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A Brief History of the Wig: Part II

February 1st, 2013 | Posted by kylep in Real Wigs

long wigsLast time, we discussed the origins of the wig and its use in ancient civilizations, particularly by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Japanese. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, however, the use of wigs fell out of fashion in the West for nearly a millennium. It was not until the 16th century when wigs made a comeback, largely thanks to Queen Elizabeth I of England who famously wore a red wig tightly curled in the Roman style. Elizabeth’s example was soon followed by other royal wig aficionados King Louis XIII of France, who adopted a wig when he began to go bald, and his son King Louis XIV.

Wigs during this time served the dual purpose of fashion, often employing elaborate hair styles, as well as protecting against head lice, a big problem of the time which was reduced if natural hair was shaved and an easily de-loused hairpiece was worn instead.

During the 17th century, curly, long wigs for men known as periwigs became common in France and later England, especially in courtrooms. These wigs, usually made from 100% human hair, soon became an obligatory mark of nobility and wigmakers began to carry their own prestige. Wigmaker guilds began to spring up around Europe where apprentice wigmakers learned how to create the incredibly long, elaborate and expensive pieces.

In the next installment, we will see how the wig evolved into the 18th century.

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