HISTORY OF WIGS (PERUKES) AS FASHION ATTIRE
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a period of elegance and artificiality in dress and appearance, pricy wigs made out of human hair became an indispensable part of the wardrobe of European and Colonial men and women belonging to the ruling and elite classes. People with lesser means who wanted to appear trendy covered their head with perukes containing horse hair, goat hair, wool, or cotton. To meet the demand for artistically designed perukes, wig makers guilds were established in the mid-1600s. Between 1600 and 1800, wig styles ranged from conservative hair arrangements to exaggerated and ridiculous hair structures.
The wearing of perukes has a long history, but in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries high born gentlemen had an excessive fascination with the wearing of elaborate wigs as polite dress. In the case of women, although they did occasionally wear wigs, they favoured the use of partial wigs, hair extensions and hair lifting devices to construct unusual coiffures. Lee (2003) points out “that fashion through the years has driven people to do some pretty outlandish things.” She specifically refers to the wigs worn by women in eighteenth century England that were up to “four feet high and matted with lard” and that often attracted “mice and insects” (xxii). The writer proposes to the reader to visit the Google site, “Images of 18th Century Wigs” to get a glimpse of the kinds of wigs that captured the interest of fashion conscious men and women.
This article begins with a brief overview of the usage of wigs in early societies and the development of the wig makers’ guilds in the mid-1600s. The next section is devoted to a cursory examination of the most popular wig styles since the early 1600s.
EARLY SPECIMENS OF WIGS
Artifacts such as statues, coins, and cave art dating as far back as 3500 BC often depict early Sumerian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman men and women wearing perukes. In their excavation of tombs located in different ancient burial sites, archeologists found the remains of perukes made of human hair and of less expensive materials such as flax, wool, and palm fibers. These specimens suggest that early wig styles varied from short and square cut shapes to long flowing locks that were curled, waived, or braided. The majority of the peruke remnants are black in color, but residues of brown, red, white, blue, and green hairpieces have also been unearthed. Blond wigs were prized by the early Romans who obtained their supply of pale hair from northern European captives and slaves (Boucher, 1973, p. 39; Ceram, 1967, Plate XXIII, Summerian Queen Shub-ad headdress; Hansen, 1956, p.106; Kybalova et al., 1968, p. 40; Laver, 2002, p. 18; Lester, 1956, p. 28-29, 44; Random History.com, 2007-2015; Reader’s Digest, 1983, p. 97; Robins, 1993, p. 83, 183-185; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 90).
The wearing of perukes diminished for several centuries following the decline of the Roman Empire. Around the late 1500s and early 1600s, when Mary of Scotland (1542-1587), Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603), and Louis XIII of France (1601-1643) began to cover their thinning or greying hair with perukes they set in motion a fashion trend that lasted up until the 1800s (Durant and Durant, 1961, Part VII, p. 396; Durant and Durant, 1963, Part VIII, p. 27; Random History.com, 2007-2015).
USAGE OF WIGS
Wigs have a long history of having been used for hygienic and medical purposes, and they have also formed an integral part of ceremonial and occupational dress, and of theatrical costumes.
Lacking proper hygienic practices, parasites and nits can invade people’s hair. In early societies, men and women would often shave their head and cover it with a peruke as they recognized that it was much easier to sanitize a wig than a head of hair (Durant and Durant, 1963, Part VIII, p. 173; Reilly, 2012).
For many centuries, ageing high society men and women who wanted to project a more youthful mien would often conceal their thinning hair with a peruke. In the 1600s, when the syphilis epidemic became rampant in Europe and affected all age groups, the nobility and upper classes who were afflicted by the disease attempted to safeguard their appearance and reputation by covering their balding pate with a well-groomed peruke. In so doing, they set a precedent for the wearing of stylish wigs (Durant and Durant, 1963, Part VIII, p. 173). Nowadays, patients who lose their hair as a result of surgery, chemotherapy treatments, or diseases such as alopecia aerate have the option of wearing a wig.
