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Without the classes available to study wig cutting, Eli Mancha, owner of Bang! Salon in Chicago and 2011 NAHA winner, is self-taught in this area. An educator for 18 years of his 19-year career, Mancha honed his skill as he realized an increased need for it; he took his talent for blending real hair into extensions and applied it to wig cutting.
“As with extensions, I like to shatter and work with the texture to get a more natural look,” Mancha says. “Hair doesn’t look the same if it’s not growing out of your head, so you don’t want to cut straight lines. There’s a real art to it.”
His knack for wig cutting led him to being asked to do some platform work at the International Hair Visions Expo this past March. There, Mancha says, he experienced the most education he’d seen focused on this segment of the industry.
With his passion fueled by the expo as well as becoming a new member of Children With Hairloss, an organization that provides wigs to children, Mancha is focusing his efforts on branding himself in the Chicagoland area as a hairloss specialist. In this segment, he says, it’s all about marketing.
Unfortunately, few who advertise themselves as specialists in wig cutting live up to the hype, according to Mancha.
“I think this is an exciting time for hairstylists to get more involved with cutting wigs—the demand has increased, especially within the younger community, and these clients are wanting more modern looks with their wig styles,” he says. “Hairstylists are better qualiﬁ ed to achieve these modern styles than most wig-distribution companies.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
After nine years at his Chicago’s Wicker Park location, Mancha is moving his business to a larger space in the neighborhood. With this expansion and rebranding, he’ll be retailing wigs out of his salon.
“It has been a missed opportunity not having an inventory of wigs,” Mancha says. “The amount of money clients spend on them is astronomical. One of my clients ﬂ ies to Los Angeles for her wigs, and she spends $2,000 to $3,000 per piece. With airfare and travel expenses, she’s dropping more than $4,000.”
Although the price tag on wigs and hairpieces is high, the overall proﬁt on services for clients wearing them is not.
“Because this client isn’t going to be returning with the same frequency as someone who receives services on their natural hair, I typically charge double what I would for a haircut,” Mancha says.
A ﬁrst-time client would pay about $180 to have Mancha cut her wig. He justiﬁ es this because the hair won’t grow out, the same style can be worn for many months, and cutting a wig is a more delicate process than a normal haircut.
Additionally, a more in-depth consultation is needed for a client wishing to have services on their hairpiece.
“It’s more difﬁcult to make a wig look natural the shorter it goes,” Mancha says. It is important to make sure a client understands this prior to a cut. Even more paramount than a cut consultation would be one for color, as the history of a wig becomes relevant. After determining whether hair is synthetic or real, Mancha needs to know what has been done to it previously, and what a client’s expectations are.
“You can’t go lighter with haircolor because bleach can swell the cuticle, and this will make a wig look unnatural,” he says.
Mancha hopes to incorporate wig cutting into his salon’s apprenticeship program in the near future.
“If my salon is going to focus on this segment, staff needs to be knowledgeable,” Mancha says. In the meantime, he advises stylists interested in exploring this specialty to purchase inexpensive wigs and practice cutting on a mannequin.