- Edition 2, Chapter 1.1 -

tony Kelley: bigwig stylist



When did you start using wigs?

Professionally I’ve used wigs my entire career one way or another; they’re essential for any editorial stylist. But when I was growing up, we had a dress-up closet filled with my grandma’s old wigs, and I would put them all on and make up characters and run around the house doing shows. So I suppose I started using wigs when I was around four.

How often do you use them on jobs?

It’s always good to have a few wigs on hand, especially realistic ones to pop on; usually the art director doesn’t even know it’s a wig and it can save a lot of time and give more of a range.

What do you most enjoy about what a wig can do?

I love the transformation, whether super-realistic or cheap synthetic. Wigs offer the freedom to create any kind of hair you want – different colors, textures, shapes, long, short, natural, day-glo, fringe, perm, frizz – anything is possible.

There’s more to it than just putting one on, though...

Yes. It’s essential to know how to prep the head beforehand. The key is that it sits correctly and that the natural hair is properly secured so the wig sits flat to the head and doesn’t lift. Some wigs are very delicate (usually the finest and most realistic ones) and require special care and maintenance to keep their shape. Wigs can be very expensive ($10,000 or more for the finest hand-tied lace wigs).

For readers interested in wearing wigs, what do suggest? 

If you want the wig to look real, spend the money and have one custom made. Stay away from synthetic hair and plan on spending a considerable amount of time on upkeep and maintenance. If you don’t want your wig to look real, the sky’s the limit… pile 3 or 4 on your head, preferably in clashing colors and make it a look.

What is your favorite wig story?

One of my favorites was the Alexander McQueen show for F/W 2012. I was working under Guido and he had such a great vision: all short, blonde, perfectly set and styled. The models looked like clones with faces obscured by visors; it felt like a very dark vision of the future.

How do you plan which wigs to use on which model?

The process is organic. A wig has to suit the face, coloring, persona; even a wig that should look great sometimes doesn’t. It’s a lot of trial and error, trying things on, maybe backwards, cutting parts out of the wig to make it suitable, putting one wig on top of another… I can’t really describe how it happens but I can tell when something makes sense, when it feels right.

Can you talk about each individual look?

I could, but I think this is a case of pictures speaking louder than words.