Wigs have been used for thousands of years. Egyptians loved them for ceremonial purposes, and for fashion purposes. Cleopatra’s ceremonial wig is probably one of the most famous ones in history, the bob style, adorned with gold, turquoise and carnelian.
It’s been recreated numerous times throughout the centuries. Becoming nowadays one of the preferred styles for Halloween costumes. Of course, in today’s times, we might think that Cleopatra’s wig was soft and shiny. However, keep in mind that back in the old days there weren’t as many concoctions to keep them in an optimal state. It is more likely that Cleopatra’s wig was dry, heavy and the hair didn’t flow naturally.
Ancient Egyptian times
In ancient times, the elite did use wigs made out of human hair. However, this was not the case for middle-class people, whose wigs were made with a mix of human hair and vegetable fibres. While the lower class had their wigs made out of 100% vegetable fibre. So not exactly a soft material. They were stiff and would wear down quickly.
Wigs were part of daily life, worn by men and women. However, slaves and servants were prohibited from wearing wigs. There was a social hierarchy as to who could be allowed such privilege.
Egyptians preferred their wigs coloured black; blonde on the other hand was not a very popular colour, and Queen Nefertiti was a trendsetter by sporting a dark blue colour wig.
England 16th Century
Fast forward to England in the 16th century and we have a very famous lady who helped bring wigs back in style. Elizabeth I suffered from smallpox, which left her with scar tissue that created bald spots in her head. To cover the illness from which she had recovered she resorted to wigs. It is said that Elizabeth’s natural hair colour was red, which is why she chose the same colour for her wigs. Wearing a wig gave Elizabeth the possibility to play more with hairstyles and fashion trends.
France 18th Century
Wigs were huge in the 18th century! Actually, the aristocracy was rarely seen without one. You might have noticed in films and paintings how Marie Antoinette had an extravagant taste for wigs, and she was not the only one. Just like women focus immensely on their shoes nowadays, back in the 18th-century wigs were a fashion and status symbol.
Men didn’t stay behind either. They had their own style, short with tight wavy curls and powdered white.
After the French Revolution in 1789, French commoners started viewing wigs as the representation of the corruption and inequality brought on by the aristocracy and monarchy, which is why those surviving aristocrats avoided using them, as to avoid driving attention to themselves.
Present day, 2019
Wigs nowadays can be worn by everyone! There are no more social hierarchies that determine who is allows to wear them. You can find them in natural hair, synthetic, different styles, colours and textures. There are wigs for every occasion.
Wigs can be worn on special occasions or on a daily basis, it has become the go-to accessory if you’re having a bad hair day or if you simply wish to make a statement.