If you ask cosmetologist Gloria VanWoerkom why wigs are amazing, she could give you a million reasons. From helping people achieve new looks to gaining their confidence back, VanWoerkom’s Jean Paree continues to see clients have their fashion and emotional needs fulfilled.
Hair is one of the greatest attributes a person can have. Through its length, styling, or color, it’s able to represent your beauty, personality, and individuality. Of course, our hair can be tough to manage, and some people might be aching for a change, whether it’s for a confidence booster, a Halloween party, or more permanent look.
Those aching for a new hairdo that could be less time-consuming to work with — while also giving them a new style to tout around town — look to cosmetologists like Gloria VanWoerkom, who’s wigs have become a game changing and invigorating sensation in the lives of her clients.
VanWoerkom first became attracted to the craft when, traveling in Europe with her daughter, she bought a wig from a local store. After accepting a position at Salt Lake City’s Jean Paree Wigs Inc., VanWoerkom would eventually rise to the position of owner, which she’s now held for over 30 years. Suffice to say, she’s brought plenty of success during that tenure. The salon sees a large clientele that, no matter the reason for their shopping, leave extremely satisfied thanks to her dedication and sense of fashion. “We work here to help people. It’s all about customer service and being there for your customers.”
VanWoerkom also deals with newcomers who haven’t worn a wig once in their life, some of which are suddenly forced to due to medical issues — such as alopecia and chemotherapy — that can result in hair loss. Regardless of a person’s situation, VanWoerkom strives to find a wig that suits them and their needs. “People that come in for cancer, a lot of [them] have never worn a wig before and it scares them to death because they figure they’re going to have to wear [one].”
“When they first come in, they’re frightened for a minute because I think there’s still a stigma about people wearing wigs. They shouldn’t be, because they’re very popular. Even the young girls are wearing them now,” VanWoerkom, who first started at Jean Paree as a part-time worker before ramping up her involvement with the business, said. “[I] just have to talk to them, and tell them a little bit about the wig, what they have to do, how they wear them, how to put them on, and reassure them that they’re going to be fine.”
“Once they get a wig that they can put on after they’ve lost their hair, and still look like themselves, they get their self-esteem back. They just feel so much better about themselves, and they can go out into the world without somebody looking at them.”
While clients are free to try any style or color they want, VanWoerkom will often encourage hair loss customers to try a wig similar to their old hairstyle. By doing so, they’ll be taken back to a less-stressful and challenging time, and gain more confidence in themselves on the outside and inside.
For clients of all kinds who have never worn a wig before, VanWoerkom works to ensure they develop a feel for wearing wigs while they’re at Jean Paree. She will typically put the wig on them herself, take it off, and then let the client put it on themselves.
Though the client may find it to be a difficult first or second attempt, it eventually helps when they put it on at home. “I usually tell them [to] take it home and before [they] wear it out, wear it around the house for a while and just get used to it. Get used to the feel of it and how to put them on.”
While putting a wig on or taking it off may be easy to pick up, the general practice of wearing a wig around and about is a longer process to get adjusted to. “When you initially wear a wig, it’s really hard. It probably takes two to four days to get used to wearing it, because it feels foreign. Wigs, whether human or synthetic, all conform to your head after you wear them.”
“They’re just like a pair of shoes. You have to break them in. Once it conforms to [the client’s] head, it looks just like them and then they feel very comfortable.”
“If you can get a hair piece that looks like you, and you wear it, you just blend with everybody and nobody looks at you, they don’t think anything about it.”
Of course, the moment a person finds a perfect wig — and perhaps their true selves in the process — is a sight to behold. VanWoerkom recounted when a woman, along with her husband and daughter, came into the store looking for a wig. The client was clearly distraught over the need for a wig, and had tears in her eyes. “She was just really upset, she [was saying] she didn’t think she could do it.”
VanWoerkom found a wig that looked like the client’s hair, and had her try it on. The result was a success. “She just couldn’t believe it, and just started crying.” The woman had her husband and daughter come in to see her with it, and the husband’s response summed up the situation fairly well: “I thought you were going to try on a wig?”
“I’ve had a lot of people call me and thank me, and I’ve had a lot of people [who] wear wigs just because they’re comfortable and they’re convenient, and they don’t have to worry about their own hair.” Of course, VanWoerkom might consider herself not just a cosmologist, but something of a therapist as well due to her ability to form close relationships with her clients and discuss the problems that frequently bother them.
“I think we’re like a family. I help them and they tell me all their problems and all their stuff and they all tell me they love me when they leave. I say, ‘Well, I love you too.’ It’s wonderful that they feel good enough [and] comfortable enough that they can come in and talk to me about things.”
VanWoerkom’s clients come in all different varieties, from men, women, and even children. For men, VanWoerkom explained, balding is a straining test on their masculinity. Sometimes, men will change their wigs in the bathroom in order to hide their hair loss.
“I just had a little eight year old girl with brain cancer whose mom had to buy her a wig. It’s really hard, some of the things they have to go through,” VanWoerkom said. Another struggle that clients going through medical issues experience is attempting to hide their head through other means of fashion, such as scarfs.
Vanwoerkem expressed her belief that a wig not only helps to avoid attention, but boosts a person’s self-esteem in the meantime. “I just think their self-esteem’s better if they’re wearing a wig, because there’s so many beautiful wigs they can wear.”
“[With] human hair, you can use your own shampoo. A lot of people like that, because it makes them feel better. But most people can’t afford human hair. [But] some people like them and we’ll get [those] for them. They’re happy with them, so it just depends on what [the client] is looking for and how they feel in them.”
There are two kinds of wig styles that VanWoerkom deals with, which include synthetic wigs and wigs that are made of real human hair. The types have a variety of differences in cosmetic treatments, the feel, and price.
“The synthetic wigs have the curl built into them. [The color] fades a little bit, but not much. They’re wonderful, they feel like human hair, and they’re about a fourth of the price. For example, you can buy a long synthetic wig for $200 to $250, and a same wig with real human hair would probably ring you about $2,000 to $2,500,” VanWoerkom stated.
While human hair is more costly than its counterpart, it also allows for a much more familiar experience, since the hair doesn’t need any specific care. “Human hair is just like your own hair, you can do everything with it. You can color it, you can curl it. [With] synthetic, you have to be careful with the seam.”
VanWoerkom also noted that those with synthetic hair have to be aware of their surroundings and usage of appliances — like ovens, blow dryers, or dishwashers — due to the heat they can release. “[If you have the oven door open] and that initial hot steam comes out and it hits your hair, it’ll melt the fiber, whereas human hair wouldn’t do that.”
Synthetic hair also requires certain products. “Usually with synthetic hair, you have to wash them about every three to four weeks. I take [the clients] through all that, and show them how to wash them and how to take care of them and that kind of thing. But there’s special care when you do it.”
VanWoerkem’s business isn’t limited to Salt Lake City. Instead, Jean Paree is able to function on a much wider scale. “We have several customers out of state and in Europe, it’s all over.” Regardless of where the shopper may be coming from, the goal of helping a person feel their very best remains. “It’s very important. I go home at night and I feel sad for them, but I feel good for them that they felt good about what they’re going through, and that they’re going to get through it.”
To learn more about Jean Paree’s wigs, along with their VIP club that has exclusive offers, discounts on purchases, and a personalized shopping experience, you can visit their website by clicking here.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.