Wigs in history: from ancient Egypt to the eighteenth century

An interesting story that describes the use of the wig in various historical periods.

The wig is a structure of hair with various types of hairstyles, be it real human hair, horsehair, fibers of natural or synthetic origin. The wig is worn for various reasons, including aesthetic, fashion, religious, disguises or therapeutic needs.

The history of the wig has very ancient origins, as several wigs have been found in the Egyptian tombs. Even in the Greek and Roman civilizations, the wig was quite common, both for men and for women. In particular, blonde wigs were considered valuable, made with hair from the Germanic peoples. In the Middle Ages, however, wigs will often be composed of linen or wool yarns, and like all aesthetic devices, it met with considerable opposition and condemnation from the Church of Rome. Historically, in the various past societies, wigs encounter mixed fortunes, depopulating especially in the most economically prosperous periods, in which such aesthetic devices became almost indispensable to be well inserted in the most worldly society. The most typical way to wear these wigs, around the twelfth century, was configured in the integration of natural hair with false ones: specifically, the root of the natural hair was often left uncovered on the forehead.

The taste for wigs, from Italy, also spreads to France and England, to the point of becoming a real ornament worn by everyone, young and old, men and women, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: this was actually a period of ‘gold for the wig. The fashion of the time wanted wigs to be very curly, almost baroque, of a brown color. The wigs were very long and came to cover the back and chest in men, while remaining low on the forehead, while in women they were woven with ribbons, jewels and bows. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, taste evolves: the abundance of curls is powdered and raised on the forehead. Now the taste wants that the wig is no longer composed with brown dyes, but with gray hair. Quickly, the wig loses its curls and large dimensions, consistently with the abandonment of the Baroque style, becoming more and more an assembly of two tails knotted at the bottom and held in front and subsequently as a single tail collected in a small black silk bag .

The female wigs abandon the wide and flattened baroque line to go, unlike the male ones, to remarkable and bizarre heights, but always adorned in various ways, with scarves, flowers and jewels. It is the last flourishing period for the wig: during the French Revolution it will also be characterized by political meanings (not wearing powdered wigs was a symbol of belonging to Jacobinism) while in Venice a tax was even imposed on its use, not being able to eradicate its use, now consolidated.