In the most recent years of human history, wigs have been made popular by pop culture icons and celebrities, as well as the beauty industry as a whole. Today they are more often made for fashion and self-expression rather than just utility, but their history has a much more broad usage. Who was the first to think that someone (or something) else’s hair should be worn as an accessory? Cincinnati Hair Loss explores this history.
It certainly didn’t start that way, read below for the history of a significant part of today’s culture.
Ancient Egypt – 2700 BCE
The dry, hot climate of the region along with the constant risk of lice kept people from growing out their hair, they instead shaved their heads entirely and wore wigs to shade from the sun. These wigs were made from a variety of materials, such as human hair, palm fibers, wool, felt, or beads strung together in beautiful patterns. Wax and resin were applied to the scalp to keep the wig attached, but those who could not afford it had to continually adjust its placement or even tie it tight against their head. The difference in what the rich and poor could afford made wigs more than merely a tool against the heat, but a marking of social status or religious belonging. The wealthy adorned their human hair wigs with gold pleats, ribbon, and beads.
This was the start of wig culture as we know it. Many other ancient cultures took on this trend as well, shaping their culture and the culture of many civilizations to come.
Wigs in Early Europe
Initially, Europeans of the 16th century found wigs to be obsolete despite their love for ornate fashions. Their embrace of the wig followed an outbreak of syphilis that took the hair of many people who were infected. Afterward, in the 17th century, they continued to stay relevant due to King Louis XIII’s premature baldness. It was a way to keep his public image while creating a trend in style. Lice was also a problem around this time, so many who found shaving their head easier wore wigs, but those who could not afford them donned cloth hoods over their bald scalps instead. This became a symbol of social status; the rich had full, natural looking wigs to wear while the poor remained bald and were therefore seen as inferior.
The 18th Century
Men’s wigs were often powdered around this time to give it an off-white tint. Hair powder was in high demand and therefore expensive despite its simple ingredients. Starches were ground finely and scented with oils and flowers to create the final product. This practice became commonplace with formal wear and specific to several professions, even taking them in as part of the official costumes. These customs still survive in a few European legal systems.
As we see in all forms of daily life, wigs are used primarily for style. Icons in the media prefer extravagant or colorful versions, but the daily wig is versatile and should fit your personal fashion sense. Interested in learning more? Reach out to Allusions today, and let us take care of your wig needs!