Wigs: A History of Being a Utilitarian Fashion Statement

Wigs have been recognized as being a useful fashion accessory since they were used by the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians used wigs for the main purpose of protecting their heads, which were commonly shaved, from the sun. Other ancient civilizations also wore wigs including the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans. It is interesting to note that ancient civilizations of the Far East, including Japan and China, did not utilize wigs for everyday use, but instead only for traditional theater performances.

Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 16th Century, wigs were not a part of the fashion scene or an item of sun protection. After the 16th Century, however, red wig there was a big upswing in the use of wigs. Wigs served as a means of compensating for baldness. Wigs were seen as a means of improving one’s own personal appearance, a mask of sorts that allowed for one to appear more aesthetically pleasing. One main reason that wigs became so popular in early England was much more basic than looking good. Instead, because the English lived in a dirty, cluttered and very unsanitary conditions, head lice became a real nuisance. Oftentimes people would shave their natural head to keep it from attracting head lice and replace it with a wig, which was much easier to de-louse.

Queen Elizabeth I, became famous for her tightly curled red wig. King Louis XIII of France, made wearing wigs more popular for those of the male gender and the trend continued. In fact, wig is a shortened version of the word periwig which was the name of the artificial shoulder-length or longer hair that became fashionable after Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. Periwigs, also known as perukes, became so popular that they became a sign of status and power and soon became a staple of the English Court.

The wearing of wigs continues in many countries and cultures. In many, the wigs are a symbol of social status or class. Today, wigs are often seen more as a matter of convenience. They are easy to style ahead of time and hold in waiting until one needs them. In addition, they are an accepted remedy to baldness caused for various medical reasons. Of course, wigs are still worn today as a sign of status or for aesthetic attention. Celebrities like Cher or Dolly Parton have based a great deal of their star image upon their use of wigs. Whether they are for use in altering appearance or enhancing their appearance, wigs remain a utilitarian part of the popular culture of fashion.



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