Choosing a wig color may be one of the most difficult parts of the online ordering process. First of all, you cannot rely on a computer to give you an accurate representation of the color of a wig, as the appearance of colors on computer screens varies from user to user. Secondly, there is a dizzying array of rooting, tipping, highlighting, etc. that manufacturers use to create color effects for their wigs; to make this process more confusing, each manufacturer will devise a different labeling system for these same processes (what one manufacturer calls a “gradient” color is called a “shaded” one in a different brand, for example). Some manufacturers describe their colors (dark brown base with golden blonde highlights), while others simply label them according to color number and process letter (6/27H), and still others may use a descriptive title in an attempt to describe the color in an appealing way (Caramel Cream). For added fun, a simple medium brown in one brand (a color 6) may be as dark as the darkest brown of another manufacturer (a color 2). So how do customers sort through all of this to get the best color for themselves?
Start by knowing the basics of a color description. Colors are represented by numbers, starting with the darkest color at 1 (black) up to pure white at 60 (true platinum blonde, by the way, is 613). However, each manufacturer will vary in their numbering system as well as what they consider to truly be a 1 or a 613. Still, knowing when looking at a color description that numbers are colors is helpful.
Processes are generally stated as letters – such as H for highlighting, for example (one of the most basic and commonly used examples). Again, each manufacturer may come up with their own system of naming a process, though, so it’s sometimes very difficult to determine just what process a letter is indicating. Raquel Welch wigs, for example, label the fairly recent and very popular shading process of giving the hair a darker root to mimic the appearance of regrowth as “SS” (Shadow Shading) whereas Noriko would label the same process with a G (for Gradient – very dark root color) or R (Hybrant shades with a more blended, less prominent root).
Some companies will just use a combination of color number and process letter to describe a wig color (SS8/29) while others will get more detailed with special processes they name themselves (GL4-8+). What these numbers and letters mean vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so finding a color chart on the website from which you are thinking of ordering will be essential so you can read descriptions of what those letters mean (if the color chart provides a description).
Color rings are one option you can utilize to determine the best color. These are literally rings of color swatches similar to what you find in a paint store or see on a chart in a hair salon where customers decide what color to dye their hair. Wigs.com has an excellent service which offers them for rental, while other stores have them for sale, but they can be pricey – between $35 and $50 per color ring and manufacturer.Knowing what manufacturer(s) from which you want to buy can determine which rings you get, if you choose to do so, but keep in mind it’s not unusual for these rings to leave out some rare, discontinued, or brand new colors that you might still see as options when ordering.
Depending on where you’re ordering from, calling the store may also be an option. Larger online stores might not be as useful, but the smaller mom-and-pop stores can be very helpful in determining what color to choose. Some will offer other services as well, such as sending them pictures of the haircolor you desire, or even snipping some of your own hair and sending it in for color matching by the salespeople. As with everything else, be sure to discuss what your return or exchange options will be if the color you get is not satisfactory.
I’ll tell you what I do, but follow my example at your own risk: I search Google images when looking for a certain color in a wig, using the manufacturer name and the name of the color. This gives me an idea of the color, but I know computer monitors as well as ads are deceiving, so I also search YouTube for the manufacturer and color. There’s an online store called Best Wig Outlet that does quick, 10- or 15-second, 360-degree views of most of their wigs (and they have a ton) and they will list the manufacturer and color in their titles. This gives me decent idea of what the color is going to look like if they have a wig I can view. I do have a Rene of Paris color ring since they are my favorite manufacturer, but for me the little hairy strip isn’t enough to visualize what it will look like on a wig. Throw into the equation the fact that different wigs will have different ratios of highlighting to base color and the same color can look radically different on a different wig anyway. But the color ring does help me to know what tones are in a color and if I think it will work for my skin tone. Quite honestly, I rather like to try every color at least once, anyway. 😉