In India, there is a custom for women to sacrifice their beauty as a form of thanksgiving when a child is born healthy or a loved one recovers from an illness. They go to a temple and have their hair cut off. This hair is then gathered up and sold to a middleman, the profits going to temple support and charity. The middleman then sells the hair, which is long and unprocessed, to wig and extension makers.
One of the biggest wig markets is Orthodox Jewish married women, who cover up *their* beauty with sheitls.
Since this hair is a sacrfice to Hindu gods, it probably comes under the heading of "avoda zarah", or idol worship. We are not permitted to make use of such things.
There are many sources of human hair for wigs - the Ukraine is a favored place. But there is the possibility that any human hair wig might originate from India, since the middleman they use is Italian, and the hair can be marketed as the more preferable "European" hair. Also, one wig can have hairs from many sources. Even synthetic wigs can have human hair.
What does this mean? Since the wigs, which are very expensive, were purchased in good faith, can they still be worn? Or must they be destroyed? Certainly, people have to be more careful in the future, but what about now?
There's no definite answer, and there will be no one answer. Some people find out the source of their wigs, believe their sheitlmachers and wear them; some get synthetic wigs or wigs that have been garunteed kosher (but wigshops that claimed to be kosher, and probably believed themselves to be kosher were found not to be.) Others simply store their questionable wigs and wear hats and snoods instead, which is a major deal if you've been brought up to think of wigs as street wear and snoods as analoguous to bedroom slippers. When there's a definite decision made, they'll deal. And there have been wig bonfires.
One group has made the not unreasonable decision to wear the wigs they have and be careful in the future, but this group also teaches that wigs are the best possible hair covering. Doesn't mean they're wrong, btw, on either count.
And then there's me, and others like me. We don't wear sheitls anyway, and we're watching this not quite on the sidelines. I understand and sympathize with the women in the middle of this, with thousands of dollars tied up in their wigs and not knowing what to do. But there's a little bit of smugness (and I'm sorry about this) because I don't have to worry about it. My husband, whose talmud class is spending more time gossping on this issue then on the page of the day, feels even more smug than I am. He doesn't *like* wigs, and now he's vindicated.
However. It's recontextualized my headgear. Last week, my headgear was nothing to notice. It's not uncommon to see any random woman walking around with her head covered the way I do, and for any number of reasons. It wasn't anything to care about. Now, however, it's a Statement, because there are many more women with the hats and snoods and scarves and they're obviously wearing them instead of wigs. So, instead of just wearing a hat, I'm Not Wearing a Wig. And I feel it, too.