A Brief History of the Wig: Part I

January 7th, 2013 | Posted by kylep in Real Wigs

Wigs are not a new creation by any means, and they have played a long and illustrious (and sometimes lustrous) role in history through many centuries and civilizations. In this first part of the brief history of wigs, we will explore the earliest origins of wigs, a decoration that dates all the way back to ancient civilizations.

Ancient Egyptians as far back as the 32nd century BC may have been the first people to use real wigs. These wigs were decorative, of course, and often used in formal ceremonies or events, but they also served the practical purpose of shielding their shaved heads from the hot Egyptian sun. Evidence suggests the Egyptians wore the wigs using beeswax and resin to keep them in place.

The Egyptians were far from the only ancient cultures to employ wigs, however. The Assyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans all wore wigs as well, chiefly as an everyday fashion accessory. Though wigs were predominantly a western decoration, some eastern civilizations used wigs as well, including the Japanese, whose Geisha, traditional Kabuki theatre performers and hostesses, wore womens wigs called Katsura. Similarly, the Korean Kisaeng, state sanctioned female performers, wore wigs called Gache, which other women of high society used as well.

In the next installment, we will discuss how wigs made the jump from ancient cultures to the Middle Ages.

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