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Hasidic Jews belong to the mystical and arch-traditionalist ultra-Orthodox movement founded in the 18th century by the religious leader Baal Shem Tov. They reside overwhelmingly in places like Kiryas Joel, Monsey and New Square in upstate New York, and Williamsburg and Boro Park in Brooklyn. Hasidic women observe complex rules and traditions when it comes to covering their heads. The most pious Hasidic women don’t even wear wigs; they shave their heads according to their specific sect’s customs, and cover them with a solid or floral scarf called a tichel or with a round woven piece of silk called a shpitzel, which is then topped with a scarf or a hat. For women who do wear wigs — on top of shorn heads or natural hair — however, there are several options to choose from. Wigs made of synthetic hair are considered the most modest, and range in price from $100 to $300. Wigs made of a synthetic/human blend cost up to $500 and human hair wigs cost up to $800. (The list below does not include wigs for Chabad-Lubavitch women, who follow trends in the non-Hasidic Orthodox communities, in the second column.)
A frisette is a short wig usually made of synthetic hair or a human and synthetic blend. It is cropped above the ear and covered with a tichel, leaving only bangs visible on the forehead. The bangs can be side-swept or styled to lie against the forehead. Many women in Kiryas Joel and New Square, and to a lesser degree Monsey and Williamsburg, wear the frisette.
Sheitel and Hat
A sheitel and hat is a short wig covered with a pillbox, beret or knit hat. (This is the kind of head covering my mother and mother-in-law wear.) The length of the wig ranges from right below the ear to an inch or two above the shoulder. The length correlates with the level of piety; the most pious women keep the wig cropped to just below the ear, so that no hair is showing past the backside of the hat. These wigs are commonly known as a “fronts” or “tapered sheitels.” The sheitel and hat can be seen in most Hasidic communities and are very popular in Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, Monsey and New Square.
A band sheitel is a wig covered with a headband. The wig is generally cut to a few inches above the shoulder. The headbands vary in width; the wider bands, which reach about halfway down the back of the wig, are called “snoods” and are the most conservative of the headbands. The thinner bands are 1 inch wide or less, and yet they are still considered an appropriate “covering” for the sheitel. The band sheitel can also be seen in most Hasidic communities.
A hoyla sheitel — literally, a naked wig —is an uncovered sheitel. The wig is generally cut a few inches above, or close to, shoulder length. Unlike in Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, New Square and Monsey, where you encounter many kinds of wigs, Boro Park has many hoyla sheitel wearers, in part because this wig is more modern than the others.