The role of costume wigs has not changed dramatically throughout the ages. They are mainly used for decoration and to hide hair loss. One of the most significant differences between the historical use of wigs and today is that costume wigs were also used to denote their social position in the past.
Costume wigs date back to ancient Egyptians and Romans. Egyptians especially were picky about cleanliness and in their incredibly hot climate, lice and fleas were a common problem. It was the order of the day for men, women and even children to shave their heads, although it was not considered appropriate to be seen in public with a shaved head unless you were a priest.
Only queens and noble ladies were allowed to wear wigs of any length, the rest of the population relegated to shorter versions of popular styles. Obviously, the most sought-after wig was made from human hair, but only the wealthiest in society could afford these popular alternatives such as horse hair or even plant fibers. Of course, the richer he was, the more he could afford to adorn his costume wig and it was not uncommon for Egyptians to have gold, silver, and even gemstones in their wigs.
The Romans took the class division by wig a step further by requiring that all prostitutes wear a bright yellow wig to denote their profession.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the use of costume wigs declined rapidly until they enjoyed a revival in the 16th century. Again they were used mainly to compensate for hair loss and improve its appearance. The very popular Queen Elizabeth I of England was reported to have over eighty wigs. A strong follower of fashion, she began wearing wigs as ornaments, but it is believed that after a severe outbreak of smallpox caused most of her hair to fall out, she used them to hide her bald head, thus maintaining her status.
King Louis XIII of France began popularizing costume wigs for men, when he began using them to cover hair loss as well. This madness was carried over to the English-speaking world with the accession to the throne of Charles II in 1660, after having spent a long exile in France.
Costume wigs once again became a status symbol and were a must for men of any social position. This continued well into the 18th century, when white wigs, similar to those still worn today by British lawyers and judges and in many Commonwealth courts around the world, became popular with men.
During this time, wigs became more and more elaborate and wig making was considered a noble profession, even resulting in the formation of a wig makers guild in France which later spread to England. Contrary to popular belief, the 18th century woman did not wear wigs but preferred to enhance her own hair with the use of hair extensions, not unlike the extensions we wear today!
The daily use of costume wigs began to decline in the early 19th century and today costume wigs are used primarily for costume parties, although they are still prominent on certain formal occasions such as the opening of parliament and the admission of lawyers. at the bar in Commonwealth countries. .
So if you’re looking for a bit of fun, why not try out some fancy dress wigs for your next party. There are hundreds available in all shapes and sizes, from cheap to ridiculously expensive, depending on the fibers used to make them. Nothing much has changed over the centuries there either!