Phrases like “my wig flew,” “wig!,” and “my wig is snatched!” have probably penetrated your Instagram or Twitter feed. But what does wig mean?

More than just a one-off term for members of niché corners of social media, the phrase packs its own punch as a source of unification and community. Wig is not just an accessory—it’s a feeling. 

As modern social media slang, the word “wig” is simply a synonym used by members of stan culture for being enamored or shocked with any event so much that your proverbial hairpiece is thrown off of your head. That’s right, my wig flew.

What started as a term used to describe Black hair was coined by members of the Black ballroom scene as a term of endearment and praise. Similarly, the term has made its way online as a phrase that glorifies artists and celebrities alike, and now we can’t get enough.

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What does wig mean?

What began as a term used to describe certain hairpieces has become a cultural phenomenon.

As you’re probably most familiar with the word, a wig is a hairpiece that people use to alter the hairstyle that they already have. They come in many different colors, textures, lengths, and styles. Wigs also come as a staple beauty product for African-American women, specifically. For Black hair textures, wigs are often used as protective styles that promote growth and healthier hair by shielding new growth from heat or chemical damage.

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Hair has historically been woven into the fabric of Black culture—cornrows and afros standing tall as political and social symbols of liberation and freedom throughout the civil rights and Black power movements through today. Colin Kaepernick, for example, grew his own fro out after taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

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So wig, as it is used online today, is originally a slang word coined by participants in Black ballroom culture, in which Black LGBTQ communities gather for special events called “balls.” The subculture is characterized by its glamor, including eye-catching clothes, stylistic dancing, and of course, statement-making hair. Many participants often use extensions or extra hair pieces as parts of their looks to catalyze the visual appearance of their walks. In these walks, voguing, a house dance that grew out of Harlem’s ballroom scene, takes place in pursuit of prizes or titles. Other popular phrases such as “yaaasss,” or “sis,” are similarly rooted in the language of the community’s participants.