fbpx

Isn't Wearing a Wig Over Hair (Especially if the Wig is Nicer Than the Hair) Pointless?

Isn’t Wearing a Wig Over Hair (Especially if the Wig is Nicer Than the Hair) Pointless?


Share
  • 5.3K
  • 723
  • 68
  •  
  •  
  •  
    6.1K
    Shares

Dear Jew in the City,

For the Orthodox ladies who wear a wig and claim part of the reason is for modesty, isn’t wearing a wig over hair kind of like wearing a t-shirt with a naked body printed on it? (Sorry for the crude example.) Wouldn’t it be better to cover the hair with a cloth? I know some Orthodox ladies do, and this seems to make more sense to me.

Thanks,

D.V.
Dear D.V.,

Your question is an excellent one, and I was asked a similar question by a friend who upon hearing that I wore a wig over my hair told me that it was like wearing a prosthetic nose over my nose! His question bothered me for a while. I do NOT like having philosophical quandaries floating around in my head that I don’t know how to answer, so after a bit of thought, I came up with something, and I think it applies to your question as well. (See this video as well).

Let’s first define what Jewish modesty is about. Contrary to popular belief,  tznius (or tzniut, depending on how you pronounce it) is not about looking ugly or unattractive. It’s about keeping certain parts of oneself private and off limits for public consumption. The parts that are considered “eyr-vah” (or require covering) in Jewish law have some innate sexuality or sensuality to them.

As far as I can tell, there are three different categories of body parts in regards to sexuality: the obviously sexual kind, the obviously not sexual kind, and the ones in the middle. A nose is about as asexual as it gets. Covering up a nose with a nose seems so preposterous since there’s no modesty involved with a body part that has nothing sexual (or sensual) about it. A woman’s chest is about as sexual as it gets. Covering up a woman’s chest with a picture of a chest is, as you put it, “crude” because we consider a woman’s chest to be a very sexual, private area.

Now we come to hair. According to Jewish law, a woman leaves her hair uncovered before she’s married, so it must not be overtly sexual, since if it was it would never be shown. Although it’s not overtly sexual, I think most people would agree that a woman’s hair does have some innate sensuality to it. The expression “letting down your hair” implies a loosening up and relaxing that occurs once a person lets her hair flow freely. “Running fingers through someone’s hair” conveys a similar sentiment about this hard to define sensuality of hair.

In terms of covering hair with a wig, the hair in the wig is not explicitly sexual as we already said, but at the same time it does create a barrier so that the actual, free-flowing hair of the woman is not available for public consumption. It’s somewhat similar to wearing a t-shirt with flesh covered sleeves. As long as the material is opaque, wearing such a shirt is totally fine. According to Jewish law, the upper arms must be covered, but because upper arms are not overtly sexual, covering them up with a skin-like tone does not seem shocking or inappropriate.

But what if the wig is even more attractive than the woman’s natural hair? Well, what if a skirt makes a woman’s bottom half look more attractive than her bare legs would? What if her legs are full of cellulite and varicose veins? Would it suddenly be more modest to walk around skirtless? Obviously not, because the purpose of the skirt is not to look less attractive, but rather to create a barrier between the women’s naked body and the rest of the world. So too a wig, even if it’s more attractive than the woman’s hair, creates that same barrier and keeps the private parts of the woman private.

And if you still disagree with wearing a wig over hair after all that, you can simply join the many Orthodox Jews out there (men and women alike) who are also against wigs and believe that hats and scarves are the only appropriate hair covering out there! (Though, as you can see, I am not one of them!)

Sincerely yours,

Allison

Comments
Share
  • 5.3K
  • 723
  • 68
  •  
  •  
  •  
    6.1K
    Shares

Comments

  1. It’s all about culture.It is a cultural issue.Every culture changes. And we as people are going and running after what this age says.
    This is not pertaining to just covering. But an aspect of ourselves. Its how much we want to push our boundaries.That how we humans are.
    Example someone told me that. they would set a mark on the beach and every year they would measure and and see how much the sand is just covering the soil and every year the measurement from the mark to the land would get bigger. Thats how we are. The mark is set and we’re moving farther and farther from that mark.. that when we get to a point in our lifetime.. that the mark is so blurry and far a way. the things that we do don’t make sense. And that’s speaking in general with men and women. If men can’t show and example but commending women to keep things than its just worthless.
    Its no how free we can be but how obedient we can be.
    It’s all about pride in men and women. Because… as men or women we still want to look as good as we can before others. So if we get a compliment of how we look.. ohhh.. we like it… weeeee… love it… we adore it…

    It takes special devoted men and women to live in a culture where looks and people’s compliments don’t affect them in a way that they get prideful.

