2019: The Year in Wigs

How do you measure, measure a year? In highlights, in blunt bobs, in beehives, in Nicole Kidmans.

What a year 2019 has been. It felt like the shortest decade of our lives, crammed full of more news than any one person could ever want to consume, more shows and movies than they could ever hope to watch, more music than they could ever hope to bang to, and generally too much of everything. How do you cut through the noise? Well, like the answer to most things, first you need a good wig.

Or a bad wig. Or a questionable wig. It’s a known scientific fact that the measure of any society is the quality of its wigs. It doesn’t matter what science, so shut up and just trust me. If we take a look at the different hair stories told over the course of 2019, we can get a picture of what kind of year it was and maybe actually remember what the hell happened, because right now it is a blur.

So throw on those wig caps, brush out those bangs, and get ready for our year-end wigtrospective.

Wig Little Lies

The women of Big Little Lies were everywhere this year. Regardless of how you feel about the second season, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) may be dead, but these ladies all still came to slay. With the premiere, we saw that Jane (Shailene Woodley) had decided to go for some controversial bangs.

Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) got the shaft, plot-wise, yet again this season, but at least she got to have this disco moment proving that Shaft is a bad mother—and that her actual mother is a… witch?
Meryl Streep made her presence known in a harsh shoulder-length bob as the equally harsh Mary Louise.
Sidenote: Meryl, ever the consummate chameleon, later served you a wig turducken in The Laundromat.
Fellow chameleon and wig MVP Nicole Kidman brought back Celeste’s strawberry-blond Bardot number—and a mean left hook.
Only to go short and salacious with a nearly unrecognizable Charlize Theron in Bombshell.
And not to be left out of the news game, Kidman’s Big Little Lies co-star Reese Witherspoon went dark for The Morning Show.
Going from Madeline’s iconic blond tresses to Bradley Jackson’s brunette locks was a move as questionable as The Morning Show’s quality, but the Golden Globes never let anything as trivial as merit get in the way of nominations. So Reese got one!

The Real Housewigs

One can always rely on the Real Housewives for a few good, and quite often enough great, wig moments, with the ladies of Atlanta in particular bringing it to every ball.

But this year, the all-stars of Bravo’s bread-and-butter franchise were the Real Housewives of Potomac, who not only brought the drama on screen, but on scalp. The ladies had a lot of shade for “friend of” cast member Katie Rost’s hairpieces, which, as Bravo superfan Michael Rapaport accurately put it, looked as if she tossed her wigs into the air like pizza dough and just wore them as they landed.

But Ashley Darby should know that people in glass houses, or shaggy shake-and-gos, shouldn’t throw stones.
Meanwhile, perennial try-hard Karen Huger has an actual wig doctor whose medical license I am constantly calling to be revoked, but he managed to hit the Grande Dame on the head with this blond Liza-inspired number.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give special mention to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Lisa Rinna, who, after decades with the same haircut, really came into her wig game this year.

Still “an asshole with big lips” and, now, iconic wigs.

The Wig Gala

The theme at this year’s Met Gala was camp, and while some may have gotten lost in the woods, others had us pitching proverbial tents over their looks. Elle Fanning literally nailed it.

Theo Wargo/WireImage
Billy Porter won the night, won the year, won the Emmy, won it all.
Theo Wargo/WireImage
Kacey Musgraves’ life in plastic was simply fantastic.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Lupita Nyong’o wore a crown fit for a Wakandan queen.
Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Tessa Thompson redefined the rat tail for the 21st century.
Entertainer of the year Lizzo put the “sing” in single and the “hot” in hot pink.
Karwai Tang/Getty Images
Laverne Cox was serving “turquoise is the new black.”
Theo Wargo/WireImage
Ciara one-two stepped onto the red carpet, apparently right out of the ’70s, with some serious Afro power.
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images; Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage
And Anna Wintour proved sometimes no wig is the best wig of all.
Theo Wargo/WireImage
See also: “Sisterhood of the Traveling China Bob” below.

Tele-Wig-Sion

What greater wearer of boob-tube wigs did we have in 2019 than Schitt’s Creek’s Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara), whose wig wall props up the very heavens.

But Jennifer Robertson deserves a shout-out for sporting this screwed and chopped monstrosity as Moira’s friend, neighbor, and fellow Jazzagal Jocelyn Schitt.
Speaking of fucked-up chops, Fleabag’s Claire (Sian Clifford) endured a run-in with a pair of scissors that I’m actually rather fond of. It was the most critically acclaimed wighap (wig mishap) of the year.
Niecy Nash is doing God’s werq on Claws, and this ’90s asymmetrical bob was akin to the Sermon on the Mount. If the Mount were a Sally Beauty Supply.
The Other Two was among the funniest shows of the year, and it got a huge boost from Molly Shannon and her soccer mom/power lesbian side sweep.
Natasha Lyonne’s fiery, flowing locks were an instant classic—much like the first season of the show in which she sported them, Russian Doll.
In “The Actress,” the legend of Grace (a.k.a. Deidre), a background porn player, was born with Emma Stone doing some of her best work to date, embodying the wig and life of a woman on a mission for a backstory.
Billy Porter may be plucking off every red carpet like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper—maliciously and one by one—but on Pose he’s a lot more sartorially reserved… that is until he lets out his inner “Butch Queen First Time Up in Drags.”
And while I could go on and on about the wigs on Pose, let’s just leave it here with this Marie Antoinette tease from Mother of the Year Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson).
In a year overflowing with my favorite things, the “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” episode of Documentary Now! may be my favorite. Perfect from start to finish, this parody of the (in)famous 1972 doc Original Cast Album: Company, which went behind the scenes of a recording session of the Sondheim classic Company, featured the wonderful Paula Pell in an Elaine Stritch wig screaming about getting her eyes scraped between some very convincing Broadway belting.
And, O, honey, this wig did any- and everything for Miley Cyrus as fictional pop star Ashely O in Black Mirror.
Get that wig some butter ’cuz it’s… on a roll.

