In case you don’t know, cosplay is the practice of dressing as a character from almost any kind of media, for example, comic books, movies, video games, and anime.
Therefore, cosplay wigs are hairpieces specifically designed for use in character roleplaying. There’s an art to it, as these wigs are far more complex than your everyday postiche.
I’m Lori and being a professional cosplayer, I can tell you, transforming into a living character is an incredibly rewarding experience. Today, I’m answering your most pressing questions about the art of cosplay—and the wig crafting that goes with it.
Read on to discover the answers to all these and more.
The word cosplay is a portmanteau of ‘costume’ and ‘roleplay.’ It first boomed around the 1990s.
However, its origins can be traced as far back as 1912, when people began dressing as Mr. SkyGack, From Mars, a popular comic strip character created by A.D. Condo.
Cosplay has since become a popular form of expression amongst fans of all kinds of media. It is especially prominent in Japan, where “Otaku culture” (super fandom) thrives.
Cosplay vs. Dress Up
The biggest difference between cosplay and simply dressing up as a character—for example, on Halloween—is the roleplaying aspect.
Cosplayers don’t only look like the character they’re mimicking, they become them. This means that cosplay depictions are far more accurate and require a fair amount of dedication and skill to create.
Cosplay wigs are the best example of this. Think of anime characters. Most of them have unnatural hairstyles that can’t be recreated with a simple party wig and, therefore, have to be made specifically for cosplayers.
What Are Cosplay Wigs Made Of?
Wigs are usually categorized into two main types, namely synthetic and natural.
Synthetic wigs are made from various manufactured materials. The most common amongst cosplay wigs is kanekalon, an artificial blend of acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride.
Natural wigs are made of real human hair, typically sourced from places like Brazil or India. Natural wigs can also be made from horsehair, but this is uncommon and has lost its popularity over the years in favor of authentic hair.
Cosplay wigs can be natural or synthetic, depending on the role players’ budget and preference, but which one is best? Let’s find out.
Natural vs. Synthetic
Cosplay wigs are generally made from synthetic hair for several reasons.
Synthetic wigs can be bought pre-styled, which curbs the time needed to style a wig for a specific cosplay. This is especially useful if you don’t know how to style wigs yourself.
Using a synthetic wig can spare you a lot of frustration!
There is also a more diverse variety of colors to choose from when buying synthetic wigs. Natural wigs often only come in realistic hair colors like blonde, brown, and black. While some natural wigs can be dyed, it is recommended that you don’t do this, as you can damage the hair.
Trying to get specific colors for certain characters can be tricky. Synthetic wigs tend to be more cost-effective too. Seeing as most cosplayers do many role plays, they often need plenty of wigs to suit each character’s look.
Furthermore, synthetic wigs keep their original shape and style even after you wash them. So the same wig can be used multiple times for different events.
Cosplays are often worn to conventions and parties, and so the wigs are bound to get dirty after being worn all day. It helps to know that with a synthetic wig, you can wash it and wear it again without having to restyle it.
I’ve listed the benefits of using synthetic wigs for cosplay, but natural wigs have their pros as well. For one, natural wigs tend to have a longer lifespan—although it depends on how often the wig is used and if the wig is cared for correctly.
Natural wigs can be styled with heating tools and are generally easier to style (that is, if you know anything about styling hair).
On the other hand, most synthetic wigs are quite sensitive to heat. You can buy heat-resistant synthetic wigs, though. If you’re willing to pay a bit extra for them.
Natural wigs can also be dyed and made with custom colors that are not readily available in synthetic styles. You will need to make sure that the hair is made with a high-grade texture such as virgin hair for the best results.
Which Is Better for Cosplay?
When it comes to cosplay, if you have the time, money, and patience to use natural hair, I say go for it! But keep in mind that synthetic wigs are less of a hassle, so I recommend using them instead—especially if you’re starting.
Here are some commonly asked questions regarding cosplay wigs.
How Do I Use Cosplay Wigs?
I suggest buying pre-styled wigs. You’ll save a ton of time and effort, especially if you’re new to cosplay or don’t know how to style a wig. That said, cosplay wigs are just as easy to use as any other wig.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Start by making your hair as flat as possible. The method for this varies depending on your hair. You could tie it up, or you may have to brush or comb it back first.
- Regardless of how you flatten your hair, a good wig cap is essential in keeping your hair in place and out of sight. I recommend a mesh wig cap if your hair is not very long or thick.
- Hold the front of your wig and pull it over your head, starting from the back.
- Line up the wig with your hairline and check that everything looks right and no part of your hair is showing. If you’re happy with it, go ahead and secure it into place.
When you’re getting ready, it’s a good idea to put your wig on last so that it doesn’t get misshapen in the process of dressing for your cosplay.
Where Can I Find Cosplay Wigs?
You can usually find great cosplay wigs at costume or party stores. If there aren’t any costume stores in your area, don’t worry, there are online alternatives.
There are tons of excellent cosplay wigs in a variety of lengths, styles, and colors available for purchase on Amazon too.
Another great place to find high-quality cosplay wigs is Epic Cosplays. They offer a wide range of pre-styled wigs and heat and tangle-resistant options with free shipping within the U.S.
How Much Do Cosplay Wigs Cost?
Prices vary depending on the quality of the wigs and the character you want to cosplay. Generally, wigs can cost you anything between $25 to $400.
Higher-end wigs are very high-quality, typically full lace, and made of natural hair.
Pre-styled synthetic wigs should cost you anything between $20 to $50, depending on the materials used.
The price of the wig also depends on its length. More often than not, longer wigs cost a lot more than shorter ones.
Can I Make My Own Cosplay Wigs?
The simple answer is yes. There are many methods of making your wigs. It can be difficult, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can certainly learn how to do it in no time.
When making your wigs, the first thing you need to think about is materials.
You can make your wigs by taking pre-made wefts of natural or synthetic hair and sewing them to a base that fits your head. Or, you can make your wefts out of yarn.
If you make your wefts from yarn, keep in mind that the final product will probably be relatively short. So, if you’re cosplaying a character with long hair, you should stick to buying wefts instead.
To get a base that fits your head, you can buy a wig cap or make your own by measuring your head and sewing a cap that perfectly.
Another alternative is using a stocking and cutting it to size. If you use a stocking, be sure to secure the ends so it doesn’t fray at the edges.
You’re also going to need a polystyrene head or something of a similar shape and size to your head.
Once you’ve gathered all your materials, all that’s left to do is attach the wefts to the base. How you do this depends on the materials you use.
A rule of thumb is to sew the wefts with a strong thread to secure them in place. I’ve seen people gluing wefts to wigs, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.
It’s messy, and unless you use good fabric glue, it could damage the wefts and cap you’re attaching them to.
Always attach wefts from the neck up. Use longer wefts at the top to avoid creating a mullet look (unless that’s what you want, of course!).
Once you get to the crown of your wig, change the direction slightly with every other weft to achieve a more natural look.
After adding all the wefts, style the wig to suit your cosplay’s needs. Remember that if you’re using a synthetic material that’s not heat resistant, it’s best to avoid hot styling tools.
Cosplay wigs are fabulous. They’re essential to great cosplays, but they’re also versatile and fun, even outside roleplaying.
They’re easily accessible, and if you can’t find one that suits your needs, you can make your own.
What I like most about cosplaying and cosplay wigs is that they inspire creativity and imagination. There are no limits to cosplay wigs, and with a little time and effort, they’ll turn you into whoever you want to be. I love cosplay wigs, and if you enjoy cosplay—or even dressing up—you will too!