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Where In The World Did Wigs Come From?

Hi there! Teresa here again! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Here at Name Brand Wigs/Joshua 24, we are so very thankful for each and every one of you! We are blessed with your business, your friendship and your loyalty! Thank you for being part of our lives!

Today, I thought it might be fun to talk a little about the history of wigs. Have you ever wondered when wigs became a “thing”? Let’s dig in.

Ancient Egypt- The Birthplace of Wigs

Wigs were a very common part of life in ancient Egypt. Think of the beautiful Queen Cleopatra (or Elizabeth Taylor, whomever you prefer!) She was said to be stunning and she wore a wig.  Because of the heat, and also the prevalence of little pests that would get in the hair, people would shave their heads. However, the look wasn’t thought to be very pretty, so voilà: wigs!

Back then, there was no attempt to make wigs look real. It just wasn’t part of the deal. Instead, they were often made from a variety of braided hair. Beeswax was a common setting gel.

Of course, the wealthy and royalty had more options. Some of the most expensive wigs were made from human hair, just like today. Others were made from wool, fibers from palm leaves or even from pure silver! Only royalty could wear long wigs due to the expense. OH! And today’s trend of the bright colors? Not so new after all, ladies! Ancient Egypt rocked red, green and blues in their wigs!

What About The Romans and The Greeks Wearing Wigs?

What about the ancient Greeks? I’m here to tell you, they had some ideas about hair. They considered hair to be sacred. When someone died, they would put some of the dead person’s hair over the doorway, and take some of their own hair and place it on the body. They considered this to be a sacred ritual. Wigs would be used both for disguise and to add to a person's beauty. Actors would wear wigs to look more like the role they played.

The Romans also thought the hair was sacred. Washing hair and cutting hair were religious ceremonies. Julius Caesar wore a wig to cover his bald head in the late B.C and early A.D. years. Around 30 A.D. wigs slowly become more popular.

When Rome became Christian, the Church declared wigs sinful! Blessings were thought to remain on the wig itself and never transfer to the wearer of the wig. Wigs remained unpopular throughout the Middle Ages, but around the mid - to late 16th century, wigs became very popular for both men and women.

The 17th century brought in the powdered wig and men began to wear hair regularly. The wealthier or more prominent a man was, the more wigs he would collect and sport about town. Louis XIV became King of France and started wearing wigs to fill out his own thinning hair. Soon, he shaved his head and wore wigs exclusively, which is when the powdered wig became high fashion.

By the 18th century, those who could afford it had a large, full wig for public wear and a smaller one to wear at home. In fact, those who couldn’t afford wigs would do all they could to make their natural hair look like a wig! (How’s THAT for a backwards idea from how we consider wigs today, huh?)

The wealthy used hair that was cut from those less fortunate to add to their own hair. Elaborate stylings, with great height, were constructed and colored with flour, starch, and even plaster of paris! The primping and bedazzling of wigs was an art in itself. This is where the term “hairdressing” came from- because the hair was dressed up with these elaborate pieces!

Wigs Move Into The Modern Day

Fast forward to the 20th century and we see wigs fading out around the 1920s, with the dawn of the bobbed hairstyle Wigs were worn by older, "unfashionable" women. Enter the ‘50’s. Wigs began a comeback, but mostly as a fantasy-type ornament. By the 60’s women of color were discovering the joy and ease of wigs; with Diana Ross, the famed singer and star of the Supremes, being well-known for her gorgeous wigs. By the late 60’s, white, European women were jumping onto the wig bandwagon, while men were passing on the faux hair and moving to the natural.

Until the early 1950’s, all wigs were made by hand. Over time wigs began to be made with synthetic nylon fibers and crafted by machine in Hong Kong. By 1970, the wig industry employed 24,000 workers and 40% of wigs were made from synthetic fibers. The leading wig companies at that time were the American company Dynel and the Japanese company, Kanekalon.

Today, one of the leading, global wig producers and manufacturers is the parent company of Aderans, who make the Rene of Paris, Noriko and Amoré brands.

In my next blog, we’ll take a closer look at this company, one of our favorites and most popular here at Name Brand Wigs!

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!! We are so thankful for you!



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