What Is a Rat Hair Piece?

Close-up of a female hairdresser's hands styling a mid adult woman's hair

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Popular throughout history, a rat hair piece is a hair styling filler tool that adds height and volume to create fuller hair styles.

Why the Name?

A rat hair piece isn't as unpleasant as it sounds. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with the rodent in any manner, though older pieces appear to resemble small, furry animals. The rat is named for the teased or "ratted" volumizing effect of using a filler hair piece in styling.


In the Victorian and Civil War eras, big hair signified health and wealth. Along with wigs for men, ratted pieces for women were used to fill the hair and create wide-bottomed styles that were popular at the time.

Natural Rat Materials

Historically, rat hair pieces were made from hair shed that occurred during daily brushing. Over time, hair builds up in the bristles of the brush, which is then removed and shaped into oblong rolls. Hair rat traditionalists still use this method today.

Modern Rat Hair Pieces

Volumizing hair pieces are available in several materials at your local beauty store. The most familiar piece is a foam hair donut, which can be used to create buns and twists, or be cut to fit a particular style. Rat hair pieces also can be made by folding or rolling neutral colored stockings into a donut shape.

Using a Rat Hair Piece

Using a rat hair piece as part of your style is simple and effective. Create a part in the hair where you would like to add volume and pin the rat into place. Comb hair over the rat to blend, and finish with a light hold hairspray, for big hair that lasts all day.