I found out just a few days ago that someone very helpful to my alter-ego passed away, way back in November 2011, and I now deeply regret not letting her know just how much she’s meant to me. But I’ll have to get to that a bit later.
Hair can make all the difference to a crossdresser. A guy can put on a skirt and makeup and go out into the world in the way Eddie Izzard does (did?), as someone who is quite obviously a man, with a short, masculine hairstyle, but with feminine clothes and cosmetics. This, for me, is quite a brave form of crossdressing, because it is quite an open, obvious form of crossdressing. There is no attempt at artifice or subversion; it clearly states “man in skirt; deal with it!” I’ve only seen one guy walking down the street like this in public. I was on a bus, and saw him in heels and makeup, but wearing a suit and carrying a handbag. I thought, “You go for it, dude!” but he was clearly too much for the teenaged boys sitting behind me who collapsed in a fit of giggles.
I suspect a majority of crossdressers would be more comfortable trying to disguise the fact that they’re men, and if they have short hair or no hair, this means getting a wig and a whole load of opportunities to make mistakes. The most obvious errors are:
1) Cheap party wigs: they look plastic and shiny; they are quite obviously artificial and will draw attention for all the wrong reasons. People will clock you as a cross-dresser, and as one who isn’t taking it seriously; consequently, you will run the risk of being treated as a joke.
2) The wrong style: watch out for deliberately styled wigs. Most women won’t have their hair fashionably styled all the time, so anything too fancy will draw attention. You also run the risk of wearing a dated hairstyle. My first time out, I wore a wig that defied gravity – it looked fake.
3) The wrong colour: red-heads may be sexy and blondes may have more fun, but if your complexion doesn’t match the wig, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons. I once tried a ginger wig which made me look like Dr Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it was quite obviously fake. I’ve tried a blond wig, and I really wanted to get away with it, but had to admit it just wasn’t my colour; to ‘pass’, I needed something closer to my own hair colour.
4) Putting it on the wrong way: and I don’t mean getting it back-to-front. If you have a long, masculine face, you’ll need a wig that hides this; you’ll need something to make your forehead less prominent and give the illusion your face is slightly rounder than it actually is. I used to wear wigs too high, so they rested on my hairline. It was only after some trial and error that I learnt to wear them a little further down my face.
These are all things I picked up from a marvellous woman called Agnes Lennox who started Wig Bank, for buying and selling wigs. I visited a couple of times, once with my girlfriend. She let me try out different ones and, with her husband, told me what worked, what didn’t, and (more importantly) why. There were two wigs in her selection I really liked, but Agnes said one was her particular favourite. Given that she was undergoing chemotherapy, I told her that there was no way I was going to deprive her of it, and went for the other one instead. That’s the wig that helped make Twist, and probably contributes a substantial part of the ‘Twist personality‘.
Agnes started Wig Bank because she was disappointed with the range of wigs available to her while she was being treated for cancer, and wanted to give other women a chance to have hair that would let them regain their confidence. She bought wigs second-hand, or from suppliers, and sold them on or rented them out (and not just to women, she assured me). I’m really glad that her creation has grown into a network which lives on.
I just wish I could have shown her how much her advice meant to me, and the great reactions Twist has received. I wouldn’t be the same without her!