Shh It’s a Wig: The Sisterhood of the Dazzling Strands
Though Miss Glo and company are fully aware of how the business name is frequently pronounced (if you don’t get the drift, use your words and sound it out /shhh-its-a-wig/), she says the name has always fed the shop’s mystique. “People just love that name – we get calls about it,” she says. “One man walked in here one day and said he just had to come in and see the place because he couldn’t get over the name.”
Gloria Marable is quietly holding court in the Pink Room. A row of bewigged Styrofoam heads stare mutely back at her as she speculatively eyes the options she has chosen for the client sitting in the salon chair before her.
Styling comb poised, the owner of Shh It’s a Wig deftly stretches the next hairpiece in line over the woman’s head. Speaking softly as she continues primping and fussing and tucking in stray strands, Gloria’s whole demeanor conveys kindness and confidence in equal measure.
Clearly, this is not her first time at the wig rodeo.
The same, however, cannot be said for her new client – a rather grandmotherly looking woman. The inevitable passage of time and pull of gravity seems to have softened the angles of the woman’s face a bit, but the bloom hasn’t completely faded from this elegant rose. Though not, perhaps, from lack of trying.
Whether it’s simply age or another environmental villain, some nameless thing seems to be leaching the lady’s creamy complexion of its glow even as she sits, and brittling her gingery red hair to a brutal crisp. She seems bone-weary tired, and oddly, never speaks above a whisper the entire time she is ensconced in the Pink Room with Gloria as her husband hovers quietly nearby.
At first, I assume that requiring a wig to cover her thinning hair must embarrass the woman – especially with her fella peeking uncomfortably over her shoulder in this frilly pink room as she tries on one wig after another. After all, a woman’s heart may be an ocean of secrets, but an abundance of hair is her shining glory, or so it says in Corinthians.
It’s only later that I learn throat cancer has robbed the woman of her voice while chemotherapy, not age, has ravaged everything else.
“Miss Glo’s” assistant begins a client file for the woman before she leaves, making note of her preferences and the discounted price she was quoted by Gloria. She leaves without buying a wig this particular day, but apparently has her heart set on “Faye” for a future purchase.
Shhh…Don’t Tell Nobody
Such clients are typical of the kinds of women Gloria has catered to across Middle Georgia since 1995, first in a Mercer Drive location, and here, on Vineville Avenue, since 2011. And they’re not all women, by the way. Some are still in kindergarten.
“I try to get them to come before they lose all their hair so we can match the color and the style if they want that,” Gloria says. “It’s a very emotional time for them. They’re ill and losing their hair. They say they just want to look normal and feel normal. They want to look like themselves again.”
Though she is a teacher by profession, Gloria says, she fell into the wig business because of her own love for faux hair. Miss Glo has been wearing “falls” and full wigs since junior high school, but it was an attention-getting wig she wore during a trip to Las Vegas that convinced her she was onto something. The corn-rowed hairpiece engendered an unusual number of stares and compliments from people there, and when she told them it was a wig, their response was invariably, “Shhhh…don’t tell nobody.” But there’s no shame in Miss Glo’s wig game. “It’s ok, I told ‘em. I’ll have on a different one tomorrow.”
That trip convinced Gloria to share her gift – not just for wearing wigs, but for customizing them. “The promise is when you get a wig from us, we make it to fit you.”
Along with multiple showrooms filled with full-scale, old-school wigs, Shh It’s a Wig also offers such “hair alternatives” as partial wigs, sewn-in pieces made from human hair, wildly colored faux locks in every shape and style imaginable, clip-in chignons and swirly, twirly weaves.
Additionally, the shop houses a private fitting and consultation room, two salon rooms where the wigs are customized, and a shampoo room so clients can drop off their wigs like dry cleaning, then return for them once they have been spiffed-up and styled. In certain circumstances, Shh It’s a Wig staff will also offer home visits as a service to medical-needs clients.
Along with Asia, Gloria is joined by her daughter Claudia, a certified tricologist who specializes in hair and scalp disorders. More often than not, Claudia finds she is not only serving clients by treating their hair-related ills, but also helping to transform their spirits – from the inside out.
One repeat customer, for instance, recently decided sitting in the chair that she was going to walk out of an abusive marriage. “It gave her a huge boost of confidence. After she started coming in, she started getting her nails done, getting her makeup done – feeling good about herself. And she started to see how trapped she was,” Claudia says. “The last time she came in, she sat down in the chair and decided right there to leave her husband.”
People Just Love That Name
Though Miss Glo and company are fully aware of how the business name is frequently pronounced (if you don’t get the drift, use your words and sound it out /shhh-its-a-wig/), she says the name has always fed the shop’s mystique.
“People just love that name – we get calls about it,” she says. “One man walked in here one day and said he just had to come in and see the place because he couldn’t get over the name.”
The iconic name aside, Shh It’s a Wig is also well known in these parts for Miss Penelope, the one-armed mannequin who sits outside the storefront during business hours in an aluminum chair, usually in a full-length ballgown and heels, and frequently with a wooden pink poodle riding shotgun. Like Miss Penelope, the poodle has an assortment of retro-fitted wigs, and both mannequin and beast like to dress up for holidays and special occasions. Sometimes they are joined by “Michael Jackson” the life-sized plastic doppelganger Miss Glo purchased, bewigged, and bedazzled in memory of the Gloved One after he died.
The pink wig Miss Penelope wears most often is not a cry from the cotton-candy hued stunner Honey Boo-Boo chose when she, Mama June, Sugar Bear et al all came traipsing into the shop in search of a pageant-winning hairpiece in 2012 and filmed an episode there. And though the former TLC reality star is likely Shh It’s a Wig’s most publicly recognized tiara-seeking client, she is far from the only one.
Beauty queens, actors, cosplayers, role-players, funeral homes, drag performers, anime convention-goers, and everyday wig enthusiasts are among those who seek out the specialized services available at Shh It’s a Wig. Other clients include private investigators (they carry toupees and faux facial hair also), undercover law enforcement officers, and armchair Nancy Drews determined to catch cheating husbands red-handed and get the drop on them long enough to collect a bounty of illicit evidence and be gone before you can say “uncontested.”
But those clients need not fear their confidence will ever be compromised – their secrets are safe within these flamboyantly pink and white walls.
“We have seen it all. It’s like we’re doctors – and what gets said in here or what we see in here stays in here,” Gloria says. “Some of the women who come in here are completely bald, and they won’t even let their husbands see them like that. We’re the only people who ever really gets to see their real self.”