Life without a Sheitel

Post by Melissa (Photos c/o HeadAccents)

As mentioned in my post last week, I do not wear a sheitel (wig commonly worn by religious Jewish women), though I sometimes pine for them.  The first comment on that post was from a loyal reader, and fellow blogista, who wanted to know more about why I do not wear a sheitel, and since we here at RR like to indulge our readers, I readily agreed to write a post about it.  So without further ado, here are the reasons for my sheitel free life, in mostly no particular order:

a) As mentioned repeatedly on this blog, my wonderful husband is Sephardi and thus extremely anti-sheitel. Some of the greatest Sephardi Rabbanim (Rabbis) specifically outlawed the wearing of a wig as a means to cover your hair. Ultimately, this is the single most important reason why I do not wear a sheital.  If he really wanted me to wear one, despite all the following reasons I dislike them for my life – I would do it. {Luckily, D most prefers when I wear a mitpachat/tichel/scarf so I am actually growing my hair back out a bit so that I tie them in more styles instead of always having to fake a bun – its a win-win situation that way.}

b) Sheitels are freaking expensive. We do not have religious families who will help offset the cost, and are not in the place to spend the money on something I only “sometimes” wish I wore.

c) The whole fake hair over your hair thing kind of freaks me out, and real women’s hair (esp with the crazy stuff that happens to women in Indian over it) is even worse.

d) I have heard way too many horror stories about women losing their hair when wearing a sheitel full time.  Given that I already have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, I’d rather not tempt it.  {D has a serious fear that I, like my maternal grandmother, will loose all my hair during pregnancy – hers was with her third, I’ll have to get back to you if it happens to me at any point in my life.}

e) As much as I enjoy having short hair, I don’t think I am ready for it to be short enough to make sheitel wearing not difficult and painful. I had a pixie cut in college, and it did not work for me.

f) Hair coverings are an integral part of my accessorizing.  While I would likely wear a headband because I am so used to that look, it is just not the same. Yes, this is a totally vain reason, but they are my reasons and so be it.

However, I will state for the record that if you ever see me with my hair and a headband like in the photo on this post — you will know I am wearing a sheitel…

Sheitel wearers – I mean no offense to you by any of these statements, it is a reflection only of my reality! Want to set me straight or commiserate? Feel free! Just don’t try to persuade me to wear one….


(As this post remains one of the most read posts on our blog, I feel it is important to add that nearly two years after writing this post, I did in fact buy a sheitel for special occasions, and you can read about that experience here: I’m only going to say this once.)


26 thoughts on “Life without a Sheitel

  1. Thank you so much for this post! The next time someone asks me why I don’t wear one, and I am asked so often, I am going to send them directly to this link.

    Neither my husband nor I are Sephardic, but having been part of the kippah srugah world in Israel I think sheitels have a political/sociological connotation for him.

    One Rav in Israel recently pointed out to me that no one covers their arm with clothing made to look just like an arm.

    Unlike you, I do actually own one (bought used and cheap) which I have worn maybe 4 times. Always when my husband isn’t there. Even my kids “hate the hair”.

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  3. Thank you very much for your post.I also do not wear a wig-although i used to have one or two- and I wanted to share with you some more information regarding sheitels that i think you might find useful

  4. As a recently engaged woman, this topic has come up _ a lot_ for me. While I understand/respect/agree with many of those reasons, if you have to work in a professional atmosphere a wig is basically your only option. A friend of mine commented that before she was observant if she saw a woman in a scarf she would think she had cancer. Also, at the end of the day (I will just give my blatent, biased opinion on this) women who wear scarves or snudes (especially snudes) all too often look shlumpy! It sounds to me like you look _lovely_ and use your scarves to accent your outfits, but for these reasons I also understand why many women do opt to wear sheitles. I am leaning towards sheitles because I don’t like the way I look without hair — but who knows, maybe (I hope) I will get into scarves, too! Thanks for the great post!

    • Thank you Sara.
      All I will say in response is that I work in a professional environment and still don’t wear a sheitel. While it may have cost me a few positions I have interviewed for in the past, ultimately if my hair covering was to be an issue, I fear so too would be leaving early for Shabbat (esp in the winter!) and the litany of days off needed for Chagim. As I see it, I just get the potential (and past-faced) anti-semitism and unwillingness to be flexible out of the way in advance.

