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A Brief History of the Wig: Part IV

March 1st, 2013 | Posted by kylep in Real Wigs
womens wigs

Believe it or not: Nicki Minaj frequently wears wigs.
Photo by Terry Richardson

As we’ve seen last time, the wig has gone from being all but obligatory for many sections of society to mostly falling out of favor by the 19th century. In the newly independent United States of America, the use of wigs as a status symbol was largely dismissed as an archaic holdover of British rule. Nevertheless, the first five presidents, from George Washington to James Monroe, carried on the tradition of wearing powdered wigs.

Women’s wigs, on the other hand, never really disappeared from mainstream culture, although their popularity ebbed and flowed. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, short wigs called postiches became popular in England and France. These small pieces included pre-styled curls or buns to be incorporated into the hairstyle. These postiches mostly fell out of fashion during the 1920s, perhaps owing in part to the increasingly short haircuts of the era.

Today, wigs continue to be worn for a variety of purposes. Chemotherapy and alopecia patients sometimes wear wigs for medical reasons. Married Jewish women may wear wigs called sheitels in accordance to Halakha, or Jewish law. Finally, many actors, musicians and other entertainers frequently wear wigs to change their hairstyles rapidly for various performances or other projects. Wig styles have come and gone over the centuries, but the wig itself continues to live on.

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