In the Torah, when a married woman is accused of adultery, she must undergo a ritual called sotah to determine whether she is guilty. The priest in charge is required to uncover the woman’s hair as part of this process, as detailed in Parashat Nasso in the Book of Numbers. Based on that, many Orthodox Jews believe that a woman is required to cover her hair once she is married.
In Modern Orthodoxy, women are allowed to wear hats or scarves on their heads. In the more ultra-Orthodox communities, many women don sheitels (wigs).
“To me, covering my own hair represents a physical safeguard to the privacy of my marriage,” said Shoshana Shore, co-owner of Ayala Wigs in Pico-Robertson. “In our modern world, women are working in all varieties of professions. Covering with a wig can allow a woman to feel confident and ‘herself’ in any environment while fully observing the mitzvah. It is a woman’s right to choose how she covers and so important that she feels beautiful and good about doing it.”
At Ayala Wigs, Shore, together with her business partner, Chayala Friedman-Coleman, takes new or soon-to-be brides on a tour of their store and helps them determine which style and cut is right for them.
“It’s so important for brides to learn how to put on and take off a wig, and how to properly secure their own hair underneath the wig to ensure comfort and a natural appearance,” Friedman-Coleman said. “We strongly suggest that brides do not wait until the last minute to wig shop, so that they have time to get comfortable with their new wig before the wedding.”
Shore said brides often say that they ended up not liking their first wig because they weren’t informed enough. She and Friedman-Coleman encourage women to bring along their mother or a close friend for a second opinion, and to familiarize themselves by trying on as many wigs as possible before buying one.
“As a bride, there are so many new adventures they are about to embark on, so my mission in guiding them is to make it easy and fun to keep them feeling excited about covering their hair.” — Mona Zargar
The range of wig options available are vast, everything from synthetic to real human hair wigs, the latter of which can cost anywhere from $500-$8,000, depending on the quality. There are full sheitels, which extend to the hairline and cover the entire head, and falls, which allow women to show the front of their hair and cover the rest with a wig and a headband or hat. Some wigs come as ponytails and others come with an attached hat.
Currently, Shore said, lace top and lace front wigs are popular because they give the illusion that the wig is growing out of a woman’s head and they create an undetectable hairline. And wigs, like real hair, require regular washing and styling.
In Los Angeles alone, there are several wig stores for Orthodox women including Ayala Wigs, Bait Miryam, also in Pico-Robertson, Milano in the La Brea neighborhood, and at the homes of various women throughout the city and San Fernando Valley who sell secondhand sheitels at discounted prices.
At The Wig Fairy, a store and salon in Beverly Hills, owner Mona Zargar helps brides navigate the many choices available by recommending they start with a wig that is closest to their natural hair color, length and texture.
Zargar ensures the wigs fit properly and gives the brides advice on how to maintain them. She explains the importance of brushing the wig before and after wearing it; to store them in a room where there isn’t any moisture; and to communicate with their wig stylist about any issues they’re having.
“As a bride, there are so many new adventures they are about to embark on, so my mission in guiding them is to make it easy and fun to keep them feeling excited about covering their hair,” Zargar said.
Friedman-Coleman admits that covering your hair can be a challenging commandment. Ultimately, however, she recognizes just how meaningful it can be for brides.
“It’s a beautiful mitzvah to keep your hair for your husband’s eyes only and have it as special for just the two of you,” she said. “The fact that we can do this mitzvah while looking beautiful and natural makes this a win-win.”