While most taboos – tattoos, etc – eventually become fashionable, baldness has never caught on. Hair loss, especially for women, is devastating. Yet most wigs have limited palliative results; they hide thin patches, but have a drag-queen-emerging-from-a-silicone-slick effect.
John Clifton has spent three decades reinventing the way wigs are made. His are so natural that they look and feel like a natural head of hair, and are so realistic (the blonde ones even darken towards the roots; the wigs for older clients have fewer hairs to replicate a normal healthy head of hair of that age) that they deserve a different name – Cliftons, perhaps.
Characteristically modest, Clifton called his company Mandeville, “because it sounds as though it has nothing to do with wigs: 80 per cent of our customers come through illness, not whim (though, curiously, he has just made a set of wigs for a chess set by the Chapman brothers). So if we need to leave a message with a customer, we can be very discreet.”
Each Clifton has 70,000 human hairs, often sourced from up to ten different heads, individually knotted by hand on to a mesh base that is so fine it's like a stocking. This is a labour of love – and obsession. Clifton began as a hairdresser in the family's Mrs Clifton's Ladies' Hairdressers in Nottingham, but rapidly decided that the technical challenge of inventing the world's ultimate wig was more rewarding. Numerous awards suggest that he was right. Acquiring one of these wigs is similar to getting a couture outfit: clients are fitted; exact colour matches are made (no two heads of hair are identical); hair is sourced from Europe (women receive about a £100 a head of hair, so it hardly smacks of the exploitation that got the
tabloids so heated about Posh's extensions) and the finished results are cut and styled on patients by hairdressers of Nicky Clarke's ilk.
Naturally, it's time-consuming and pricey – around £4,600 for the bespoke and £7,000 for the 'smart' wig, which can be slept in and washed on the wearer's head. But he has transformed life for all kinds of people from children to teachers and City types. And after 35 years toiling to get it right, he has come up with a ready-made; three different sizes and 11 colours that fits 95 per cent of customers, costs £3,850 and is ready in 1 - 2 weeks.
For details call 0207 386 5988.