      • This is a great point, that it helps to factor out issues with your employer. But what about someone who is, for instance, in sales? Or (face-to-face) customer service? A real estate agent cannot expect a non-Jewish client to take her seriously with a scarf on her head. It can happen, sure, with the right personalities, but you can’t blame a client who does feel strange about it.

      • To Kayla, thought I doubt if she’ll read this many years later!

        I am not religious. My landlord is Chasidic. I did not know that Chasidic men aren’t supposed to touch women so when he met my boyfriend and I for the lease signing and he shook my boyfriend’s hand, but not mine, I was really offended! I think it would have been polite of him to ask if it was okay that he didn’t shake my hand because of his religious beliefs (or at least explain them) rather than ignore me! While those beliefs seem sexist to me, I would of course respect his religion! But as he is a business man in America where we do a lot of hand shaking I think that’s a rule that could get you into a lot of trouble. For women on the other hand, I cannot imagine why a realestate agent with a headscarf would have any more problems being taken seriously!

  5. Thanks Melissa! Also, re hair loss mentioned in the post. I spoke to my dermatologist about this because it was of great concern to me. She said she has lots of women (mostly Jewish and Islamic, and Muslims tend to cover their hair from before marriage) ask about this topic. She said covering hair has nothing to do with hair loss. If for some reason there is a vitamin D deficiency then it is possible, but she has never seen a case where a person has true vitamin D deficiencies (even your fingertips absorb sunlight). Perhaps you are referring to the clips in the sheitle that might pull out some hair with constant use? Simple answer is to move the clips every few months (easily done by someone who can sew). Also, if yours stays on, you can try one without any clips. Just wanted to let you know that hair covering and hair loss are separate issues. Correlation does not mean causation 🙂

    • Just now rereading and wanted to let you know that I followed up with some trusted physicians and people who have experienced hair loss related to covering. The overwhelming majority expressed that while it often isn’t the cause – it can be. Every woman is different and there are a lot of factors at stake.

      • Ok I know this is really late, I just saw this blog on a search for sheital sites and got sidetracked…

        My experience is entirely superficial since we are 50-50 hashkafically.

        First of all, my hair got significantly BETTER once I started covering it. Thicker, healthier, shinier.. I switch between both types of hair covering about 60-40 (slightly more sheitals), but I’d always heard the hair loss fear as a result of covering hair… regardless of the method. Anyway, I’m not complaining!

        I agree with some previous posters, I really enjoy scarves and the color and everything, but after a few days in a row without seeing hair around my face I start to get a little down. Fortunately, my husband doesn’t have an issue with it. I also find sheitals to be easier because they don’t slip as much as scarves. I actually get headaches more often with scarves than sheitals.

        My equally vain point is this: I LOVE wearing scarves… around my neck. And I have not met many women who can rock both neck and head scarves at once. I am not one of those women.

        As for hair length, I’m thinking I may need a haircut now… it’s halfway down my back. I’m probably going to do Locks for Love, so I will be cutting pretty short, but my hair is generally quite long (partly to make scarf wearing easier) and this really doesn’t cause an issue with the sheital except maybe in the last few months (inches).

        I think your points A and B are terrific. Careful about bringing up India, though–an incredible number of honest businesspeople lost their parnassah and had to close up shop because of rumors that were proven to be completely false. Whether we are sheital wearers or not, this is surely not the goal.

  6. I know I’m late in the game in this conversation but in wanted to add my two cents.We are Lubavitch and the Rebbe had a very strict sheitel only policy. That means even stepping out of the house for a second I put a sheitele on. I also cover my hair full time at home usually with a tichel even when I sleep. I do this simply for one reason a sheitel is the best way to cover every strand of hair from root to tip. We do not allow even a bit of hair to be shown, and yes this can be done with a tichel but i rarely if almost never seen it happen there is always a bit here and there showing. I’m not going to get into completely here but according to chasidus a married womens hair is a receptor of
    tuma and this is why we don’t show one bit. I only want Brachas in my home and I bring that with a full hair coverage. BTW we don’t wear falls either. If you want more info on this concept I can look it up

    • Thank you for sharing. I alays appreciate hearing where different people come from and learning more about different minhagim.
      I imagine that if I followed chasidut, I would agree whole-heartedly. However, as mentioned in this post, my husband is Sefardi and they believe the exact opposite.

