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History of Wigs

The history of wigs stretches back thousands of years before fashion was even in fashion and before there was any concept of vogue. The earliest known usage of wigs was by the ancient Egyptians. Because of the oppressively hot sun, many Egyptians shaved their heads to stay cool. The drawback to this "hairstyle" was that many people suffered severe burns on their naked scalps. Wigs quickly became the solution, and were worn to keep the sun off their shaved heads and prevent these painful burns. The Romans and the Greeks were also said to have donned wigs for different reasons.

Wig history shows that wearing wigs was uncommon practice among the Far Eastern cultures. The exception to this was and is the Chinese and Japanese theater performers. Actors don wigs to enhance their costumes. Geishas and other performers and entertainers also wore wigs as a part of their traditional costumes.

After a long dry spell of almost a millennium, European history of wigs continued as wig wearing returned to style in the 16th century. This may or may not have been primarily due to the wide spread lice epidemic. To protect their own hair and to make delousing easier, many people chose to wear wigs instead of or over their natural hair. Wigs wear also worn for their aesthetic value. Wigs came back full swing in England in 1660 when Charles II returned to the thrown after being exiled to France for many years, where wigs were quite common and hugely popular.

The 17th century brought wig (making and) wearing to a new level. Wig making became a skilled art and guilds were formed across Europe to train and classify this art. Wig history continued throughout the 17th and 18th century, as wig-wearing trends were even adopted by army officials and incorporated into the official uniforms. Powdered wigs became stylish, if not compulsory, for anyone holding any form of rank in the 1700's. Men would powder their wigs white or off-white, while women, who incidentally did not wear wigs in the 18th century, leaned towards gray or light blues. Wig powders were often lightly scented, as well. The wigs' history began to close, as, slowly, wigs lost popularity among the younger men. Instead, wigs became more of a fashion for the older, more conservative members of society. As this happened, wigs also decreased in size and became distinctively geared towards specific professions. Church bishops often wore wigs everyday, and the majority of clergy wore them for ceremonies or special occasions.

As male wigs' history slowly petered out, wigs became steadily more popular within women's fashion. Initially, only partial hairpieces were worn by women, wigs being viewed as a sign of aging or weak disposition. However, towards the middle of the 20th century, full wigs began taking on an aesthetic and defining nature for women.

In today's society, wig wearing is a common trend. People will often wear wigs as a more attractive alternative to their own hairstyle. Individuals who have lost their hair due to medical reasons and treatments frequently wear wigs. Presently, most judges and barristers and some other government officials in England and most of the Commonwealth wear wigs. Celebrities often don wigs on and off stage to supplement (or create) their starlet image. Stars will also use wigs in an attempt to hide their identity when they are looking for a little privacy. Orthodox Jewish women also wear wigs as part of their religious observance after marriage. Cross dressers, men dressing as women, will wear wigs to create a more realistic feminine appearance.

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RSS | August 23, 2019

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