I cosplay without a wig for a lot of costumes. I grew my hair out and styled it for cosplays like Anna from Shaman King, Maka from Soul Eater, and Namine from Kingdom Hearts. While I don’t mind wearing wigs, it’s just easier and more comfortable to go to a convention without one if you have hair that’s similar to your character.
Wigs are not a requirement for cosplay. Many cosplayers wear them because it’s easier to style, you can get any color, and you don’t have to worry about the length of your hair. You may have even heard people claim that cosplays with wigs are better, but in my opinion, you can still make a great cosplay without a wig.
Of course, you need to take the time to style your hair properly and set it for the day so your hair won’t get completely messed up in just a couple of hours. There are also techniques for temporarily dying your hair or covering up hair if you don’t want to worry about mismatched hair colors and styles.
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1. Plan haircuts right before conventions
If you plan on using your real hair for a cosplay, you’ll need to take some extra steps in planning before the convention. Since hair grows (unlike wigs), you need to consider what the length and style of your hair will be when it comes time to wear your cosplay. In most cases, this will mean planning haircuts in the one to two weeks before a convention so that you can get your hair styled exactly right for your character.
In the case of long-haired characters, you’ll need to estimate how many inches your hair grows in a year. From there, you can determine how long it will take for your hair to be long enough for your character’s hairstyle and plan when you will debut your cosplay accordingly. Of course in these cases, you’ll want to wait until after the convention to get any major haircuts, but you can still get your hair styled correctly just before. For example, you’ll need to ensure your bangs are the correct length and style.
2. Use temporary hair dye
If you need to turn your hair into a bright or unusual color for your costume and don’t want to wear a wig and don’t want to commit to having brightly colored hair all the time, you can use products that let you temporarily dye your hair. The easiest way to achieve this is by using a colored hair spray or colored hair wax. You will have to use a lot of the hairspray or wax products if you intend to color your entire head of hair, and they will make your hair feel stiff and straw-like.
You could also use a semi-permanent hair dye. These act like normal hair dye, but they are made to wash out over the course of several weeks. Using this type of product will allow you to maintain your normal hair texture, making styling a lot easier.
3. Wear costumes with helmets or masks
If you don’t want to wear a wig, but also don’t want to worry about getting your hair styled and colored, you can also wear a costume that covers your head with a helmet or mask. Helmeted characters, like the Mandalorian or Celty (from Durarara!!), or masked superheroes, like Spiderman and Deadpool, can easily be cosplayed without a wig. If you have long hair, you may still have to figure out how to pin it up and out of the way without creating extra bulk underneath the mask though.
4. Use hair extensions or clip-on ponytails
If you want to use your real hair instead of a wig, but it’s just not long enough for your character, you can use hair extensions or clip-on ponytails to achieve the look you’re going for. You can find clips and hair extensions in a variety of colors and lengths to help you create a hairstyle that works without using a full wig.
The only caveat is that it’s difficult to find extensions in colors that are not natural. If you want to cosplay as a character with blue hair, you would have to dye both your hair and the clip extension to match, which can be difficult because plastic hair extensions don’t absorb dye the same way real hair does.
5. Design a gijinka cosplay
Gijinka cosplays are essentially humanized forms of animal or non-human characters. It’s most commonly used to create human costumes for pokemon, but the same idea can be applied to any type of mascot character.
For gijinka cosplays, you design your own costume based on the design elements of your character. There is a lot more creativity in the design process and no need for accuracy. You can plan for your costume to have your natural hair so that you don’t need to cosplay with a wig.
6. Cosplay as a genderbent version of your character
A genderbent cosplay is when you create a female version of a male character or a male version of a female character. If you love a character but don’t want to change the length and style of your hair, you can easily design a costume that is just slightly different to allow you to use your real hair.
For example, you can create a female version of Seto Kaiba and just alter the cut of the cosplay to make it more feminine and use your natural long, brown hair. This is, of course, best for characters that have normal-colored hair, but you can always color your hair temporarily or permanently to fit the character too.
7. Use lots of hair spray or gel
If dancing in high school taught me anything, it was how to keep my hair looking neat all day long. Cosplay wigs are made out of plastic fibers. They don’t get frizzy in humidity and generally don’t tangle the way real hair does. This means, if you’re cosplaying without a wig, you need to use extra product to ensure your hair stays put in the correct style all day long.
Obviously, the type and amount of product you use will depend on the kind of hair you have. I have hair that tends to knot up easily and get puffy in humidity. This means I need to use enough hair gel or hairspray to create a stiff layer of product on the surface of my hair to keep it neat all day long. You may not have to go to quite the same extreme, but you’ll still want to use enough gel, hairspray, mousse, or whatever product you need to keep your hair tame all day long.
8. Practice complicated hairstyles before the convention
Getting into costume on the morning of the convention always takes more time than you think. If you add a complicated hairstyle to the preparation steps, you might find yourself spending the whole morning getting ready. If you take the time to plan out and practice doing your hair ahead of time, you can both time the process and be a little faster on the day-of because you know exactly what you’re doing.
Practicing the hairstyle ahead of time will also help to make sure you can actually do the style. There have been many times I look at tutorials for certain hairstyles that make everything look easy only to find I’m making a complete bird’s nest on my head when I try.
9. Use other props and costume pieces
If you don’t want to wear a wig but also don’t want to bother making your hair exactly the same as your character, you can still cosplay as them if you want to. There is nothing that says a cosplay has to be 100% accurate. As long as you love the character and feel comfortable in your costume, that’s all that matters.
However, in many cases, if you don’t wear a wig or have the correct hairstyle the costume will be less recognizable to other people. If you want other con-goers and cosplayers to know who you’re cosplaying just by looking at you, make sure to include unique props and costume pieces that are iconic to your character. This could be their superhero logos, the character’s iconic sword, shield, or staff, or any other item or part of the costume that stands out in the character design.