Humans have worn wigs for centuries but, after some decades of oblivion, the mid 20th saw them in vogue again. Natural hair was expensive and wigs made by "doll hair" material looked artificial... until kanekalon.
Sometimes trying to find something we find another one. That's what happened to the japanese company which was trying to find an alternative fiber to wool and found a filament not suitable for textile but with a similar human hair texture, and a perfect maleability for wigs.
Kanekalon, was introduced in 1967 by Kaneka Corporation figuring in the patent the inventor Hiroyuki Nakashima. Needless to say that it was an inmediate hit due to its texture and very humanly look, but what's kanekalon made of? Kanekalon is a modacrylic composed by two monomers, acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride, that together make a polymer that is dissolved in order to extrude it by little holes and coagulate the result in water forming strands.
Kanekalon hit the 70s and, at the same time, another modacrylic fiber named Dynel was born in USA so companies sold their wigs all over the country represented by famous faces like Lauren Hutton who modelled for Joseph Fleischer but still there was a problem that a celebrity solved. Kanekalon had caucasian textures that didn't suit afroamerican women and the model Naomi Sims found the solution and started her own wig business with her own fiber Kanekalon Presselle:
"I bought Caucasian wigs, wet them with setting lotion, rolled them with Steel rollers and put them in the oven. I baked them about 175 degrees for... 15 minutes and when they came out they looked like Black hair"
Anyway the doll grade kanekalon we find on 90s Barbie isn't the same of the one used for human wigs. For starters Barbie is tiny so her kanekalon is thinner and softer, and with its woolly texture, resembles much more to mohair wool and less to human hair. That texture makes it turn messy in very long hairstyle dolls like Jewel Mermaid or Totally becoming a bit of a nightmare but, at the same time, is very moldable and retains hairstyles very well. For that was a good choice for the crimped and wavy styles that still take us to 90s.