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Inside Job: What It’s Like To Be a Sheitelmacher

Rachel Bachrach

Meet three sheitel machers who have washed, cut, and set their way to the top — and have the stories to prove it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

sheitel

Photo: Shutterstock

Tziporah Reisman, 28, is the owner of Tziporah’s Wigs in Inwood, New York. She’s been working as a sheitelmacher for ten years.

It seems that everyone who was ever good at playing with her friends’ hair takes a sheitel course. To become a name in this field, you need to be honest. I won’t sell a wig just to make a sale — I have to be confident it’s the best fit for the client. If someone tries on a wig and I don’t like the way the scalp fits or how it lays on her head, I’ll say, “I don’t like this choice for you.” If I don’t like the hair or the texture on a sheitel we get in, I’ll send it back. 

I sell a bunch of different brands, so I paint the picture for the customers — the expectations for how long each company’s wigs last, how it holds up. Even if someone wants to buy on the spot, if I don’t love how the wig looks or fits, I tell her to come back so I can get better options in for her to choose from. That honesty is what keeps my customers happy, it gains trust, which is what brings people back.

My most important character trait is

patience. Whether it’s working with a kallah to show her how to fit her very thick hair under a wig or a lady who’s trying on the same three wigs ten times in a row — “Let me try this one once more… Now this one… This one, again” — I remember that it’s a big purchase, it’s your appearance, it’s a big decision. You can’t rush people. Patience is a really necessary part of the job. 

Photo: Shutterstock

You also have to be able to manage the crowd — the pickups and drop-offs and trying on and cuts — and the conversations, and to take care of your customers, to really care about them. I had the privilege of working with my mother, Tova Lisker, who’s been a name in this business for almost 30 years, and because of her I’ve always had what to aspire to, not only in the art of the scissor but in the way she treats and interacts with every customer.

The oddest request I ever got

was when my non-Jewish housekeeper asked me for a wig. She told me she thinks they’re pretty.

When the kallah wants one thing, but her mother (or mother-in-law!) has a very different idea of what she should be getting, I

try to walk away for a few minutes. It gives them time to talk it out without feeling like I’m standing over them, putting pressure on them to agree on something. This is one of the hardest parts of my job, because I want the kallah to be excited to wear a wig, but at the same time, the mother or mother-in-law is paying for it, so she has to be happy too. I try to help them compromise somewhere in the middle. For example, when the kallah wants it long and the mother wants it shorter, I explain that when we curl the wig, it loses an inch in length. There’s nothing worse than cutting a kallah’s wig too short, because it will sit on the shelf and she won’t wear it. The mother is usually right, the daughter just has to come to the realization on her own — and she usually does come back to recut.

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