y outfit for the day determines what hair I will be wearing,” says Olayinka Titilope, a Nigerian wig-maker. She has a different peruke for each day of the month. The weather also influences her choice. On cooler days she might opt for long, thick locks. During the summer she tends towards lighter bob-cuts. Ms Titilope hopes her hairdos will inspire the customers who visit her wig gallery in downtown Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. She sells wigs for between $60 and $800. Those at the top end are made of human hair from Cambodia, she says.
She is not alone.
The almost universal trend of human hair wigs at least among Nigerian women is simply awesome and it is not limited to the slay queens, celebrities and influencers. Virtually every woman from the age of 16 to 60 and even older, students or workers, rich and not so rich – must have at least 1 wig in her wardrobe.
And wigs today are not the massive beehive, drenched in multiple layers of toxic clouds of hairspray creations our mothers used to wear. Oh no! The modern day wig is long – or short, stylish, realistic and easily maintained that is if you can find the time to watch series of “How to” take care of your wig” on YouTube
There is a common joke among Nigerian men that if you cannot afford the cost of at least 1 Brazilian wig, do not approach a lady. And as a husband, you must put aside a quarterly wig allowance for the missus. For the wig has gone beyond being a simple fashion accessory. It is a staple part and parcel of the daily dressing just as much as the flick eyebrow or artificial eye lashes. My 20 year old daughter will not as much as step out to the corner shop without donning and brushing her “hair”. That’s right. Most ladies do not even call it wig anymore. It is “my hair” because as one lady explained – “I bought and paid for it, so it is mine. When you pay for an expensive vehicle, you do not call it “the car”. You call it “my car”!
The obsession with wigs among Nigerian women stems from the desire to reduce the use of harmful chemicals on the natural hair, while still maintaining a sleek, coiffed and glamorous look. Many ladies including myself who favour wigs do possess full length natural hair underneath. But the natural look is reserved for the indoors at evenings and weekends. Most ladies will not be seen dead or alive in public without their Brazilian or Peruvian! The global campaign against the use of harsh and dangerous chemicals in hair straightening products has brought about a turning away from chemically straightened hair to processed human hair. And the backlash is the growth of a lucrative global trade as human hair dealers search the corners of the globe for the best quality human hair destined for the Nigerian market. A good wig made of authentic human hair can set you back anywhere between $150 and 400 but you can get a much less expensive synthetic wig from $40; and they all come as a lace-front or full-lace wig. These ones are favoured by students, ladies on tight budgets and those who for religious or spiritual reasons, stand against wearing someone else’s hair… However, most synthetic wigs are nowadays so well made that it can be sometimes difficult to tell they are not human hair.
According to the Economist article, Some African feminists argue that to wear a long, straight-haired wig or hair extension is to grovel to Western ideals of beauty. Yet wig-buyers in Nigeria seem to enjoy variety. Sellers advertise hair from everywhere. Brazilian is praised for its sheen and durability; Vietnamese, for its bounce; Mongolian, because it is easy to curl. One seller in Lagos offers “Italian posh hair” which is supposedly odour-free. Whatever the label says, much of the hair really comes from elsewhere, often China, a source some buyers deem downmarket.
In any case, it really doesn’t matter what feminists or other groups of critics say. The Brazillian has come to Nigeria – and it is staying.