you’re a cosplay newbie, I would recommend a character whose hair isn’t too crazy, and requires a small amount of styling – we don’t want you to try and become an overnight hairdresser! A character where a few snips in the hair or just some simple styling techniques would be best to start with – you can always work your way up from there. A key point here would be searching online and looking at lengths first, then colours. There are many different names such as pixy cut, prince cut, jack cut and so on. You just need to find one that needs less work done to it.


What Styling Products Can I Use?

One key thing to remember is that you can’t technically use real hair styling products on your synthetic wigs. With synthetic wigs being made of plastics and other materials, they don’t hold any of the proteins in real hair to work with the real hair products. A line of products I swear by are the Got2Be line of hair care. They are really high quality and even show what their products can achieve on their packaging with models showcasing over-sized anime styled spikes. If you are wanting to spike your wig then the obvious product to get is the Got2Be Glue. To accompany that you should also get the Got2Be Freeze Spray – the freeze spray is a vital piece of equipment when styling band and spikes, or just generally to tame your wig or create gravity defying hairstyles that our favourite anime counterparts seem to have.

One thing to note about your wig is if it has heat-resistant fibres. If it does, you can use blow dryers and straighteners to style your wig. If your wig is not resistant to heat, then DO NOT use any heating implements as this could cause your wig to melt. Something I used to do should my non-heat resistant wig need styling was to soak it in a bowl of hot/warm tap water to relax the fibres, then style the wig. As soon as it was styled I would use the freeze spray as fast as I could to shock the fibres into their new position and leave it to dry naturally or with a fan.

Investing in a good pair of cutting scissors is essential if you’re cutting and styling your wigs, along with an anti-static tangler brush, pin comb, wide tooth comb and an afro comb – to hep with some of the styling it’s also good to get some curvy and alligator grips. Possibly the biggest bit of equipment you need is a styling head, a polystyrene mannequin head is of more use as you pin and clip your wig in place – buying a clamp for the head is also recommended so that you can keep the head still as you style your wig and attach it to your table.

How Do I Put On A Wig?

The key thing to wearing a wig is to hide your own hair, making your hair as flat as possible will allow for a more believable look to your wig. If you have short hair, then you can easily place your hair in a net and place your wig over the top. For people with longer hair, just puling your hair back into a ponytail won’t actually work as it will create a large bump on the back of your head that will show through your wig. French braiding your hair before a convention is a quick and simple way of fitting into your wig; your hair is tidy, kept out the way, and all you need to do is flip the tail up to the top of your head before putting on a wig net. Pin-curling your hair can have a great effect but takes a lot of time and effort (and a lot of bobby pins) to secure all of your hair. If you want to get your hair up and wig cap on fast then putting your hair in braids is the easiest and time efficient way of doing it. Just do braided pig tails either side of your head, and then pin the braids to the lower back of your head. As a quick tip, using a skin toned wig cap will make the wig look a little more realistic.

To wear your actual wig, hold your wig upside down so the inside of the wig cap is facing you, make sure the fringe/bangs are not inside the wig cap and hold the back of the wig (the bit which goes to the back of your neck) with one hand – with the other hand guide the front of the wig to your forehead then pull the back of the wig up and over the top of your head. At this point you can now twist, turn and position the wig where it needs to be – it’s honestly that simple. Just make sure that when you position the wig, the sideburns of the wig are where your sideburns should be, and the very edge of the wig is on the edge of your hairline.

How Do I Cut A Wig?

Just like a trip to a professional hairdresser, there are a lot of different techniques that can be used. For beginners the most you will be wanting to do is possibly cutting in a fringe or “bangs” – and something everyone has done either to their wig or their own hair, is cut the fringe too small. A simple trick to this is to place your index finger to your hairline where the wig cap will be positioned, and then use your thumb to judge where about you want your fringe to settle (usually just below the eyebrow is a good position). Then take your hand measurement to your wig on the polystyrene mannequin head and place your index finger from where the beginning of the wig cap starts and measure down the hair length – using a pen or pencil to mark on the mannequin head, you can see the length you will need to cut to. Place a small amount of the wig fibres in a straight downward motion to create a flat tension, and with your hair cutting scissors cut upwards into the hair. You never ever want to cut in a direct straight line as this will look extremely amateurish and won’t allow for neat styling – it will look like a two year old got a hold of the scissors. A slight feathering action (cutting straight up into the new edge) will give a slightly more choppy look and a natural edginess to the wig.

