Why Africans Love Wigs
Wigs are extremely popular globally, especially among African consumers. Wig shops are ubiquitous across Africa, second only to bars. Most Africans get their hair done with wigs rather than their own hair. High-quality wigs sell for tens of thousands of dollars as valuable "black gold".
Reportedly, most Africans who can afford it begin wearing wigs in their youth. Fashionistas and office workers own at least 3-4 wigs each. Celebrities like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Rihanna spend thousands on wigs every few weeks or monthly.
For many African women, wigs are like lipstick for Chinese women - they feel incomplete going out without one.
Africa is the world's second largest wig market after the US. By race, blacks are the top wig buyers globally, even in the US. With rising African incomes, Africa may surpass the US soon.
Reasons Why Africans Love Wigs:
Low plasticity of natural hair: Due to African climate, black hair grows relatively slowly and tends to curl and frizz for heat dissipation. With economic development, wigs gained popularity among African women.
Wig convenience: African hair gets dry and brittle in the climate. Wigs protect natural hair without damaging chemical treatments. African women can freely change styles with wigs. Wigs also save time rather than wrestle with thick, curly hair.
Covering baldness: Studies estimate 50% of men and 25% of women experience hair loss. For covering conditions like traction alopecia, wigs are understandably popular.
Self-expression: Beyond functionality, wigs allow African women to express individuality through different colors, textures and lengths impossible with natural hair. African men also pursue image personalization through hairpieces.
Social status: Ancient Egyptians wore wigs to denote status 4000 years ago. Intricate, gold and lace wigs indicated nobility and were forbidden to lower classes. Though meanings evolved, wigs persisted as cultural heritage. Some blacks still don afro-centric wigs to celebrate their heritage.
Hairstyles convey meaning: Braiding patterns, shapes and numbers represent age, occupation, ethnicity, beliefs, personalities, situations, etc. Examples are fish scale, screw, shell, melon seed, pineapple, widow's bare head, mourning fuzziness, cockerel crest, camel hump, snake braid, mushroom umbrella, and more. Quantity of braids also symbolize tribal unity, wealth, and more.
Social pressure: Unfortunately prejudice against black hair persists today. Some schools and companies pressure blacks to straighten hair or make it look straight to meet Euro-centric standards and avoid discrimination. Wigs help some blacks gain social acceptance.
In summary, the popularity of wigs among Africans stems from cultural heritage, identity expression, convenience, baldness coverage, and social pressure. As wigs gain mainstream acceptance globally, they transcend demographics as a fashion symbol.