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Wig-Wearing Throughout History

The history of wig-wearing is long and colorful (pun intended!) Hairpieces have been around for centuries, dating back to ancient civilization. People have worn wigs for protection, religious reasons, to display status, hide hair loss, and express personal style. The reasons people have worn wigs in the past, and do so today, are as varied as the wigs themselves!

If you are considering a wig, call Riviera Hair Replacement at 516-364-0110 to find out how our professional, discreet team of consultants can help create a hair replacement solution to best suit your needs.

Wigs Date Back to Ancient Civilizations

The Ancient Egyptians made what are widely considered to be the first wigs. They were constructed from various materials like human hair, wool, and fibers from palm leaves. Many Ancient Egyptians wore their hair very short or shaven to prevent things like vermin from nesting in their hair. Wigs were deemed a good way to protect their heads from the desert sun while also keeping them lice-free.

The type of wig you wore in Ancient Egypt also indicated your social status and religious piety. These correlated to the value of the materials used to make your wig. The better the material, the wealthier, and more pious the wearer.

Early Romans also wore wigs made from their own hair and hair from other people. They favored raised hairstyles and were worn by the royal court.

The 1400s and 1500s: Creation of the “Modern” Wig

In the 1500s, the wig began to transform into something similar to what we know today. Hairstyles during these centuries became more elaborate than ever, and people began using false hair to supplement their own and stay on trend. False curls, powder, and ringlets were attached to the hair so people could keep up with the current styles.

Eventually, some people began using entire heads of hair made from false hair to cover their own. This trend was common in France, where the headpiece was called the perruque. Perruque became peruke, then periwyk, followed by periwig. By 1675 everyone called it a “wig.”

Wig Wearing Soars in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Wigs became a wardrobe staple during the 17th and 18th centuries. Wig wearing during these years peaked in popularity and was a fashionable choice for both men and women, many of whom shaved their heads to maximize the comfort of wearing elaborate hairpieces.

Some historians credit Louis XIV with the popularity of the wig. The king regularly supplemented his thinning hair with false pieces until “eventually he agreed to have his head shaved, which was done daily thereafter, and to wear a wig.”

Wealthy people during this time wore huge, sometimes elaborate wigs for formal functions. Many individuals had smaller wigs to wear around the home and to daily activities.

Some fun facts about wigs during these years?

  • The larger your wig, the more wealth you portrayed. You can imagine the sizes of some wigs. Men and women subtly competed to outdo each other with bigger, fancier wigs.
  • People who could not afford wigs often styled their hair to look like they were wearing wigs.
  • People favored wigs that were colored white.
  • Often wigs were greased and then powdered with flour, potato starch, or plaster of Paris.
  • Women’s wigs were often the fanciest of all. Many wigs had elaborate, complex designs and were adorned with jewels.

Wig Wearing During the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Hair during the period of Victoria and Edward, for women, in particular, was huge. Literally huge.

But as opposed to using full wigs, natural hair was padded down and supplemented. What was it supplemented with? Postiche. Postiche means “added hair” in French. These added hairpieces and their styles included fringes, fronts, switches, pompadour rolls, and frizettes. The original hair extensions!

The process of creating postiche, like wigs, was left to professionals who dedicated themselves to their crafts.

Also, during this time period, men began using postiche and wigs to minimize the appearance of thinning hair.

Modern Day Wigs

Wigs fell somewhat out of fashion in the 1920s and were usually reserved for use by older women during the next decade or two. African American women, however, often wore wigs during this time period to avoid the painful, somewhat unhealthy process of straightening their hair, which was fashionable at the time. Many African American singers wore stylish wigs during their performances, enabling others to feel confident doing the same.

During the 1960s, with the invention of synthetic wigs and wig making techniques, wigs became easier to care for, cheaper, and accessible to the masses. There was a surge in wig-wearing.

Today, wig-wearing is as popular as ever with many women and men proudly and openly wearing ever-changing styles and colors.

Call Riviera Hair Replacement to Schedule Your Free Consultation

If you are thinking about getting a wig or are looking for hair loss/hair thinning solutions, call Riviera Hair Replacement at 516-364-0110.

Our professional, discreet consultants here to help you choose the hair replacement solution that is right for you.