Spiritual leaders and high ranking officials have been known over the centuries to cover their head with some type of periwig when performing their duties. Wigs were made essentials in polite society since the reign of Charles II (1600-1685), and this civility was carried over in the dress code of professionals, high ranking officials, and in the courts. From the mid-1600s onward, wigs became an essential part of the occupational and ceremonial dress of European and Colonial bishops, clergymen, judges, barristers, governors, parliamentarians, physicians, and the military echelon. The Campaign Wig, for instance, was popular with the military, the Physical Wig was associated with the learned professions, and the Full-Bottomed Wig was worn at Court by judges and barristers. In America, between 1810 and 1819, doctors were still wearing wigs. Wigs remained part of court dress for judges and barristers well into the 1900s and early 2000s in countries such as Britain, Australia, and New Zealand (Bohrer, M.; Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, 2016; Cunnington, 1964, p.105; Lester, 1956, p. 169; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part 1, p. 159, Part II, p. 250; McClellan, 1977, Vol. II, p 375; Wikipedia, Court Dress; Wikipedia, Wigs).
Since early times, theatrical performers and entertainers have used wigs when portraying fictional and historical characters. Wigs have also been popular with men who cross-dress as women, with persons wishing to enhance their self-image or to temporarily alter their appearance, and with individuals wanting to disguise their identity.
WIGMAKERS GUILDS AND THE FABRICATION OF WIGS
When Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) started to lose his hair at the age of 17, likely as a result of syphilis, he hired 48 wigmakers to supply him with perukes. By 1660, there were around two hundred perruquiers providing services in the French court. In 1655, Louis XIV established the first wigmaker’s guild in Europe when he granted licenses to the French peruke makers. Between 1723 and 1756, there were at least twelve hundred wig shops in Paris with some six thousand employees (Durant and Durant, 1965, Part IX, p. 292; Kybalova et al, 1968, p. 189; Laver, 2002, p. 120; Reilly, 2012).
Originally, barbers were peruke makers, but in the seventeenth and eighteen centuries the demand by the nobility and upper classes for well-designed wigs required the skills of artistic and highly skilled craftsmen. These craftsmen, known as perruquiers or wig makers, were organized into guilds. Guilds had their own training academy, and aspiring wig makers were required to pass an exam of aptitude to work in the profession. Professional wigmakers hand-crafted all perukes, and they carried out the periodical cleaning, repair, refreshing of the curls, and the powdering and scenting of wigs. Wig-making became a first class industry involved in the buying of raw materials needed for the construction of wigs such as human hair, animal hair, framing and cushioning materials, coloring agents, powdering products, and scents. Wig workshops generated new jobs and sources of income for many Europeans (Boucher, 1973, p. 264; Lester, 1956, p. 139; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 316; The Barber’s History; The Hair at the Eighteenth Century).
Sources of Human Hair. During the 17th and 18th centuries, expensive wigs and hairpieces were made from human hair. Cheaper alternatives were fabricated out of horse hair, goat hair, and wool and cotton fibers (Kybalova et al., 1968, p. 189; The Hair at the Eighteenth Century).
Gernsheim (1981) explains that human hair for the making of wigs came from the following sources: from peasant girls in Germany, Italy, and France who did not miss their hair because they wore traditional head-dresses; from the shaved heads of novices entering Catholic convents; from lower and middle-class girls in need of money; and, from dubious sources such as the hair cut from prisoners and paupers in the workhouses. Gernsheim adds that it was rumoured that some merchants acquired hair from patients in fever hospitals, from corpses, and even from street-sweepings (p. 61). Hansen (1956) noted that in 1665, Peppys wrote in his diary “ that he hesitated to put on his new wig as he suspected it was made from the hair of people who had died of the plague” (p. 133). Uncertain as to the origins of human hair, peruke makers would generally cleanse the hair cuttings by boiling them in nitric acid or by baking them to remove the vermin, parasites and nits (Gernsheim, 1981, p. 56; Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015).
The Coloring, Powdering and Scenting of Wigs. From 1600 to 1800, wigs came in an array of natural colors such as golden, reddish, brown, and white. The hair would sometimes be dyed in different hues. The powdering of wigs and their scenting was also quite common.
When Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France started to wear large yellow-haired perukes, his courtiers did the same. By the mid-1700s, wealthy gentlemen favored white-haired wigs, such as the Adonis, as they were the most expensive to obtain. Men who could not afford white-haired wigs would dust their perukes with white, off-white or a grey colored powder (Corson 1965, p. 215; Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 303; Random History.com, 2007-2015).
