Coveted Coiffures

By Susan M. Kirschbaum

Published September 15, 2006, issue of September 15, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘Stylish jackets, great shoes… they are perfect,” hair stylist Atsuko Tanaka said. She is talking not about socialites on New York City’s Park Avenue but rather about married Orthodox women. Tanaka’s wig clients often visit the Mark Garrison Salon at 60th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues in Manhattan — where Tanaka works — after stops at Bloomingdale’s.

Rabbinic law considers it a breach of modesty for a married woman to exhibit her natural hair in the presence of any man other than her husband. But with costs of European hair wigs ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 — plus the Garrison Salon’s initial shaping, which runs from $600 to $1,000, and the $85 styling — this is not your bubbe’s cookie-cutter sheytl.

Prior to the arrival of the High Holy Days, women wait in line for hours for a chance to attend showroom sales in Brooklyn, hosted by Milano — a wig company in talks with Garrison to launch a signature line — with natural hair wigs ranging in cost from $500 to $1,000.

“People want variety,” Milano’s head of production said. She asked to remain anonymous, due to the large volume of calls she received from women asking about everything from wig sales to styling advice the last time her name was in print. “When you are spending thousands for a wig, people would rather buy three at once.”

Top style requests include feathered, sweeping bangs and wavy.

“Part of our society is more affluent now,” said Reisel Dutcher, 49, of Teaneck, N.J. “My [26-year-old] daughter is a lawyer, a professional. And they have the look. I’m older, so three wigs is enough. But my daughter has five. In my day, we didn’t have the money. These girls in the work force have to fit in.”

Tanaka, who apprenticed under Garrison six years ago, agrees. “Ladies would schedule a blow-dry every other month. Now, they come in each or every other week, with pages from Elle magazine.”

“The point is to appear natural,” said Judy from Flatbush, Brooklyn, about Garrison’s technique. “It’s worth every penny.”

Dutcher, who has been covering her hair for almost three decades, agrees: “I’ve seen the transition. The main thing is the style. People say to me, ‘Are you sure you’re wearing a wig?’”

Susan M. Kirschbaum is a freelance writer/editor living in New York City.






Find us on Facebook!
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.