InfoSec and the corporate, non-security-focused world sometimes have difficulties seeing eye to eye when it comes to “office acceptable”.
After working for half a decade in DC, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks on how to fly under the radar in Suitsville without sacrificing your own personal style.
I like to treat situations where I’m interacting with office people as an undercover field exercise. How far from my visual self can I get with minimal effort and maximum payoff?
So, let’s get sneaky.
Hair – Whether you have a ton of it, or none of it, people use hair as a distinguishing feature when they assess you visually. It may sound surprising, but changing your hair is one of the easiest ways to change your appearance and throw people off. Of course you can cut or dye it, but why commit when you can fake it?
A good wig is absolutely necessary when it comes to going undercover into the belly of Corporate.
Things that you want to look for in a wig:
- Bangs – Does this wig have a good fringe of bangs on it? Bangs will allow you to conceal any hairline issues you might be facing
- Realism re:scalp – Does your wig have a “skin” top part? Some wigs do and some don’t, so be careful when you’re buying. A skintone part makes it look like the fibers come from an actual scalp and not a doll’s head.
- For folks with darker complexions and thereby darker scalps, check for a wig that has a darker skintone in the root section. If you can’t find that in the style that you want, you can always attempt to darken up this area with makeup, either eyebrow powder or in drastic situations, alcohol based ink, though with platinum blondes, you’ll want to be careful of the bright blonde.
- Styleability – Is your wig “heat friendly”. Synthetic wigs that are “heat friendly” are great if you need to reset your style or just feel like adding/subtracting some texture.
- When you’re styling synthetic wigs with heat, be sure to not apply heat directly to the fibers, cause you will melt them.
- Hairline – This is less of a high point and more of a factor to keep in mind. Some wigs are sold as lace front, which means they’ve literally got a little bit of lace along the edges of the wig. This creates a more realistic hairline, but they’re also way more expensive than your standard wig. If you can stand the fringe, look for a wig with a good set of bangs so you don’t have to worry about attaching/adhering a lace front.
- Realism – For this exercise at least, you want your wig to look like every other person on the subway’s hair, so keep it natural, toned down style-wise and visually unremarkable.
I tend to go with Forever Young wigs when I’m looking for my “basic” hair.
When you’re going for an undercover style, think of what your current appearance is and try to go for the exact opposite. For instance, if you have long hair, go for a shorter hairstyle since most people won’t consider that you might be wearing a wig, so the change between the two ends of the spectrum helps build the illusion of another person.
After the recent premier of ‘Atomic Blonde’, people blew social media up with their desire for a platinum Lob (Long Bob) or Parisian Bob. For the Atomic Blondes out there, I recommend Forever Young’s Refined Curls in Color 613. This wig gives you good cut, not too crazy, not too bland. The platinum blonde is super popular right now, but it also comes in myriad other colors (I recommend Cappuccino as a good brunette).
Once you’ve got your new ‘do’, you’re going to want some accessories to make it bearable to wear.
- Wig Caps
When you’re wearing a wig, you want all of your hair to stay in one place, preferably where you put it originally. Wig caps help keep your hair from sliding around and help the wig grip onto your head a little better. I highly recommend the mesh nets, but any kind you have on hand will do.
- Wig Band
Optional, but can really help if your wig cap is a little tight. These come in a couple of different options, velvet, squishy silicone, etc. You pop this on like a headband after you’ve got your wig cap on and it’s supposed to help take any pressure off of your head while wearing. (Disclaimer, I have one and I hate it. It slides around, and makes it feel like I’ve got a snake under my wig, but I’m just one person, so give it a shot if you like.)
- Dry Shampoo
Great to have anyhow. Dry shampoo will allow you to give your wig some volume, reduce on the fake shine that synthetic fibers get and help if you feel like your wig’s getting a little less than fresh. You can either get the shaky kind or aerosol kind, but either version works wonders.
- Hair Pins
These are an absolute must. Wigs are going to shift and move. Use some hairpins or even special wig clips to keep that thing in place. I recommend two clips on the back of the head at the base of your scalp and maybe one at the front of the wig, where the hairlines are going to meet.
I love these wig clips, they’re cheap and they work wonders.
- Wig Brush
Any kind of wide toothed brush or comb. Be kind to your wig. The synthetic fibers will begin to get frizzy and gross if you treat it harshly.
- Wig Stand
Optional. When you take a wig off, it’s going to need to air out. You can use the stand as a drying rack for when you do wash your wig. Double points for scaring any significant others who see a disembodied head in the dark of your home.
Now that you’ve got your hair and accessories sorted, it’s time to try everything on and get a feel for how you’re going to react to having something on your head for hours. I recommend throwing everything on over a weekend at home, so if you do need to take anything off or rearrange anything, you’re good to go.
Though the photos online always show the wig models looking flawless and effortless, chances are you’re going to need to style/arrange your new hair before it sits/looks the way you want it to. Take some time to gently style your wig and figure out what looks best on you and it.
Once you get comfortable with your new look, you may find yourself obsessively buying new wigs, you know, just in case.
Tune in next time, for the various tips and tricks I’ve learned to cover up distinguishing marks, tattoos, piercings, etc and how to make your coverup last all day while looking as natural as possible.