When Andrea Herzog started making video tutorials of her creative head wraps, she thought she’d interest other Orthodox Jewish women who were tired of the status quo.
She didn’t anticipate the reach she would have.
“Where it went especially in the non-Jewish community, like people who are covering for, let’s say, chemotherapy or health reasons or other religions, or maybe secular women who were doing it for fashion or political feminism, anxiety … it got bigger and bigger,” she said.
Herzog started a head wrap blog and YouTube channel from her Chicago apartment in 2011 when she was 25 years old. Over the next two years it snowballed into what she has now: Wrapunzel.
The online business selling varieties of wraps and essential tools is headquartered in Pikesville. It has been a success both nationally and internationally, birthing a regular community of more than 7,500 followers.
The journey from blog to business began with Herzog’s own practice of using tichels, or head wraps, which she did for a couple of reasons.
“From an emotional perspective, I always had gotten a lot of attention for my hair and I didn’t like that attention,” she said.
The other reason came from the Orthodox Jewish practice of covering one’s head after marriage. Herzog is a ba’al teshuvah — meaning she grew up secular — so her religious motivation came later in life.
Rather than wear a wig, as many of the American women do to blend in societally, she wanted to cover her head in a more creative way.
“I just remember looking in the mirror and feeling so myself with these cool, colorful head wraps,” Herzog said.
And people responded. Soon she was teaching women how to wrap in bathrooms and coffee shops.
“That was a really unique thing in Chicago, so I was always being asked how I did it — even by non-Jewish people,” she said.
Finding precious little instruction available online, Herzog decided to share her knowledge. She began uploading tutorials, stories of women from different religious traditions who used head wraps — whom she called “wrap stars” — and informational articles and tips.
Her family helped her coin the name Wrapunzel in 2012.
Connecting with community
Herzog had not intended to make a business out of her project, but she saw a need in the community. Women were running into road blocks finding the proper materials to wrap.
“You can’t unfortunately just go into Target or something and buy a scarf and it’s going to work as a head wrap,” she said. “It needs to be the right texture and the right size, the right material to not overheat your head.
“I didn’t know where to guide people to get the tools,” she added. “So it was feeling at that point like my so-called service was almost like a disservice.”
A local couple, the Perlmans, encouraged her to start a business and were her business partners in the first year after she moved to Baltimore with her then-husband in 2013.
Herzog found that all her time blogging paid off. She had unwittingly been doing market research by connecting with people online who would end up being her customers.
After her website launched in January 2014, she ended up selling out in a couple of days.
“The site kept breaking,” said Herzog, a member of Ner Tamid. “That was just basically our thing at the beginning because so many people wanted it and were hungry for it.”
The religious and cultural draw to head wraps did not surprise Herzog.
“Every single major religion that I have researched has some sort of sect that does head covering, whether it’s the Sikhs with their turbans or the Christians with their veils or Muslims with their hijabs,” she said.
What was more fascinating was their popularity among secular communities.
Political feminists were finding liberation in covering their hair in public because hair was something that had been sexualized. Women inspired by vintage fashion of the 1950s and 1960s found it really opened up wardrobe options.
“There’s actually more options because you have a whole rainbow going on in your head,” Herzog said.
People who use the wraps for health reasons represent another big community. Head wraps help with migraines and anxiety. People with ADHD and sensory sensitivities have found they can channel their energy and focus better with a “head hug,” Herzog said.
Beyond physical benefits, the wraps have also built confidence in patients who have lost their hair from cancer treatments, hereditary hair loss and pulling compulsions.
“I’ve heard firsthand — it’s lifesaving … to find something that makes them feel beautiful and liberated,” Herzog said.
The Wrapunzel Foundation donates free head wrap kits for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Freedom to choose
No matter why women choose to wrap their hair, Herzog wants it to be their choice.
Some people, no matter how religious, can’t wrap for sensory reasons, she said. For her own personal reasons, she decided to stop wrapping after her divorce, but does not want to influence any of her customers based on her choices.
“I would never tell someone what to do with their lives,” Herzog said.
The company’s motto is “inspire happiness,” because Herzog started wrapping out of her own joy for it. She hopes to encourage others to continue with it, if it makes them happy.
“For those that want to, there’s so many things you can try — like how tight do you wrap, where do you put the pressure, what are the angles that you are you using,” she said.
Her most important and popular items are the “undergarments” — no-slip bands and grips or caps that come in different shapes to provide a surface area for more creative braids, layers and criss-crosses.
She’s had customers say, “I actually went on a jet-ski — like a superfast jet-ski — trying to knock my head wrap off.”
Other varieties in Herzog’s shop include silk and pashmina wraps. Herzog’s favorites are scarves made out of upcycled sari scraps in India because they are environmentally conscious and customers can choose from a lot of options.
“Because we have so many in our warehouse, a customer can write to us and say, ‘OK, I’d like one with a blue theme, but please avoid pink accents,’” Herzog said.
Since 2014, her business has grown to become a team made up of herself and eight other Jewish women.
When she started, she was able to take on the role of owner but all operational tasks had to be hired out because she was a dual Israeli and Canadian citizen and could not work in the U.S.
She received her business investor’s visa three years ago.
Hiring all Jewish women was not intentional, but Herzog takes the responsibility of representing that community seriously. She applies Kiddush Hashem to her business practices.
“I really promised myself when I started this that I’m never going to lose my integrity,” she said.
Herzog maintains personal relationships with her designers, seamstresses, manufacturers and distributors to ensure ethical and sustainable production and supports employees through fair wages and benefits.
Within the climate of COVID-19, business is currently online only, but Herzog says she will be ready to spring into action when customers are ready for in-person workshops and boutique sales again.
Herzog champions the support she receives from her community. A private Facebook group started by a fan of Wrapunzel consists of about 7,700 members who identify as women from all different walks of life who share hair wrap tips and keep conversation going.
“Society teaches us that we should be hating each other and at war, and yet because we’re coming together over something so simple … if we can have that commonality we can actually start talking,” she said.
Having such a strong community also makes Herzog feel less alone.
“For me it’s a dream come true,” she said. “I really felt like I was this lone head wrapping person and now there’s just so many people that are doing it.”