In England, women’s wigs were originally dyed red to imitate Queen Elizabeth’s (1533-1603) red-haired wigs. In the early 1700s, European women usually wore natural hair-colored wigs which they would sometimes dust with off-white, grey or blueish grey powders, and in some instances with violet, blue, pink, and yellow tinted powders. After 1750, as a result of Richard Arkwright’s discovery of a formula of dye for wigs which was not affected by water, wigs dyed green, blue, violet, mauve, and pink became available (The Barber’s History; Random History.com, 2007-2015; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 250; Weightman, 2007, p. 11-12, 20).
Powdering agents were obtained from flour, chalk, and a mixture of finely ground starch and Cyprus powder. These agents were basically white or off-white in color, but they could be tinted in different hues. Scents for the perfuming of wigs were obtained from orange and citrus flowers, lavender, and other fragrant flora (Kent, 1999, p. 147; Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015; The Hair at the Eighteenth Century).
The powdering of perukes and of natural hair was an inconvenient and messy task. Special rooms or wig closets were set-up in homes for their powdering. To avoid having to go through the dusting process on a daily basis, some women covered their hair in taffeta caps when they went to bed. To prevent the dusting powder from rubbing off their garments, gentlemen would wear a broad black ribbon, the Solitaire, introduced in France. The ribbon was tied to the back of the wig, brought round the neck and tucked into the shirt ruffle (Boucher, 1973, p. 308; Laver, 2002, p. 122; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 392). In Britain, when the government imposed a tax on hair-powder in 1795, this tax effectively weakened the fashion of powdering wigs and natural hair (Dorner, 1974, p. 49).
MEN’S WIG STYLES
There are numerous wig styles that were popular with fashionable gentlemen between 1600 and 1800 but for the purpose of this brief article only four of the major styles are referred to: the full-bottomed wig, the campaign or officer’s wig, the bob wig, and the physical wig. For more in-depth information on men’s wig styles and to view illustrations of the types of trendy perukes and toupees worn in the eighteenth century, see Cunnington and Cunnington (2005).
Wigs were generally worn by men in public, but when they were at home they would usually cover their shaved head with a little wig, a skull cap, or an embroidered night cap (Hansen, 1956, p.133, 137; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 300-303; Reilly, 2012).
Full- Bottomed Wigs. The full-bottomed wig, or perruque à crinière, originated in France. It was an essential part of the costume of fashionable upper-class European and Colonial men up until 1730. After 1730 it continued to be worn in the Courts. The full-bottomed wig was the most expensive, grandiose, voluminous, and bulky of all wigs types. A portrait of Charles II on horseback by Pieter Stevensz, dated 1670, shows him wearing an ample full-bottomed wig with a plume hat gracing the top of his wig. The word “bigwig” was coined at that time to describe the snobs who could afford the big puffy perukes (Cunnington, 1964, p. 84; Laver, 2002, p. 113, Portrait of Charles II; Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015; Reilly, 2012).
Full-bottomed wigs were usually shaped as follows: the hair rose high above the forehead with a center parting from which a mass of curls framing the face would cascade down to the shoulders. Some wigs had longer unruly curls that tumbled down the back as far as the waist. The curls on each side of the center parting would often be arranged in peaks, or two locks of hair, one on each side of the face, would be turned up and tied in a knot. Full-bottomed wigs were dusted with white powder unless they were crafted with white hair (Hansen, 1956, p. 133; Laver, 2002, p. 122, 127-128; Lester, 1956, p. 139; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 381; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 276).
The monstrous wigs were often denounced in the legislatures and from the pulpit by pastors and clergymen. In 1673, in Massachusetts, a clergyman described the appalling wigs as “Bushes of Vanity,” that made church members “resemble locusts that come out of the bottomless pit.” The Puritans in England resolved that “Ye wearing of extravagant superfluous wigs is altogether contrary to truth” (Lester, 1956, p. 169-170).
Campaign Wigs or Travel Wigs. Initially, military officers wore full-bottomed wigs, but their sheer size and heaviness made them impractical for any active soldiering. Lighter shaped wigs called campaign wigs or travel wigs became popular between 1701 and 1760. These wigs were given names such as the Ramillie wig, the club wig, and the bag wig.
