Wigs in History
The featured image of this post if of the lovely actress/singer Zendaya at the 2017 Met Gala. She looked phenomenal that evening, and we thought the wig she wore was a perfect display of classic romance and texture which women are fully celebrating (as well they should) in these modern times. She was the belle of the ball.
As a salon that specializes in wig making, we enjoy seeing an innovative wig that blends the old with the new, and we are happy to admit that we are wig history geeks. Like many beauty practices, wigs and various forms of additional hair have been around for ages. Used to enhance one’s beauty, reflect status and to hide hair loss and thinning, virtually every era has distinct wig styles and usages. Here are a few key points in wig history.
- The oldest evidence of wigs date back Ancient Egypt where wigs were made from wool or human hair. Various classes wore wigs with the finest being worn by royalty which would include elaborate patterns of gold beads and jewels. Below is a recreation of a ceremonial wig based on findings in the tomb of the royal Sithathoriunet (ca. 1887–1813 B.C.).
- Roman women wore human hair wigs as a fashionable accessory. Interestingly, blonde hair was very popular even back then among the rich, and that shade of hair was obtained from the conquered tribes in the North such as Austria and Switzerland. Julius Caesar is rumored to have worn a wig to disguise his baldness.
- Queen Elizabeth I relied on wigs and is said to have had up to 100 wigs at one point. Apparently, she started wearing them when she got smallpox as a young woman and lost some of her hair. Later on, she continued to use them as part of her larger-than-life image, hence why you will find her with wonderfully elaborate hair in all of her portraits. At this point in time, both women and men indulged in wigs openly.
- In the 1600’s powdered wigs became all the rage. They looked glamorous, but they gained popularity to a) hide the visible signs of STD’s which were running rampant in Europe at the time and b) to hide baldness which was seen as a huge stain on one’s reputation. These wigs were made of horse, goat, or human hair and scented with lavender and orange oils to help hide any questionable odors. Riots started in some parts of France because the use of flour for powdering the wigs caused a shortage of bread.
- Fast forward to the 1950’s and 60’s where hairstylist Maria Carita and her sister were carving out their niche in Paris. They started using wigs on the runway, and they were one of the forces behind the use of wigs in high fashion and their resurgence in pop culture.
- The one and only Dolly Parton loves a good wig and has been wearing them since 1973. “I used to try to keep my own hair teased as big as I like it, and having the bleach and all of that, it just broke off… I thought, ‘Why am I going through all that? Why don’t I just wear wigs? That way, I never have a bad hair day! I have a big hair day, but not a bad hair day.”
This post is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to learn about the history of additional hair from all cultures and researching it is a wonderfully rich and fun rabbit hole to fall into. We highly recommend it.
Do you have any favorite wig moments in history?