Wigs on Film

Taron Egerton rode this rocket ship of a shag wig to critical acclaim in Rocketman.

If it hadn’t already been taken by Jennifer Lawrence, Ma shoulda been called mother! based on Octavia Spencer’s quixotic coiffure alone.
Pound for sequined pound the best film of the year, Hustlers not only gifted us with the iconic J. Lo performance we’ve been waiting for since Selena, but also this mid-aughties-appropriate bang worn by Constance Wu.
Brad Pitt proved he can still catch it in a wig as tight as his abs in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.
Though my love for a high pony is known far and wide, Will Smith’s Genie will haunt my nightmares for all eternity.
Wig off! Maleficent 2 also gave us more cheekbones than one screen could handle, pitting Michelle Pfeiffer against Angelina Jolie. The winner: the gays.
Whatever your thoughts on Fat Thor (Chris Hemsworth), homeboy was looking good once he tamed that mane.
The MCU has always given short shrift to its female characters—and their wigs—but Captain Marvel’s (Brie Larson) canonical butch bob still has me on the fence.
On the one hand, I love it. On the other hand… I kinda still love it. This wig almost makes up for the movie soft-pedaling the queer relationship between Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau.

The Hot Wig-Hundred

After a lifetime of wigs, Diana Ross celebrated her 75th birthday this year—and all year, as a diva of her caliber is wont to do—gracing the Grammys with a message as timeless as she is: Ain’t no lace-front high enough.

Another septuagenarian legend, Dolly Parton, is more popular than ever—thanks to a new podcast about her influence on the country and a Netflix show dramatizing her music—and so this wig has been working 9 to 5 and 6 to 10.
Completing our bewigged and bewitching ageless diva trifecta is the eternal Cher, queen of wigs, turn-backer of time.
Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Meanwhile, Cardi B pulled out all the stops ands all the extensions for her Halloween costume.

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That girl is Poison.

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And Mariah Carey, right before officially ushering in Christmas, opted for an ’80s rocker moment.

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Breaking news ❄️

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Lady Gaga had quite the year, what with running away with an Oscar and all, but that didn’t keep her from her first love: wig-snatching on a stage.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (finally) Janet Jackson is really settling into being a stately, rich black lady, and it looks amazing on her. As does this wig she borrowed from good friend and fellow queen Diana Ross.
Lia Toby/BFC/Getty Images
Eschewing her blond ambition, Madonna decided to go back to her brunette roots for Madame X.
Beyoncé got into the “Spirit,” serving “earth mother goddess” realness, but not even Bey could make me sit though the new Lion King.
One of my favorite wigs of the year, if not of all time, belonged to noted queer rapper Tyler, the Creator, whose fifth studio album, Igor, has graced many critic’s best-of-2019 lists.
Never one to shy away from a dynamic music video look, Missy Elliott returned this year with not one—
—but two hair-raising videos: “Throw It Back,” featuring double-dutch pigtails, and “DripDemeanor,” with its apartment-complex beathive.
No surprise there. Missy’s been putting wigs down, flipping ’em, and reversing ’em for three decades.

RuPaul’s Best Wig Race

Start your engines! Drag continued its global takeover as America’s sweetheart Shangela slayed on the red carpet at the Oscars and, more impressively, slayed for Beyoncé.

MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images
Aquaria became the first drag queen to catwalk into the Met Gala.
Karwai Tang/WireImage
HBO dove into the history of Wigstock.

The Drag Race UK gurls gave their American counterparts a stilettoed run for their money…though there was no actual money on the table.
Pussycat purveyor Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck double-snatched the All-Stars 4 crown.
And Yvie Oddly snatched the Season 11 crown.
But leave it to Mama Ru to give us the greatest gag of all: this crystal-dipped, whipped-cream-wigged Vanity Fair cover shot by none other than Annie Leibovitz.

Cover girl, putting that bass in her walk since 19-none-of-your-goddamn-business.

The Comeback Wigs

Everyone loves a good comeback story, and what’s a good comeback story without a wig that does at least some of the heavy lifting? Renée Zellweger embodied Judy Garland in Judy—and got some of the strongest reviews she’s gotten in years.

While Eddie Murphy reminded us why we fell in love with him in the first place with Dolemite Is My Name, easily his best and most engaging performance since he was robbed of the Oscar for Dreamgirls.
Speaking of, both Murphy and Zellweger are generating serious awards buzz, so should either of them win, hopefully they’ll thank their respective and respected wig doctors.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling China Bob

Ever since Catherine Zeta-Jones won the Oscar—deservedly so—for Chicago, the bob she wore as Velma Kelly has made its way around Hollywood, magically fitting and befitting anyone who tried it on for size.

Padma Lakshmi wore it on an episode of Top Chef back in January.
David Moir/Bravo
Cate Blanchett borrowed it for the entirety of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
’90s dance diva CeCe Peniston dusted it off for her Black Girls Rock performance.
And Maya Erskine took it to another level—presumably with a lot of hairspray—for the hilarious Pen15.
This bob really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Cats All, Folks

The CGI fur will fly once this monstrosity gets up and purring. I don’t even know if we can call these wigs, but someone did this to several Oscar winners, so I guess we have to live with it now.

That and the thought of Jason Derulo’s digitally neutered cat groin. Make it stop.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat