Sheitel or tichel? Snood or pre-tied? Band fall or hat fall? If these choices don’t mean anything to you, you’re in good company. They didn’t mean anything to me before I delved into the world of Orthodoxy.
Part of choosing to be Orthodox was agreeing to cover my hair after I got married. I’m not going to go into detail about the “why” of this mitzvah. If you’re curious about it, I’m including some linkies:
- Rebbetzin Feige Twerski’s perspective
- The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s perspective
- An interesting personal account
- Another interesting personal account
- My friend Ruchi’s take
and a video:
Today I’m going to talk about my experience with my sheitels.
A sheitel, a wig, a faaaaaabulous wig. The subject of much discussion in Yeshivish circles. How to wear it, how often to get it done, how long it should last. Because of sheitels, I’ve seen grown women duck and cover speedily at the first droplet of rain. I’ve seen gorgeous, layered sheitels, falling near to the middle of a woman’s back. I’ve seen sheitels that are the epitome of practicality, with nary a nod to fashion. Sheitels so expertly blended with real hair that one would honestly never know it was a sheitel. Sheitels which clearly do not match the original, as a shock of hair reveals.
A brief history of my sheitels
I purchased my first sheitel when I was engaged, and spent around $1400. It was the first one I tried on, which is great mazel, or so everyone told me. It was cut and styled beautifully by the sheitel macher who sold it to me, and when she was finished I walked out of her salon with glamorous curls and long, side-swept bangs. I felt marvelous, I felt beautiful, I felt … anxious.
This was my first exposure to sheitel style anxiety. From the time the sheitel was styled, I felt a crushing anxiety that I shouldn’t mess up the coiffure, that it should stay PERFECT. And I felt this anxiety every time I would get my sheitel done. It was really aggravating.
Eventually, I learned that I should stick with uncomplicated styles, which tend to look decent for a while, and are less disappointing when they “fall.” Also, I just learned not to take my hair too seriously. It was not worth the stress.
About six months or so into marriage, I purchased a second sheitel, a band fall. This is a sheitel without bangs, worn with a fabric band, or scarf, or whatever. It’s about half the price of a “full” sheitel (that’s the one with bangs), and I assigned the fall to be my weekday sheitel, saving my full, more expensive one, for Shabbos and Yom Tov.
It took me a while before I felt comfortable with my sheitels, but I’ve finally gotten there. I purchased a new full sheitel when we moved to Baltimore, and I absolutely love it. It’s very comfortable, not too much body, it wasn’t a fortune (okay, not a fortune for a sheitel), and I got a simple cut which works for me. I feel like it’s the fruit of four years of struggling with my sheitels – I knew what to look for when I was shopping for one.
Generally, I wear my sheitel when my husband is around, when I want to be incognito, or if I just feel like it would look better with my outfit. So I don’t wear one everyday, and sometimes I go a couple days without donning one. Other times I’ll find myself wearing one so constantly that I start to get tired of it. It just depends. When I’m not covering my hair with a sheitel, I’m covering it with other things, but we’ll get to that later.
How *not* to let people know you’re wearing a wig
When I was newly, newly married, I worked in a office. My boss was an Orthodox guy, but I was the only other Jewish employee, and I was basically the only other Jew that my co-workers had any interaction with. They didn’t know about the whole covering my hair with hair thing.
Eventually, one of my co-workers complimented me on how my hair looked perfect every day.
“Oh, this?” I said. “It’s a wig.” I saw her face quickly turn crimson. “For religious purposes, um, mumble bleargh….” I trailed off. I realized that I should probably think of a considerate, intelligent explanation for why I was wearing a wig. I still feel bad that my attempt at a nonchalant response made her so embarrassed.
One of my other co-workers didn’t believe that it was a wig, so she came up right to my head and inspected.
“No way! That’s unbelievable.”
Yes, it is a little unbelievable. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I would be covering my hair with a wig, but, here I am.
What I love about my sheitels:
- I don’t have to try hard to look nice. I can just put one on and BAM! Instant polish and coif. I cannot overstate how awesome that is. The only thing I use my hairdryer and flat iron for is entertaining my kids.
- I feel comfortable that all my hair is really covered. With tichels and hats and other coverings, I feel like there’s always some hair peeking out somewhere, and I’m constantly adjusting and tucking the errant hairs back in (I’m sure my tichel-only friends are much better at it than I am). With my sheitel, I don’t have to worry about it. With those sheitel clips in, that baby isn’t going anywhere.
- The ability to blend in (unless it’s August and I’m still in long-sleeves when everyone else is in tank tops and shorts). In locations with scant Orthodox presence, it’s nice to have a less conspicuous option. Doctor’s offices, DMVs, the airport, you get the idea.
What I don’t love about my sheitels:
- Well, there’s the price tag. They’re not cheap (though there is a fabulous sheitel consignment business here in Baltimore, and I have friends who have purchased sheitels through gemachs), and there’s not always a guarantee that spending $2K will lead to a good sheitel.
- Someone else has to style it for me. I tried to do it myself. Big mistake. I do not have that talent. Also, if you don’t like the haircut, it’s not growing back.
- When I’m feeling tired, I can’t really just plop onto the couch. I’m more reticent to lay my head down on a pillow when I’m wearing my sheitel. It’s not like I’ve never done it, but it’s just not great headgear for lounging.
At the end of the day, I like my sheitels. I’m happy to cover my hair with them. They work for me. And when they don’t, I have other options, which I will discuss in part two. Stay tuned!
What do you think about sheitels?