Stephanie Ellendt
stephanie Ellendt

Open for 20 years, Hair Fair Wig Shop (124 Pike St, 623-9430) imparts the uneasy enchantment of a haunted dollhouse. It occupies a long, narrow space downtown with rose-red carpets, faux-wood cabinets, and candy-pink walls lined with hundreds of mannequin heads. Most are copies of the same person—a pale-eyed, sweet-faced, glossy-skinned young lady marooned in time, her expression pleasant but indifferent. (Were she real, she'd probably wear flowered underwear and her voice would sound like wind chimes.) Strewn on her necks are fake flowers, pom-pom fringe, plastic jewels, and Christmas tinsel. And on a Friday afternoon, the store is dead quiet, except for the churning mechanical sound as a tiered display stand patiently rotates in the front window.

Hair Fair has wigs in every color, texture, and style, of course: long, dirty green-blond mermaid hair; frothy Afros the color of spaghetti sauce; glazed wedges shaped into punky thorns; damp-looking swirls. There are curls of all types: some lumpy; some brittle and triangular; some tight and even, cinching one's head; some scraped back and finished with a hard sheen; some curdled like wadded clouds; some left plump and bouncy, imparting a certain coziness. (Fair warning: Earnest memories notwithstanding, this inventory list might only be a mirage. The owner agreed to have her business profiled for this column, but for reasons that remain unclear, she asked that I not write notes, take pictures within the store, or list specific item prices, just the basic range: $59–$190.)

Hair Fair's human-hair wigs sit on the high end of this scale. They look more realistic than synthetic or animal-hair versions, and they're the trickiest to construct. In her book Hair, Diane Simon explains why: Each individual hair must be affixed to the base at its root, never its tip. Should even a single hair be improperly set, its cuticles will bristle against the other hairs, creating knots, matting, and, eventually, worthlessness.

In the realm of bodily adhesion, bobby pins, caps, clips, and wig cement are probably available here, too, though I didn't bother asking. (Andy Warhol solved this problem by having a metal snap surgically embedded into his skull, keeping his wigs efficiently in place.) There's also a huge selection of fake eyelashes. Seeing all the sets together is somehow mesmerizing. And men needing an urgent makeover should head to the back counter: It's crammed with glue-on facial hair options, including a two-tone handlebar mustache, a chin puff fading into a haze, and a drippy Fu Manchu to bring tension and drama. recommended

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