It’s hot out there folks.
In Philadelphia, the average high temperature in July registers a sweltering 87.1 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. And with humidity, it feels even warmer.
While the weather poses issues for all, Jewish women who cover their hair often encounter added struggle, as hair coverings like sheitels and falls can trap heat on the neck and head.
Lena Fleminger, owner of Lena’s Wigs (soon to be called Overstock Wigs), explained, “In the summertime, having hair in your face, sticking to the nape of your neck, it gets hot and uncomfortable.”
She added that summer weather can ruin women’s usual styling routines.
“It’s going to be a lot more humid. If you have a wavy wig, it’s going to increase in volume and puffiness just like your own hair would.”
Fleminger, who has a background in publishing (and whose father, Ian Blynn, is a former Exponent reporter), was drawn to the wig industry because of the business opportunity.
“We started out as a wig consignment store. The wigs that Orthodox women wear are thousands of dollars. When someone doesn’t end up liking what she’s bought but she’s worn it for a couple of months, there is a resale opportunity.”
Then, a couple of the big Orthodox wig manufacturers got in touch with Fleminger, asking her to sell their overstock.
“That’s what we evolved into. We sell you a $2,000 wig for $1,100, and we work with the big manufacturers. It’s like TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack.”
With a recent summer pop-up shop in Elkins Park and a promotion at Lower Merion Synagogue, where she was married, Fleminger remains a key player in the Philly sheitel market. Born in Philadelphia, Fleminger now lives in Baltimore but reaches local customers through her online store, which pairs shoppers with a personal wig consultant.
She added, “The majority of my customers are Orthodox women, but I would say 30 or 40 percent are women who have cancer or alopecia. They all suffer with heat in the summertime regardless of why they cover their hair.”
Here are three tips from Fleminger for managing summer heat in a wig. Local sheitel-wearers Paige Nochenson and Samantha Gross, both of Merion Station, chimed in with their experience.
Try a new style
“I have been covering my hair since I got married, so it is second nature to me. It is definitely harder in the summer,” Nochenson said. “If it’s extremely warm out, I usually wear a scarf and not a wig.”
Mixing up hairdos is something Fleminger also recommends. She highlights the ponytail fall trend as a new way to reduce heat, which Nochenson wears.
Nochenson said, “I specifically bought my pony fall for the summer. I hardly wear a regular wig in the summer except for on Shabbos or a special occasion.”
Gross added another option: “My go-to weekday look, especially at work, is my sheitel in braided pigtails.” She jokingly added, “Am I too old for that look? Probably. I just can’t stand having hair in my face.”
Shorten your hair
“People can always wear short wigs in the summertime,” said Fleminger. “The short wig is always going to be pretty comfortable and light.”
Gross cut her natural hair short while leaving her wig long. Her look last summer of “a very short pixie cut was life-changing in terms of making my sheitel less hot and more comfortable.”
Wanting longer natural hair this summer, Gross explained her new style: “My real hair is so thick. I was really feeling hot and uncomfortable in my sheitel, so I got an undercut. My hair still looks longish but the whole bottom is cut short, so I don’t have all that thick hair on my neck. It fits under my sheitel more easily and is a lot less hot.”
Do what works for you
Feel free to make physical comfort a priority.
“I just can’t stand having hair in my face,” said Gross, who has young children and also works with young children. Comfort tends to be her main consideration when thinking about summer hairstyling, but each person is different.
“I’m not the kind of person who is going to go to the gym and wear a wig,” Fleminger said. “I’m going to wear a tichel or a scarf or a hat. Some people are not comfortable doing that. These things, they’re dependent on age, usage, budget. I don’t have a lot of 65-year-old women coming in and wanting to buy the messy bun look.”
How one chooses to cover her hair, Nochenson said, “is completely up to her. God wants us to keep his mitzvos with joy, so if a woman finds joy in covering with a beautiful wig rather than a beautiful hat, that is completely fine.”