Identity

Wigging Out Over Fabulous Cosplay Hair

From cheap wigs to luxury custom hairpieces, the cosplayers of New York Comic Con take their hair fantasies seriously.

by Diana Tourjée
Oct 10 2016, 3:10pm

All photos by Leah James

Like Dumbledore of Severus Snape, hair asks too much of us. It demands to be cut, colored, washed, dried, and styled in order to appear decent. For people who cosplay—or assume the identity of their favorite fantasy character—hair becomes even more insistent and important; without the right wig, a cosplay outfit can be ruined.

"It pains us," said Travis Cowsill, the co-founder and creative director of Hero Hair, a custom cosplay wig company. According to Cowsill, who addressed a room of wig-curious cosplayers at a New York Comic Con (NYCC) panel last Friday night, a poor quality wig is "the only thing that invariably pulls us out of a transformative illusion." Cowsill blames this on what he calls a lack of information available to cosplayers, describing the world of wigs as "the wild West." But his hatred of "hard front" wigs vs. lace front, and human hairlines vs. synthetic, didn't seem to be shared by many in his audience and on the convention floor.

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There were wigs of all qualities at NYCC this year, from the "shake and go" Halloween costume variety that Cowsill so despises ("Kill it. Kill it with fire," read one slide of Cowsill's powerpoint presentation), to Hero Hair's custom creations, which were worn by multiple audience members. For the serious cosplayer, investing in a custom wig is probably a good idea—the hair really can transport a look into another dimension of realness. And Cowsill's passion is understandable: He is wig obsessed, and has traced wigs' origins back to ancient Egypt, where he once went on an archaeological dig. To Cowsill, wigs are a sacred tradition that deserve respect from those who don them to transform their identity. "You are the literal custodians in the vanguard of the new wig reality," Cowsill illuminated.

You are the literal custodians in the vanguard of the new wig reality.

As Cowsill spoke, Erin Kennedy Lunsford, the head wig designer and fabricator and founder of Hero Hair, sat next to him, teasing out his wig—a "screen accurate" Wolverine rug. It did look fabulous. One woman stood before the room to attest that Hero Hair means everything to her—she cried when she first put her custom wig on and truly became the character she idolizes. While the cosplayers wearing luxury wigs seemed thrilled by their high quality hair, there were many synthetic, shake-and-go, hard front wigs on cosplayers' heads last weekend as well. Like their custom hair colleagues, these cosplayers all looked happy, unaware their cheap hair was troubling others. Though he is passionate about custom hair, Cowsill assured the audience that any quality of cosplay is beautiful, describing the effort it takes as "herculean."

That's why he wants people in special wigs—their tireless labor to embody their fantasy deserves expertly crafted hair. When he sees an otherwise fantastic outfit with cheap hair, it makes him said. "It really hurts," Cowsill said.

All photos by Leah James.

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