  2. No matter how you spin this it all goes back to men not required to control themselves and women being required to shoulder the blame when they don’t. It’s called rape culture and patriarchal religions excell in it.

  3. I learned something quite interesting from a historian/actor playing a wigmaker in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. He said that both men and ladies in the 18th century who chose to buy wigs were required to shave their heads in order that the wig fit properly.

  4. Michael Witkowski : January 5, 2018 at 12:52 am

    I’m so-called modern orthodox, my wife is not of the hair covering persuasion except in shul. I admit that your well reasoned comments have answered many questions I’ve had about the seemingly illogical reasons for covering hair with hair. My question is, why do women who have become widowed or divorced still continue to wear the sheitel if the ruling is directed towards married women only? I’ve always thought that the wearing of a sheitel in those unfortunate situations is sending out the wrong massage to potential ‘new’ suitors.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 5, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Thanks for your comment, Michael. I too have had the same question. So one answer that I’ve heard is that we don’t go back in holiness. Once a woman has been married, the hair takes on that extra level of privacy and you can’t undo that. HOWEVER, for the reason you mention, there are poskim who are lenient and you will see divorced women walking around with uncovered hair – not because they’re “not the hair covering type” but so that they don’t give off the wrong message.

  5. Catherine Lapointe : April 19, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    So I live in a city that has a big Hasidic community. I’ve always wondered why the wigs are so obvious they are wigs? Do hasidics ever wear lacefronts?

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : April 20, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Thanks for your question, Catherine. Many women, especially more to the right, want to be known as covering their hair. So if the wig looks so real you can even tell, they might feel like it’s defeating the point. Other women who cover their hair (who are more to the left) might not be as concerned with this and some might wear lace front.

  6. I’m on a path to conversion (I learned my grandmother’s family was Jewish on top of my own desire) and I’ve covered my hair in public for 3 years now. I am in my 30s and never (not yet) married. I began by covering for Shabbos and YT and even for Torah study and as it made me feel closer to HaShem, I continued the practice in daily life. I’ve sought the advice of, and have been given support by Orthodox and Hasidic rabbis. I always wear tichels/scarves. I even recently purchased a human hair wig so I have the option of wearing hair, but still feeling comfortable and confident as I do covering with tichels.
    I just wanted to share my experience as someone not “required” to take on the mitzvah, but doing so because it feels right to me. As long as In not trying to deceive anyone and cause them to think I’m married, I seem to have support in this. I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

  7. Ahh! I am so interested in this. Thank you for the article and for the wonderful replies in your email.

    I’m a Christian. However, I’ve always thought that it was very clear in our New Testament that women should cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11:6). I’ve been told by clergy time and time again that it’s cultural and not to worry about it, but I believe the scripture is clear.

    I lived in a Jewish neighborhood when I lived in the city and many of the Jewish women who were my neighbors wore wigs. I recently met a girl here who is a Christian who has begun to follow the law because of where the New Testament tells Christians that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (meaning that we, as Christians, should follow the law, also… I know that is seemingly in conflict with another part of scripture, so it’s not something most Christians do.) Anyway, we now attend a church where they used to wear kapps, but no longer do. I have attended other churches where they gave a small covering that would look like a see-through version of your mens’ kippah, but no one ever wore them except for a couple of ceremonies a year.

    Anyway, I find the topic of head coverings fascinating and wish I would be brave enough to go against the grain to follow what I believe my religion clearly states. Perhaps some day I’ll start covering with a wig and thoroughly confuse EVERYONE. ha!

    Thank you again for your wonderful blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Close