Campaign wigs were similar to the full-bottomed wigs, but less cumbersome. They were full of big curls arranged high on top of the forehead with a center parting, and on each side of the head, pieces of long drop curls were twisted at the end or arranged in two short queues. A corkscrew curl or pigtail was tied to the hair at the back of the scalp with ribbons giving the effect of a wig with a long tail and bow. The infantry used tallow or other fat to grease their horse hair wigs which they would then dust with chalk to give the impression of a powdered wig (Cunnington, 1964, p. 84, 87; Lester, 1956, p.170; McClellan, 1977, Vol. 1, Part 1, p. 147; Part II, p. 180, 290-291, 384).
The Ramillie wig was named after Marlborough’s great victory in May, 1706, on the French battlefield of Ramillie. The wig was puffed out at the sides, and the hair was drawn back and tied in a long queue or braid measuring around seven inches called the Ramillie tail. A large bow was tied at the top of the queue, and a smaller one at the bottom of the tail. The wig was then dusted with white powder (Laver, 2002, p. 122, 127-128; Lester, 1956, p. 170; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 180, 391).
The club wig, the undress wig, and the bag wig were variations of the Ramillie tail wig. The queue on the formal club wig was doubled up on itself and tied at the middle to form a loop of hair. The undress wig had a long queue that was interwoven with black ribbon. The queue of a bag wig was concealed in a square black silk bag and tied with a stiff black bow at the nape of the neck. This wig was a dress or full dress wig (Cunnington, 1964, p. 88; Durant and Durant, 1965, Part IX, p. 292; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 276).
Bob Wigs and Physical Wigs. During the period 1715 to 1786, the bob wig was popular with men and boys of all classes. The wig came in two main styles, the short bob that exposed the neck, and the long bob that covered the neck. New England colonists ordered these wigs from England in great quantities. During the period 1750 to 1790, a bushy bob wig, referred to as a physical wig was introduced. It became the standard dress for gentlemen belonging to the learned professions (Cunnington, 1964, p.84, 87, 88; Lester, 1956, p. 170; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 290-291, 382).
Toupees or Foretops. In 1730, a partial wig known as a toupee (from the French for “tuft of hair”), or foretop was introduced. The toupee became popular when men discarded their full wigs in the 1770s.
To form a toupee, men brushed back their natural front hair into a roll above their forehead, and the roll was then placed over the front edge of a partial wig eliminating the parting of the hair. The toupee would usually be dressed with side locks or side queues. A queue falling from the back of the neck would often be fitted into a silk bag and tied with a bow of black ribbon (Cunnington, 1964, p. 87-88; Gernsheim, 1981, p. 61; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 316).
Men’s Wigs and Hats. The custom was for well-bred gentlemen to wear hats for the dignity of decorum but because this apparel crushed their voluminous wigs and foretops they developed the habit of carrying a large feathered hat under an arm. During the period 1714 to 1756, men in France, England, and the Colonies wore a cocked three-cornered hat adorned with tassels or gold braid which they would tilt to one side over the front of their wig (Boucher, 1973, p. 262; Cunnington, 1964, p. 87-88; Durant and Durant, 1965, Part IX, p. 75, 292; McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 76, 312).
WOMEN’S WIGS AND HAIR EXTENSIONS
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries women wore curled wigs, partial wigs with lots of false hair pieces, and outlandish towering coiffures constructed with various apparatus. By the end the 1700s, wigs were replaced with chignons and hair extensions (Gernsheim, 1981, p. 50, 66-67; Kybalova, et al., 1968, p. 140; Laver, 2002, p. 152; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 393).
Curled and Winged Wigs, and Partial Wigs. There are references to Italian women wearing blonde wigs during the High Renaissance Period (1490-1527). In the early 1600s, courtly ladies in England donned tightly curled red-haired wigs similar to those worn by Queen Elizabeth I to cover her loss of hair. These tightly curled wigs resembled the hairdos of early Roman women. In Scotland, ladies covered their head with winged or horned styled wigs that were favored by Mary of Scotland (Corson 1965; Durant and Durant, 1963, Part VIII, p. 27; Random History.com, 2007-2015).