      I would love more info on not wearing falls though, that is very interesting!

  7. Hi

    Yes, this is very interesting. What’s the issue with falls? I am interested in many aspects of chassidus but I don’t think we will be Chabadniks (though I have a lot of admiration for this group), but one of my concerns is having to wear a sheitel full time — I don’t know if I’m there yet, or will be ever. I understand the sheitel covering every last strand, but even his decree (by the Rebbe) is relatively new as far as Judaism is concerned. They covered their hair a few hundred years ago (and earlier of course) and we do so today, we just make it much more complicaited.

  8. I’m nearly Orthodox and can only afford to buy one sheitel. I was really excited about wearing one but after 6months the excitment wore off. It’s a huge bother, doesnt feel natural and I really like the look of my own hair. On top of that, I am losing hair! I have always had really nice, thick long hair and now it’s dull and has lost it’s shine. Im still wearing a sheitel when I leave the house but wish I didn’t have to…Can someone please tell me what the big deal is with wearing a “fall” instead of a full wig? I’ve been told it’s because the Rebbe said not even ONE strand of hair can show. However, I see all of these frum women who wear a tichel either around the house or on casual days and their front hair line is always showing. In fact, it even falls far back on their head and strands are seen on the back. My Rabbi’s wife often lets it fall far back wear most of her hair does show-so what would be the harm or difference in wearing a fall wig which only shows an inch of your hair line to make it look more natural?

  9. Sorry, I should also say that I live a very active lifestyle and a wig doesn’t always fit well into my life. Makes things so much more complicated and difficult. I do not like wearing a tichel because I still like to blend in and not stand out so much so that’s not really an option unless it’s really cold and windy, then I wear a hat,cap or the like with all my hair tucked in-then I dont look so different. Then there’s the other issue I dislike about a full wig-you cant really style it any different or pull it back into a high ponytail. This is why a “fall” appeals so much to me but my Rabbi doesnt approve and that bother’s me-makes not sense for the reason’s given in my first reply.

    • Hi Bassie

      Why doesn’t your Rabbi approve of falls? There are many opinions that fit right in with halacha, especially if no/very little hair is showing! If the discrepancy is merely hashkafic perhaps it will be okay to part ways on this one, especially because it’s such an important mitzvah, and one that is hard to do b’simacha at times. I also know plenty of women who wear falls and show none of their hair, and wouldn’t dream of it. Sorry you’re having such a difficult time — you are definitely getting lots of merit (even more than the lay-woman, probably) for struggling through it! Hatzlacha!

  10. Wow this site is fantastic! I’m over a year late to this post LOL My husband and I are in the process of orthodox conversion and the subject of skirts & head coverings was brought up at the outset. I must admit I cringed on both accounts, though more so over the head covering.

    The rabbi’s wife wears a sheitel and I just cannot bring myself to do that for several reasons. That, brings me to another dilemma. I’m used to dressing up so how on earth do you look dressed up with a tichel on your head?

    All the women there will be wearing sheitels but me (I’m only guessing as we live over an hour away from the shul and will be moving into the eruv as soon as our house sells). So, do I just dress down? ALl the other ladies will be dressed up I assume. I can’t even find clothing that doesn’t show collar bones! *sigh* As wonderful & gifted as my rabbi is, he’s no help in the womens fashion department (thankfully) so, I feel like I’m a bit lost at sea here…I hope I can find some seasoned guidance here. Thanks for posting your insights!
    Chanukah Sameach!

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  12. I felt that I had to mention that the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wife did not cover her hair (at least all of the time) with a sheital. I have seen a number of pictures of her in a hat— Chabadniks will say today that she wore a sheitel under the hat, but that simply is not true. The Rebbe wanted women to start covering their hair again. It was a trend that had fallen to the wayside. He figured that a sheitel, a leniency, would possibly attract more women to following this halakha. He also figured, that once the sheitel is on, its on. If a woman became uncomfortable with wearing a scarf or hat, she could take it off. It would be extremely odd for a woman to decide the sheitel is too uncomfortable and take it off while walking in public.

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