Pubic Toupees Spark Business
There are a million and one ways to spice up the hair on your head, either by cutting, dying, perming, straightening or donning a wig. But what about your pubic hair? Isn’t it time for those poor curlies to be primped, pampered and all gussied up for a night out on the town?
Meet Antonia Nemanich, OC ’04, a fresh, young entrepreneur who recently started her own business selling pubic toupees, also known as merkins. The company, Vonk Schaamtoupetten, is based in the Netherlands. Her website (www.pubictoupees.com), still under construction, features a downloadable PDF catalog with all kinds of prismatic pubic wigs full of character, wit and attitude. It even offers a helpful sizing guide for customers.
Catalog options include the “Cleopatra,” a beautiful, triangular, snow-white patch of fur, decorated with rhinestones and sequins, a Vonk “fit for a Queen.” And once you don the “Vonk Classic,” available in your choice of six colorful furs — black, purple, lime green, teal blue, red and magenta — “you’ll have a reason to smile all day!”
If Nemanich’s original designs are not enough to excite your pubes, check out the custom designs section. Buyers can select from a variety of materials for a one-of-a-kind, unique Vonk.
According to Nemanich, the most common materials are feathers or synthetic furs (and occasionally, real furs), used for what she calls the “toupee centerpiece,” either a triangular or circular patch. In order to wear a Vonk, a belt must be attached to the centerpiece, made from elastic sequins, satin ribbons, velvet, leather or anything your imagination can dream up.
All Vonks are lovingly crafted, hand-sewn, lined and decorated by Nemanich. Prices range from 75 to 386 Euros. But at 386 Euros, the “Cleopatra Deluxe” seems well worth the money. Similar to the “Cleopatra,” this breathtaking, majestic beauty features a vintage lace belt, even more sparkling rhinestones and an elegant, gold-beaded design on the centerpiece. Nemanich is currently working on a custom-ordered Vonk with “mirrors and a pinwheel” and another that will replicate moss.
Interested buyers can peruse the testimonials on the site, where they will find that Nemanich’s trademark Vonk has experienced great success. A 26-year-old woman commented: “I was amazed by the craftsmanship of these products and the attention to detail…When I get undressed wearing one of these, the guys go wild.”
This is not your average sex toy, reserved only for use behind closed doors. It can easily become a staple in quotidian life. For example, a 49-year-old man wrote, “I love your products, and am quickly becoming addicted to wearing my Vonk Original. I learned about your company on a business trip to Amsterdam, and I think it was the highlight of my visit! I actually started wearing it under my suit during some of my all-day meetings, and my naughty little secret made it much easier to get through the day!”
According to Nemanich, the purpose of a Vonk is “to be fun, outrageous and creative. They never replicate the look of real pubic hair, but are all about just making a statement and surprising people.”
And the inspiration for the business? After returning from Amsterdam over Winter Term 2004, Nemanich was bombarded by John McKean, OC ’07, with questions about the city. Nemanich jokingly responded, saying that “a common item sold there [were] ‘pubic toupees.’ I described them as being wildly-colored tufts of fur that people [wore] over their real pubic hair,” she said.
Nemanich’s little white lie eventually became a widespread phenomenon. As a joke for McKean’s birthday, Nemanich made a pubic toupee, supposedly crafted by bogus Dutch designer “Titus Vonk.” She also created a fake website with fabricated information about the so-called “company.” It was through that original website that people began making inquiries for a catalog and showing interest in purchasing her product.
A few years later, Nemanich, who majored in musicology and English, officially entered the merkin business, with McKean as the company’s webmaster at her side. Although it will take some time for the duo to fully set up the online version of the company, stay on the lookout for the whole catalog to surface on the Internet. This is a side endeavor; Nemanich is currently studying baroque flute at the Conservatory of Amsterdam.
The merkin business is a full-fledged retail sensation, with a similar operation out of England. Like Nemanich, Rick Stonell, the owner of London-based Merkin World, offers ready-to-wear (the “Heart,” the “Rainbow,” the “8 Ball”) and couture items.
Pubic wigs first appeared in 1450 as a device to cover syphilitic pustules and gonorrheal warts in the genital area. Today, however, they are sex toys that are closely tied to a sensory experience. In 1992, fashion mogul Gianni Versace gave the merkin its high-end fashion debut on the Versace catwalk. Soon after, designer Vivienne Westwood used tailored fig leaves to cover the pubic area under transparent fabrics. It has become quite the statement to wear a merkin under short baby doll dresses in nightclubs.