Between 1660 and the early 1700s, trendy ladies curled their natural hair into ringlets over their forehead and they would affix a partial wig or false locks of hair mounted on secret wires to the back of their head. They would then powder and perfume their coiffure (Durant and Durant, 1963, Part VIII, p. 274). By the mid-1700s, similar hair arrangements became more complex and were piled high on top of the head (see “Towering Coiffures” in the section which follows).
Marie Antoinette was a keen wearer of lofty and bizarre hairstyles but when she lost much of her hair during one of her confinements in the 1780s, she wore curled wigs reminiscent of the closely curled hair as seen on Greek statues. Modish Parisian women imitated her wig styles. Between 1794 and 1795, variations of “à la grecque” wigs such as “à la Sappho, à la Venus, and à la Minerva” were available in different colors. Well-to-do ladies would change into a different colored wig several times a day, and they would adorn their wigs with ostrich plumes, feathers, ribbons, flowers, and artificial vegetables. On occasions they placed a helmet or casque over their wig. In America, around the 1820s, women’s wigs with short close curls were at their height of fashion (Boucher, 1973, p. 344; Durant and Durant, 1967, Part X, p. 905; Hansen, 1956, p. 142; Lester, 1956, p. 157; McClellan, 1977, Vol. II, p. 27, 31).
Towering Coiffures. In the early 1700s, women began to lift their natural hair upwards by adding cushions, false hair, and wires that were fitted to the head. By 1745, women’s natural and false French curls were described as looking like eggs strung in order on a wire tied around the head (McClellan, 1977, Vol. I Part II, p. 19, 198). Between 1750 and the mid-1780s, reinforced wire frames were used for building structures that looked like a towering toupee built upwards with curls and false hair that reached ridiculous heights. The top of the elevated coiffure became a platform for placing objects such as flowers, baskets of vegetables, fruits, feathers, birds of paradise, and in a few cases, even a windmill with farm animals grouped about it, and a ship with sails. Plenty of scent would be added to the mound of hair as well as white or yellow powder (Cunnington, 1964, p. 112; Durant and Durant, 1967, Part X, p. 905; Hansen, 1956, p. 138-139; Laver, 2002, p. 142). In 1775, the Empress Marie Theresa wrote to her daughter Marie Antoinette: “They say your coiffure rises 36”, and is decorated with a mass of feathers and ribbons which make it even higher” (Dorner, 1974, p. 48-49).
It took hairdressers hours to construct a lofty hairdo. To begin with, the hair was combed up at the sides and pulled over a horsehair pad or cushion stuffed with wool that would sit on top of the head. The hair continued to be pulled and piled up over cushions and rolls, and tiers of false hair and curls were attached with pins and pomade. The sheer weight of the pads pulling on the natural hair gave women a headache. Eventually, the pads were replaced with a wire frame that sat on the head and over which the natural hair was draped. A looped-up plait, and rows of false curls were added as the height increased. Silk ribbons and feathers would often be integrated with the hair. To complete the coiffure at the back, the hair would sometimes be arranged to hang down in a chignon, in a flat loop, or in long curls (Cunnington, 1964, p. 110-112; Hansen, 1956, p. 138-139; Laver, 2002, p. 140).
Rich women could afford to have their hair assembly taken down and re-arranged once a week, but the less wealthy ones hoped that their coiffure would last at least a month or two. In the meantime, the hair became a breeding ground for vermin. A long scratching stick in the shape of little ivory claws was carried by women who would insert the claws into the headdress to relieve the unbearable itching (Durant and Durant, 1967, Part X, p. 905; Hansen, 1956, p. 138-139; Laver, 2002, p. 142).
Wearers of towering wigs faced many challenges. The sheer weight of the enormous coiffures resulted in women suffering neck pain and serious inflammation of the temples. Coiffures were so high that door frames had to be elevated for the ladies to pass through, and as they moved about in a room they had to guard themselves from being ignited by chandeliers. Riding in a carriage was uncomfortable as women had to kneel down to make room for their head (Durant and Durant, 1965, Part IX, p. 75; Hansen, 1956, p. 138-139). Lofty hairdos were subject to criticism. John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican minister, once preached a droll sermon against outrageous coiffures. He stated, “Let him that is upon the house-top not come down” (Laver, 2002, p. 124).