How Can I Spike My Wig?

There are so many characters out there with super spiked hair that defy the laws of gravity, and if you’re a beginner to wigs, it’s an extremely daunting thing to tackle. Not going to lie, but it doesn’t get any easier the more times you do it. Deviantart user Malindachan has an amazing tutorial guide on how to spike a wig for the Final Fantasy character Cloud. Her guide can easily be re-interpreted for characters with shorter or longer hair, and is a tutorial that I and a few other cosplayers use as a guide for many weird and wonderful hair designs. You will need a lot of the Got2Be glue, freeze spray and a little bit of snipping with your scissors. If this tutorial doesn’t work for you then there are plenty of other tutorials based on spiking wigs available online. Google and YouTube will become your best friends as a cosplayer.


How Can I Curl My Wig?

Heat resistant wigs are the prefect wigs for curling as you can use all the equipment you would usually use on your own hair – from curling irons, straighteners, and heated curlers. But if you have synthetic fibres in your wig there are a few ways you can curl your wig without the worry of it melting:

Hot Water: Using hot water you basically curl the hair using bendy curlers, plastic curlers or a wooden dowel rod and place it into a bucket or bowl. Pour the hot water over the top and then leave it in the water till it cools down. Once the water is cool, you take the wig out of the water and leave to dry (with the curlers still in place), and when the wig is dry you take the curlers out and set using the freeze spray.
Plastic Curlers + Heat: Placing the plastic curlers throughout the wig, use some freeze spray on the wig while the curlers are still in. Then get a hairdryer and blast the wig with warm air, making sure to keep the hairdryer moving as to not create too much heat in one area so the hair begins to melt. Then a little bit of patience is needed as we let the wig with the curlers sit overnight or for the minimum of 24 hours, and then take out the curlers – finishing with another blast of freeze spray to set it.

Amphigory has an amazing tutorial on how to curl your wig using the plastic curlers and heat method – but don’t just stop there, check out the rest of the web for more tips and tricks as many cosplayers share their skills to creating the best curls online.

How Can I Dye My Wig?

It’s not just gravity defying hair that most of our beloved characters have, but it’s also the crazy colours as well – and to be frank, they aren’t always available from stores, so this is where we need to get a little creative with our wigs. There are many different ways to colour or dye a wig and they are all a little complicated to explain in this article, but I do recommend you watch some tutorials from Dustbunny who uses the paint & water technique, whereas LenoraLucreita uses an ink and rubbing alcohol technique. A personal favourite is Elite Cosplay’s Sharpie method. Cost wise it’s not too expensive for any of the techniques above, but it can get pretty messy, so be sure to wear protective clothing and to lay down some protective sheets in your work area.

How Do I Care For My Wig In The Long Term?

Our good friends over at Coscraft have a perfect Wig Care section which explains everything you need to know about brushing, storing, and cleaning your wigs – which is also consistent with Epic Cosplay’s tutorial as well. It comes down to the fact that you really do need to take into consideration the aftercare for your wig, and how to preserve any styling you have done. A tip that many haven’t stated (which is something I like to do) is to take a photo of the wig on a mannequin head from the front, two sides and back, and to place that in a zipper food bag with your wig, or anywhere that particular wig is going to be – that way you have an idea on whether the wig needs to be restyled, how it should look and it makes it easier to distinguish which character’s hair you’re looking at when it is stored. When at a convention make sure you bring some essentials with you, your wide tooth comb, an extra hair net, a strip of bobby pins or wig clips (trust me you will always need them), a hair/head band, and if you can get a small can of the freeze spray then that is a bonus. Your wig will need attention before, during and after the convention, and especially if you are having a photoshoot.

If you have any questions or tips and tricks of your own that you would like answered or shared, then please feel free to send an email to and it might be featured in a future article.

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