Today, celebrities treat wigs and hair extensions more like an accessory to change up their look, and few make efforts to disguise it. (Doing so would be almost impossible anyways, given that many celebrities are now photographed hour by hour via paparazzi and social media.) Who could forget when, in 2013, Beyoncé debuted a headline-grabbing pixie cut one week, only to replace it with a new cropped ‘do the next? Katy Perry swapped out human hair bundles between the 2015 Met Gala and the after-party a few hours later. And when Zendaya went to Paris fashion week that October, a ready supply of wigs allowed her to change her hair as often as her outfit.
“The attitude towards extensions and bundles of human hair has completely and utterly changed,” says Sam McKnight, the esteemed hairstylist who has contoured the tresses of everyone from Princess Diana to Lady Gaga. “It’s as acceptable now as it was in the ‘60s, when people used to wear switches all the time, and models used to do their own hair and makeup. A wig or hair piece is now an accessory.”
“Personally, having worn human hair and hair pieces of all kinds in my line of work, I am totally comfortable using extensions and wigs as a way of accessorizing my look on any given day,” says Rocha. “We change our makeup daily, why not our hair?”
Celebrity endorsements haven’t only altered attitudes towards virgin hair and extensions—they’ve been good for business, too. In the U.S., sales of Brazilian hair bundles and hair pieces were up 5.6 percent per year on average between 2011 and 2016, according to market researcher IBISWorld.
Two years ago, former entertainment exec Lisa Richards and her friend, Monica Thornton, opened RPZL, an express hair extension and blowout salon in New York City. The business has seen a 30 percent increase in revenue year-over-year. Richards attributes much of those gains to celebrities and social media—not only for increasing awareness of the role extensions play in creating their look, but also positioning it as a luxury service. “Everyone talks about [extensions] now, posting shots of their hair lying on the table on Instagram as they ponder what color they’ll choose today,” she says. She also adds the salon often receives a bump in bookings the day after a celebrity reveals a new set of extensions or a major red carpet beauty event like the Golden Globes.
“In a way extensions have become a status symbol,” McKnight explains. “Because it says, ‘Look what I can afford.’ It’s become like a handbag.”
Improvements in the products themselves have also helped, sources say, including extensions that don’t require damaging heat to apply, and more natural-looking edges and parts on virgin Brazilian hair weave. McKnight says the increasing availability of wigs and hair pieces at department stores and online outlets, many priced under $1,000, has also greatly boosted their popularity.
While hair pieces may all be all fun and games for the many models and celebrities who now wear them, their positive, open, and playful approach is having a wonderful impact on the women who seek them out for medical reasons. Dr. Fusca says her wig-wearing friends and patients are “much more comfortable” discussing the fact than ever before. That’s cause to celebrate.