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My Struggles (and Successes) With Covering My Hair

My Struggles (and Successes) With Covering My Hair

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I love my hair; it’s amazing. It’s thick, perfectly ombré and smooth. I’ve always enjoyed styling and dying it, and experimenting with different lengths.

Before I got married last year, I was undecided on whether or not to cover it. Then I got some hair scarves from one of my rebbetzins for my bridal shower and asked her to teachI don’t particularly want to stand out in a crowd me how to tie them. It wasn’t too difficult, and the scarves were beautiful. The day after my wedding, I decided to wear one on my head.

I tried this for a few weeks, but the scarves kept slipping off. And I felt like I was so obviously religious in them. I’m a shy person and don’t particularly want to stand out in a crowd. I decided to wear hats instead and not cover my hair fully.

I did that for a few months. While traveling around the world on my honeymoon, airport authorities would ask me to take off my hat. I didn’t want to cause a scene, especially in places in Europe, where public anti-Semitism has occurred a lot recently, so I did, but that became uncomfortable, too.

I was told to get a sheitel (a wig) if I didn’t like hats, and that seemed a reasonable idea. Though I was against sheitels before I got married, I didn’t feel very pretty in scarves or hats. I dropped more than $1,000 on one of the least expensive wigs I could find and wore it to a wedding.

I was horrified whenI was horrified when I saw the pictures! I saw the pictures afterwards! The wig had slipped back, and you could see my hairline. The netting on the sheitel was showing in some other shots. I didn’t look like myself at all. I was so embarrassed that I put the sheitel in my closet and there it sat for several months. I gave up hats as well.

This all happened at a time when I wasn’t learning anything new about Judaism. I didn’t have a study partner, and I wasn’t even reading the Torah portion every week like I had previously done.

My husband noticed my lack of interest in spirituality and suggested that I learn with my Chabad rebbetzin. She’s a woman who radiates holiness. I’ve never seen her lose her cool or hear her talk badly of anyone or anything. I always walk away from conversations with her feeling uplifted.

She gave a class on the Rebbe’s teachings about wearing sheitels, along with the halachas behind it. I learned that blessings radiate from your hair and when you cover it, you’re protecting yourself and your family. I looked at her—a successful and centered woman—and decided that I should give it a try. I thought of my other rebbetzin, who also wears a sheitel and looks great in it. All of the women I admire in my community for their hard work and devotion wore them.

So, I decided to give my wig another try. I got it cut and dyed. I figured out how I could style it on my own and make it look more natural. When I put it on, I felt what the rebbetzin had described: safe. It looked gorgeous, especially compared to my natural hair. That was surprising.

It’s been a few months since I got my wig back from the hairdresser. Now, I wear it all the time. I wear it on Shabbat and when I’m at the comedy club with my husband, who is a comedian. I go to business meetings in it and put it on when I fly to avoid having to remove my hat again.

One of the big reasons I was hesitant to wear my wig was that I felt like it was a bold statement. I thought that my non-sheitel wearing friends would think I wasNow, I wear it all the time going extreme, and I thought the more religious ones would hold me to a higher standard. And if I thought that if I ever decide to stop wearing it for reasons that might have nothing to do with Judaism, then people would judge me and think I’ve suddenly lost the faith.

But I’ve realized that all of this is social anxiety. What matters is how my wig makes me feel now, which is a stronger connection to G‑d. It’s my personal choice to put it on or not. No one can judge me except for Him.

When I wear my wig, I’m not trying to show that I’m an observant Jew or that I’m some great holy person. I’m just doing my best—with the halachas and the guidelines I was given—to feel closer to G‑d.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer and personal essayist in Los Angeles. She writes for The Jewish Journal of L.A., Grok Nation, Aish and Tablet. She has a wonderful husband, comedian Danny Lobell, as well as two dogs, five chickens and a tortoise.
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Jill Melton Alexandria, VA September 15, 2017

sheitl I am almost 72, born a conservative Jew, with a colorful history. Now I am embracing my Jewishness so much more and I feel a nagging by the Ruach Hakodesh to begin wearing a wig. I know no one in my area who does. I have the social anxiety you talk about. The only people who wear wigs around here are cancer victims or women with thinning hair. I want to try. Reply

