This isn’t a sales pitch for commissioning a wig from us, though it may sound like it. This is a breakdown of how and when having a wig built is going to be worth the additional cost. I’ll be the first to admit that although we will happily build anything and everything, not everything needs to be a custom built piece. If you’re not sure exactly what makes a wig “custom”, that means we create the entire wig from scratch, it’s tailored to fit the client, and we put all of the hair into by hand, including a hand-knotted (or lace-front) hairline. We make our wigs and facial hair just like they make them for film and tv.
Wigs are very popular right now, for both mainstream and cosplay use- you can buy them all over the place, in local shops or on the internet. They come in a seemingly endless range of colors, styles and prices. You can even pick up machine made “lace front” wigs with decent hairlines at very reasonable prices, and most of those can be re-styled using heat tools. So why spend substantially more money and time having a wig made to order?
The short answer is, quality. The longer answer is that the cheaper and more accessible options might work perfectly well for many uses, but what about the other times? Let’s say you spent hours of your time sourcing the perfect fabric and materials, more hours painstakingly sewing your garment, and a whole other bunch of hours tracking down the accessories and props and designing your makeup. If you’ve put that much time, energy, love and, yes, money, into creating the very best costume, it’s worth considering having the wig or facial hair made to go with it.
The right wig – color, texture, length. We can build almost anything. That’s especially important if you are working on a character who’s hair isn’t likely to be available as a mass produced product. If you’re cosplaying Danaerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, you can probably find a pretty good mass produced wig that will work for most of her hairstyles (though you may want to take a look at some of the other reasons to consider a custom wig). But what about your Gandalf cosplay? There aren’t too many decent quality long, gray wigs out there, and even fewer beards.
The right fit. Let’s say you manage to track down a wig in the right color and mostly the right style for your Jon Snow cosplay. The hairline is even decent on it, since it has a shallow machine-made lace front. Many people might be able to use the wig as it is, which is great. But what if this wig doesn’t fit your head? Your put it on, and you pull and you tug, and it doesn’t cover your nape. Or your forehead. Or your ears. The wig that looks reasonably like Jon Snow on a mannequin head isn’t going to look like Jon Snow if half your hair is sticking out the back of it. Fitting issues get worse with updos and short hairstyles.
The right hairline. This tends to be the weakest link for most mass produced wigs. You’re going to need a good hairline unless your character has bangs or a hat. Does your character have his or her hair pulled back for their face? Then you need a wig with a lace front hairline. And that hairline needs to match up well enough with your own hairline to cover it completely. Ideally, it will also match the hairline of the character you’re portraying because that’s an important element of creating a likeness. You might find a good commercial option for your Arwen wig, but if you’re doing Elrond, you’ll probably need a custom piece to truly capture that hairline shape.
The right style. You’re going to need to either buy a wig that looks exactly like the hairstyle you’re going for, or you’re going to have to try and re-style it to do what you need. If you’re cosplaying Cersei Lannister, plenty of her hairstyles can be recreated with a long blonde wig without the need for much styling, but if you need some King’s Landing formal hair, you’ll need to do some styling. If you’re comfortable with hair and wig styling, then you’ll probably do great with a purchased piece. If styling isn’t in your wheelhouse, then it might be good to job that out.
The right hair. This goes back to quality, and also the getting the right wig for the job. You do get what you pay for and if realism and screen accuracy are important to you, or you want to use your wig for a long time, or if your wig needs to be easily styled and restyled, it’s important to make sure your wig is created from the best hair for the job. That means carefully chosen, good looking, realistic, durable hair, in an appealing color or colors and the appropriate texture. This is really important for facial hair, historical or historical-ish characters or characters who have hair that needs to look and act like “real” hair.
For example, we recently built a wig for a Seth Rogan cosplayer. We built it from human hair that was permed into the tight curls Seth is known for. Because they’re human hair, they behave like real hair (they tighten and expand in response to humidity!) This is really important for creating a strong and realistic likeness – a wig made from similar synthetic hair, or from straighter human hair wouldn’t look, feel and act the same way, and the likeness wouldn’t be as good as a result.
It’s not just about using human hair, either – choosing the right hair can also mean using a quality synthetic fiber because it more accurately reflects the aesthetic qualities of the character, or because a wig can be created successfully from a good synthetic hair at a lower price point. Whenever possible, we try to present as many options for fiber quality and price as we can, so that our clients can pick the best option for their needs and their budget – some projects work well with both human or synthetic hairs, and some don’t. Having knowledgeable artisans to cover the pros and cons of different hair fibers ensures you get the best possible result, and allows you to make an informed decision.
In general, if you’re doing a project and you can tick off two or more of the above points, then you might want to consider a custom wig. If you’re just doing the project casually, or for a single event, then it might not make sense to have a piece made. But if you plan to wear your Gandalf for the next decade, you’ll probably be happier in long run if you get your pieces made to order.
Keep in mind that although most of our clients order full custom wigs, “made to order” doesn’t have to mean a full custom build. When we get a commission request, we try to present as many options as possible. One of the options we use whenever possible, is the semi-custom wig. Mass produced wigs have a lot of good selling points, and often, they just need a little help to make them near-perfect. Many of the potential concerns I outlined above can be addressed by altering a mass produced wig, putting a custom hairline on it, or adding/removing hair. We’ll happily build you a full custom wig for your Elsa cosplay, but we’ll be just as happy turning a long, blonde wig into the perfect piece for you at about half the cost.
It is. And this paragraph is as close to a sales pitch as this article will get. There’s no denying that is a serious chunk of change for most cosplayers. A lot of our cosplay clients didn’t even know having a wig made to order was an option before they came to us, so being given a quote for $600-900 was a shock to them because they had no context for it. If you decide it’s worth the investment, then we can help you set up a payment plan so you can have the wig you want on terms that make sense for you. There’s no additional cost involved in using an installment plan, and we are very flexible with the terms and schedule. Our advice is to do some research, talk to us about your project, and plan your wig commission well in advance when possible. Yes, it might mean you have to postpone a project or use a temporary piece, but you’ll find it’s worth the wait.
We also offer short term rentals – so if you’re curious about our wigs, but aren’t sure it’s the best use of your resources, you can try one out for a weekend.