Skip to content
Wigs by Patti's PearlsWigs by Patti's Pearls
History of Wigs

History of Wigs

The earliest users of wigs that we know about were the Ancient Egyptians, around 3530 BC. The Assyrians (2500 BC to 605 BC), Phoenicians (1550 BC to 300 BC), Greeks and Romans also wore wigs on a daily basis. In Egypt, they were used to protect their shaved heads from the sun, although they were also worn on top of natural hair and plastered in place using resins and beeswax. Because wigs were considered a symbol of wealth and stature in the afterlife, many Egyptians were buried with their wigs.

A gache is a type of wig worn by the Korean upper classes and entertainers. They were popular until the late 18th century, when they were banned. The bigger, the better, was the rule of the day. This trend led to the death of a 13 year-old bride, whose neck broke under the weight of her gache as she rose to greet her new father-in-law. The ban on the gache was only partly because of the unfortunate teenager. King Jeongjo (1752-1800), 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, banned their use by royal decree in 1788 because they were considered the antithesis of the Confucian dogma of modesty and restraint.

In the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of wigs fizzled out for a thousand years, until they were resurrected in the 16th century to cope with hair loss or simply to improve the wearer’s appearance. They were a practical means of dealing with head lice, which was endemic at the time because of poor sanitation. Worn over shaved heads, the wigs also attracted the tiny crustaceans. It was simply easier to remove them from a hairpiece that could be removed than they could be eradicated in situ.

Wig sales really took off about this time because they were embraced by Queen Elizabeth I of England and French King Louis XIII. In 17th century France, wigs were so coveted that thieves on horseback would sneak up behind people in hackney coaches, snatch their wigs and ride off. By the 18th century, men were wearing powdered wigs. The powder could be colored pink, yellow, blue or violet but was most often off-white. Wig powder, composed of finely ground starch, was often scented with orris root, lavender or orange flower. Today, generally the only men who wigs are barristers, judges and other official big wigs.

The most expensive wigs were made of human hair, but materials such as horse hair, wool, palm leaf fiber or even pure silver could be used as well.

During this era, women did not wear wigs so often but would apply powder to their natural hair. Women did not really start rocking the wig seriously until the 19th and 20th centuries. Their use was mainly confined to postiches, which were small hairpieces woven into the natural hairstyle.

Today, with modern techniques in producing human hair wigs and the latest technology in synthetic fibers, a woman is limited only by her own imagination in selecting from the thousands of styles, lengths and colors that are available. Stars like Dolly Parton, Cher, Lady Gaga, Raquel Welch and Tina Turner have done a lot to make wigs popular.

People wear wigs for a lot of different reasons. For some, it is more convenient to style their hair when it is sitting on a wig stand in front of them. Others may want a conventional hair style by day and a more individual style when they are not off work. This is easier to pull off when one of the styles is in the form of a wig that can be easily taken on and off. Men who cross dress as women often rely on wigs to look and feel more feminine.

Orthodox, Modern Orthodox and Haredi Jewish women, especially after marriage, may wear wigs because it is considered more modest. Some opt for what is called a sheitel, a half-wig, in order to conform with this requirement.

The Hime cut wig is a particularly quirky style. Here, the hair is arranged in three “steps.” The bangs in the front are cut short. Cheek-length sidelocks are the next step, appearing just in front of and behind the ears. The hair at the back is worn long and straightened. This style of wig was thought to have originated during the Heian period of Japanese history, between 794 to 1185 AD. Today, it is popular among the Gothic Lolita culture.

Posted in News By 

Patti's Pearls

Cart 0

Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping