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Phantom Wigs and Hair

A key part of the Phantom's signature look in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is that sleek hairstyle reminiscent of Rudy Valentino.  This extreme, slicked-back style is not difficult with the proper type of short, straight hair. However, for those of us not willing or able to do that to our own hair, a wig must be employed.  Please see below for how I created two full replica wigs, as well as what options you have regarding hair and wigs for your own Phantom of the Opera costume or cosplay.
Wigs in the Theatrical Production


Wigs are used throughout the various productions of Phantom.  These hairpieces are custom made/tailored for each actor.  In the case of the Phantom's signature "Valentino" look, because of the nature of that slicked-back style, they must be hand ventilated (hair tied by hand onto the lace foundation) as the front hairline must look completely natural.  As a result, they are neither cheap nor easy to recreate.  Fully ventilated, professionally made wigs with quality human haircan easily go for upwards of $3,000-$7,000 depending on style, types of hair, etc. 

The process of wig making involves more than just putting hair onto the foundation.  It starts by taking a head cast of the subject, to accurately duplicate not only their hairline, but the shape and size of their head.  A head cast is made by by putting a clear plastic wrap over the person's head (for those with long hair, the hair must be put up in a wig cap as it would be worn under the wig to ensure proper fit).  Clear tape is then layered over the plastic wrap to form a cast.  From there, the head cast is placed onto a wig block and the wig maker begins planning the actual wig. 

Ventilating is the process of tying the hair to the foundation material, which is typically a strong lace.  Also known as hand knotting, ventilating is a highly labor intensive process.  A special needle (also known as a knotting hook) is required in order to grab the hair and tie it to the foundation. Professionals can typically product a fully ventilated wig in anywhere from 40-80 hours depending on the particular piece. You can learn more about this process in the videos below:

My Wigs


I built three wigs for my Phantom cosplay: two "Valentino" replica wigs (completed in 2007 and 2015, respectively), and a replica "alopecia wig" (completed in 2023) that hides underneath.

I constructed my first Phantom "Valentino" wig (known as V1) in 2007. I was completely new to wig making and certainly struggled my way through my first wig project. I had educated myself as best I could through books, a few limited online resources, and speaking to some amateur and professional wig makers. Like the authentic stage wigs, I constructed the wig base from scratch, and hand tied every hair onto the lace. The entire project probably took between 100-120 hours to complete.

Valentino v2.0 (aka "V2")
 

I wanted a chance to learn from the first wig and correct the mistakes I had made, so I resolved to construct another in the spring of 2008.   Unfortunately, this project sat for many years, barely started, before I was able to pick it up in 2015 and complete it.  I made a new, more accurate head cast, corrected the hairline, and ventilated the hair much more carefully (thicker) than in V1.  As a result, the hair cover on V2 is much better, the wig looks full, and will be a far more accurate replica wig than my first one.  I finally got better at the ventilating process as well (that only took about 120 combined hours!) part way through V2, which made the ventilation a bit more tolerable on the latter half of the wig.  Please see below for a video of the partially completed wig from this summer (2015) to learn more about it and see the ventilating process. Pictures of the completed wig are below as well.


Hair and Wigs for Your Phantom Costume/Cosplay


Phantom cosplayers have long been in search of an affordable, accurate way to replicate that iconic Valentino look of the Phantom's wigs. That thin, exposed hairline has long been the bane of many cosplayer's existence as it is deceptively difficult to achieve.

Many people ask me through the years about the wig making process and how to go about it.  This style of wig making is highly laborious, so it should not be taken lightly.  There is a high level of commitment to it, since it requires so much tedious work.  The materials also are not entirely cheap; yes, they are a fraction of what one might be looking to spend on a professionally done wig, but if you were looking at doing this, you'd still be looking at about $300 or so just in raw materials.  I honestly only suggest making a fully hand tied lace wig if you want a truly 100% accurate stage costume replica.  Otherwise, there are far more affordable and realistic options available to you.  

Most people simply style their own hair, or buy a costume-grade wig from a Halloween/costume store.  Those can run anywhere from $20-$80, depending on the type of wig and the material it's made out of.  The downside of costume-grade wigs is that they have a blunt, unrealistic looking hairline that is not well suited to the Phantom's slicked back style.  You could theoretically create your own custom hairline on a commercial wig by installing a lace piece to the front, and venting hair onto it.  This is also labor intensive, but not nearly as bad as making a full wig from scratch!  These days, lace-front wigs are much more common and much more affordable, often selling for $200 or less for a quality lace front, synthetic wig.  I think today's lace-front wigs are a great compromise of cost and style, and that is where I suggest you begin if you want a pretty realistic wig, without having to spend a great deal of time or money.

If you purchase a modern lace-front wig, be sure to thin it out, as these wigs can come in varying degrees of thickness, from 120%-220% to accommodate different hairstyles. The Phantom's Valentino look will require thickness closer to 100%, with the nape of the neck thinned out. If you are unsure how to thin or alter your wig yourself, contact a stylist in your area for help.

Below are two older videos I made that discuss different types and quality of wigs. The second video also demonstrates how to make a wig cheaply utilizing a durable, latex rubber bald cap (for limited uses only).