The History of the Wig
Wigs are a very known, common invention. If you want to get technical, a wig is a head covering that is made from synthetic fibres, animal hair or human hair. Wigs are worn for either fashion, cultural tradition, religious purposes, and other reasons. The word wig is derived from the word periwig, which is defined as a higher styled head covering used by judges and barristers as part of their professional dress code. The usages today have come very far: wigs are now used as fashion accessories and to hide baldness in some cases. Most people are not aware of the history of the wig or where it came from, so we compiled a few points for a simple breakdown of the history of the wig.
Wigs were developed by Egyptians to shield their shaved heads from the sun’s harmful rays. They used beeswax and resin on their heads to keep their wigs in place. Wigs were also developed by other cultures and used every day: Jews of ancient Israel, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Wari civilizations. From the beginning, wigs were used for either religious reasons or used to identify a certain person’s social status. However, wigs were part of everyday life before they were a fashion accessory.
1st to 16th Centuries
After the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the usage of wigs was ceased for at least one thousand years. Wigs were not used very much or at all between the first and the 16th century as they were no longer necessary. However, in the 16th-century wigs emerged again, and this time as a fashion accessory to help those with premature hair loss. Another reason why wigs became popular again was hygiene. Long hair usually attracted lice, and wigs made it much easier to get rid of the parasites. Furthermore, Queen Elizabeth I of England was famous for wearing a red, roman-curl styled wig. Men in royalty were no strangers to wigs as King Louis XIII of France, and his successor Louis XIV both used wigs when they started premature hair loss.
In the 18th century is was common for men’s wigs to be powdered in order to give them their distinctive white coloring often portrayed in movies. Although women did not wear wigs in the 18th century they used hairstyles enhanced with artificial hair implants. Powdered wigs quickly became, once more, a major fashion statement and most officials and authorities in England adopted them as a permanent part of their uniforms.
19th & 20th Century
Wigs were not used as a symbol of social status since the formation of the United States, and in France around the 19th century. In the United States, for instance, only four of the first five presidents (John Adams to James Monroe) wore wigs, as George Washington powdered and curled his own hair. At the end of the 19th century, wiglets were designed to use as accessories, but full wigs had been dropped by more cultures, at least as a fashion trend.
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