Why Do Black Women Wear Wigs?

Wearing wigs and hair extensions is a long-standing tradition in the Black community that serves both practical and cultural purposes. 

3 mins read
Why Do Black Women Wear Wigs

From Instagram to TikTok, black women have taken center stage, flaunting their stunning looks with vibrant wigs of different textures from wavy curls to sleek straight hair. But, why can’t they just use their natural hair? Are black women not proud of their god-given locs?

Well, there are certain reasons why women with type 4 hair wear wigs. Side note; women of different races also wear wigs not just black women.

However, we are focusing on why these gorgeous sistas would rock a 22” bohemian wavy hair or a 30” Brazilian weave to their natural hair and no black women are also blessed with long beautiful hair.

1. Part of Our History

Traditional wigs and hair adornments have been part of various African cultures and traditions for centuries with evidence of their use dating back to ancient Egypt. In ancient Egypt, wigs were worn by both men and women as a symbol of power, wealth, and status. These elaborate wigs were often made from human hair, animal fur, or plant fibers and adorned with precious stones and metals.

Beyond ancient Egypt, the use of beaded headdresses as hair adornments was widespread in various ancient African civilizations and cultures. From the intricate braiding practices of countries like Nigeria and Senegal to the decorative wigs worn by the Mbundu people of Angola, wigs are a form of self-expression deeply rooted in the heritage of the African diaspora.

The Zulu sangoma (traditional healers), and Mbukushu people of present-day Namibia, Botswana wore elaborate beaded wigs. For the sangoma, the beads on headdresses were strung in loops to provide a place for the spirits to sit during spiritual rituals.

Sangoma Wearing Bunched Chicken Feathers Atop her Head in 1970s. Photo credit: Jean Morris. Photo and quotation from South African Tribal Life Today by Jean Morris and Ben Levitas (Cape Town: College Press, 1984), Fig. 233.

Also, the Himba women living in northern Namibia wear the Erembe headdress depicting the marital status of women who have been married for about a year or have had a child. The Erembe is sculpted from sheepskin or goatskin and features many streams of braided hair that are colored and shaped using the traditional Himba “otjize” paste.

 Himba Erembe Headdress
Photo credit: ezakwantu.com

2. Personal Choice

Personal style expressions are one of the reasons some black women choose to wear wigs. Wigs are fashionable, allowing them to make a statement and express their flair. Wigs come in unlimited colors, cuts, and styles to complement any look.

Why Do Black Women Wear Wigs?
Why Do Black Women Wear Wigs?

Hair diversity and versatility are some of the biggest appeals of wigs for black women. The ability to easily change hairstyles and experiment with different looks allows for easy money and time savings.

Getting one’s natural hair styled and maintained can be time-consuming and expensive, requiring frequent visits to the salon. Wigs offer a quicker and more budget-friendly option to achieve a desired hairstyle. 

3. Protecting The Natural Hair

Black women use wigs to protect their natural hair from damage, especially if their hair texture is prone to dryness and breakage. Although commercial hair care for black women textures has come a long way, it still has a lot of loopholes. The natural hair community has many confusing dos and don’ts, sometimes it’s just best to throw on a wig, problem solved!

Also, many black women experience hair loss or thinning due to the delicate nature of their hair texture combined with harsh styling practices like tight braiding, excessive heat, or chemical relaxers. Wigs provide a way to protect the hair while allowing the natural hair to grow.

According to dermatologist Crystal Ugochi Aguh, M.D., with Johns Hopkins Medicine, certain types of hair loss are genetic, and sometimes, there isn’t a way to prevent them. These can range from alopecia to areata to female-pattern hair loss.

4c hair, in general, is more prone to breakage and excessive shedding than 4a or 4b hair types. This is because 4c hair has the tightest coils and is more fragile, with strands tightly wound around each other, making it susceptible to snapping or breaking without proper care.

4c hair experiences a high rate of shrinkage, around 70%, which puts more stress on the hair strands and can lead to increased breakage and shedding. Additionally, 4c hair tends to be drier and has difficulty retaining moisture, further contributing to brittleness and breakage.

With some women shedding around 100 strands of hair a day, wigs allow black women to switch between straight, curly, long, or short styles regularly while protecting their natural hair underneath.

Black women are also embracing natural hair wigs and extensions to promote the beauty of the black textures hair while protecting their natural locs.

4. Societal Pressure

Black women with natural hairstyles are sometimes viewed negatively or seen as “unkempt”, leading some women to opt for wigs to avoid being penalized due to discriminatory policies, dress codes, and grooming standards in schools and workplaces.

Hence many black women feel pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards regarding straight hair. Even though natural hairstyles like afros, braids, Bantu knots, and locs are deeply rooted in African culture and tradition it’s not seen as a professional look in some industries.

As one Redditor explained, “The much sadder reason wigs/ weaves are so popular in America is that typical afro hairstyles have negative connotations associated with them, often seen as ‘unkempt’.”

Even with the recent popularity of natural textures hairstyles, locs, etc,” comments about Black hairstyles being ‘exotic’ or people wanting to touch them can make Black individuals feel like they don’t belong and are being treated like objects.

Contributor: Princess Mckey

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