Chignons and Hairpieces in the 1800s. Wigs lost their appeal by the early 1800s, but older women continued to wear them. Also, young women who wanted to relieve themselves of the task of dressing their own hair possessed one or more wigs. In 1802, for example, Martha Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of President Jefferson, wrote a letter to her father asking him to send orders to the milliner for two wigs of the colour of the hair enclosed, and of the most fashionable shapes. She tells her father, “They are universally worn, and will relieve us as to the necessity of dressing our own hair…” (McClellan, 1977, Vol. II, p. 31-32). Depending on the hairstyles in vogue in the 1800s, the usage of false hair and chignons became trendy.
In the early 1800s, the tendency was for women to wear short ringlets over their forehead, part their hair in the middle and coil it at the back. They would sometimes fasten artificial curls (frisettes), long ringlets or braids with combs to their natural hair and decorate their hairdo with, pearls, jeweled ribbons, and flowers. From 1840 until the mid-1860s, women wore chignons at the top of the head with locks of hair failing at either side of the face. A chignon was formed by piling and arranging the natural hair over a type of cushion. By 1864, chignons worn at the back of the head or nape were the in vogue. Women would part their hair at the center and tie it with a knot at the back of the head. Some of them used pre-dressed chignons which they attached to their hair with pins and combs. Women also made use of plenty of false hair arranged in braids, ringlets or curls that cascaded down the back (Gernsheim, 1981, p. 50, 61, 67; McClellan, 1977, Vol. II, p. 55, 128, 242; Tortora and Eubank, 2010, p. 393).
WOMEN’S WIGS AND HAIRPIECES (1900 to date)
In the early 1900s, women’s wigs made slight comebacks but they fell out of favor with the introduction of the new bobbed hairstyles in 1915. With the invention of machine-made wigs in the 1950s, and the usage of synthetic materials such as nylon and acrylic, wigs became affordable thus opening up the market in wig hairdressing (Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015; Random History.com, 2007-2015).
Since the 1950s, black hairdressing improved for women as they could now avoid the time-consuming process of having their hair straightened by wearing an uncurled wig. In the late 1960s, wigs of convenience were widespread as women could drop their wigs off at the hair dresser, have them styled, and pick them up at their convenience. There have also been a number of hairstyles since the 1960s requiring the usage of partial wigs and false hair pieces such as the mounting of false hair on a band, and the piling up of hair and false hair one on top of the other to create the faddish beehive (Love to Know, Corp., 2006-2015).
Nowadays, wigs and false hair pieces no longer have the cachet of popular fashion attire but they are nonetheless considered to be a chic fun apparel that allows people to change on an impulse their coiffure and appearance. Also, by using different colored hair extensions, women can create fanciful hairdos (Carter, 1977, p. 166; Random History.com, 2007-2015).
Hong Kong presently dominates the world market with their mass-produced wigs and hair extensions, and the number of wig boutiques located in major cities are an indicator that there is still a demand for wigs and hair extensions in society. Wig boutiques sell a wide array of colorful and appealing styles of long and short-haired wigs constructed with human hair and out of man-made materials such as mod acrylics. In addition, these boutiques offer numerous types and colors of hair extensions. Modern day wigs are light in weight and constructed with breathable materials making them much more comfortable to wear and to maintain than past wigs.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, wigs as fashion attire flourished at the courts of kings and queens, and the aristocratic elites established the wearing of wigs in polite society as a way to distinguish themselves from the other social classes. Wigs as ceremonial and occupational dress facilitated the recognition of privileged persons who held superior ranks in civil society.
Well-crafted wigs were a costly asset, and like other valuables, they were often willed to heirs. However, being objects of value that were flaunted in public places, wigs attracted daring robbers who were known to snatch a peruke off the head of a person strolling about or when sitting in a hackney coach (McClellan, 1977, Vol. I, Part II, p. 247; Random History.com, 2007-2015; The Hair at the Eighteenth Century).
Men’s cumbersome and ludicrous fashion wigs, and women’s perilous towering coiffures bring to mind the constricting corsets worn by women during the same period of time as these different fashion apparels are examples of the extreme discomfort vain and frivolous people are willing to endure to be perceived and accepted by others as socially fashionable.
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