Dina Leah Maine December 11, 2016

To Michelle Married women cover their hair as a form of modesty so as not to appear attractive to other men and so the women's inner essence is all that shows. It removes women from being seen as sex objects.
A woman's husband is the only man who is supposed to see his wife's hair. Therefore any blessings emitted are for marital intimacy, and private situatations between a husband and wife. I'm sure others can explain it better. Reply

Michele Kellner December 11, 2016

Hair and sheitl If my hair is able to emit blessings, why would I withhold that by covering it? Reply

Anonymous December 8, 2016

sheitels After covering my hair during my ten year marriage & being an accomplished wig maker & licensed hairdresser, I can relate to all of the issues of this woman's sheitel battle. I too have beautiful hair & I also had a lot of trouble covering my hair. It was about comfort & the shape of my head mostly. Scarves slid down & wigs drove me crazy. After a while I got the hang of it & although I was divorced in 1991 or 2, I still cover my hair. My hair is still fab but covering it saves on wear & tare on my natural hair & gives me an extra bit of privacy which I have grown to really appreciate.
All the best for your marriage & your family.
Sincerely,
w s fisher frieman
retired & residing in Maine Reply

Anonymous Rural Washington State December 7, 2016

I tried a sheitel and I didn't care for it. It was hot and made my head itch. Plus, I have a lot of hair and it was difficult to conceal it under the wig without my head looking enormous. I switched to tichels and I've never looked back. I don't live in an area where there is a large Jewish community, and I am the only person I know who covers hair this way. Reply

Sarah Toronto December 6, 2016

Thanks for sharing. I feel validated. You should be showered with more bracha! Reply

Dina Leah Maine December 6, 2016

I cant afford a sheitel I have been wearing scarves for two years now, and even wear it in my drivers license, my military spouse ID, & Israeli passport.

The key is what goes under it. I found a wonderful website: Wrapunzel.com
It's a community of women who cover their hair with scarves they sell & the key is the velvet headband or shapers to wear underneath. Scarves stay in place. On YouTube they have how to videos. They make them in Spanish & Hebrew, too.
I'm artsy and make fabric art and quilts, and so the scarves are a fashion statement for me. I even add a brooch pin & twists & tails & lace.
My hair underneath is shoulder length. Some of the women aren't Jewish but have lost hair due to cancer treatments. It's fantastic to feel & look lovely.

I baked challah with our Chabad rabbi's wife (she's young enough to be my granddaughter), & with just us, she wore a scarf except when doing the separation blessing of the challah.

We are retirees on fixed income. So, no money to buy a sheitel. Reply

Anonymous Agoura Hills December 6, 2016

re: article is validating Kylie, your article was very validating for me.
I have struggled with hair-covering for 15 years.
I wear a sheitl for work, and a ball-cap for casual ie. out shopping, errands etc.
I always seem to get complimented on my hair when I have on my sheitls, but when I put it on, it still doesn't feel like "me."
But I continue, because I have a sense that it is good for my family ( my son ), who for various reasons is in public school and
out in the world - but he still davens, does tefillin, and is
shomer mitzvot and is a great kid all around - thank god!
Thanks for your very honest articles. Reply

Chani UK December 5, 2016

I did get some negative feedback when I wore a sheitel. One crisis of faith later, I gave it to someone who couldn't afford one and now I can't afford one! I'm a widow but I think I still need to cover? I totally get the scarf thing. Unless you're in Israel, it does make you stand out. Shekoyach! Reply

Nina Litvak December 5, 2016

Beautiful piece Kylie! I also have struggled with whether to cover my hair or not. I can't wait to see you wearing your sheitel! Reply

Meggan Redwood Falls December 5, 2016

I try to cover my hair when I am in public, however I find my head starts to itch terribly...what can I do to have a more comfortable experience? Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn December 5, 2016

There is no need to ever shave the hair! Reply

Anonymous USA December 5, 2016

My prayer May I, one day, find myself cutting my hair and shaving this head for only good and healthy and happy reasons. Amen. A wonderful article. Thanks for sharing. Reply

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