Japanese Hairhats

Meet Shinji Konishi, Tokyo's leading maker of fake-animal-head hair hats.



When the Japanese hairstylist Shinji Konishi first molded wigs into the likenesses of assorted animals for a gallery show in Tokyo in 2008, he hoped repulsion would trump all else. “I wanted something poisonous,” says Konishi. “I’m interested in things that make people look away.” Well, then you’d better try making some things that are shitty, Shinji. Because we want to mount these wigs on our wall and start a hundred-year staring contest with them.

Konishi’s animal wigs are carefully researched. “I look into their facial expressions,” he says. “Also the shape of a face, how wide a mouth is open, the number of teeth…” Konishi selects animals with bold detail and strong three-dimensional elements, like elephants, dogs, and rabbits, which he has cast in polystyrene molds. These structures are then quartered so that dyed hair can be meticulously attached. Konishi’s wigs are completed in a marathon of chemical huffing and sleep deprivation. “I finish a project in three days without sleep,” he says. “If I sleep, it would take me a week.” So gas masks are used to protect against hyperventilating and overexposure, and protective wear and goggles are worn to prevent splattered acids from eating away at the skin and eyes. Sounds less like a hair salon than it does a meth lab, and more like full-blown psychosis than it does a labor of love, right? Konishi shrugs: “I’m interested in strange and dark stuff.” You sure are, you crazy bastard. You sure are.