It may not be general knowledge, but the history of the toupee stretches back into antiquity – as far back as 3100 BC, in fact, while the first mention of modern wigs was in 1675. ‘Wig’ is an abbreviation for ‘Periwig’ and denotes any covering made from a variety of materials (including man-made materials, animal or human hair) manufactured to conceal baldness. The motive for adopting a wig or toupee is essentially the same in modern times – but the quality of the individual products can vary wildly.
The extremely hot climate faced by Ancient Egyptians led them to adopt the practice of shaving their heads in order to maintain a level of comfort. An added benefit of a clean-shaven head was to keep lice infestations under control. Those who wore wigs were generally of high social status – and the wearing of wigs also had another practical purpose – it protected the head from direct sunlight. The wigs are worn by higher-status women also served a decorative function, being more elaborate than those worn by the men of Egypt. The women’s wigs were often interwoven with gold thread, ivory, and other ornamentation. The wigs themselves were manufactured from fibrous materials such as wool, vegetable fibers, and even human hair. These wigs were voluminous – sticking out in all directions.
The use of wigs in the Far East took a different path. They were an important part of the costumes used in the theater during traditional Kabuki or Noh performances. The Spring and Autumn periods (770 BC – 476 BC) of China’s history saw a growth in the popularity of wigs. The ceremonial use of wigs was widespread and was a useful indicator of the social status of those who wore them.
Toupees, on the other hand, were a product that was used for vanity purposes – to hide baldness which could have negative social results.
The 16th to 18th Centuries
By the 16th Century, the use of wigs was growing more popular – and royalty was indulging in more and more elaborate headpieces and wigs. Queen Elizabeth 1 was well known for her love of wigs. Once again – the popularity of wigs had much to do with protecting one natural hair from lice infestations. Around 1660 the Periwig began to become popular among men of high social status in the English-speaking world, a trend that had its beginnings in the English court. These headpieces were shoulder-length (or sometimes longer). By the 17th Century, the popularity of wigs had caused their designers and manufacturers to produce intricate wigs that were more art than simply functional. In fact, these wigs were uncomfortable (and expensive) and were not designed to be worn for extended periods of time. They were manufactured using either human-sourced or horsehair.
Styles changed – and by the 18th-century, men wore wigs that were powdered white (or off-white). Women wore coiffures that were either blu-grey or grey. The powder was made using starch and scented with additives such as lavender or orris-root. Powdering was incredibly messy and time-consuming; however, for full dress occasions, a well-powdered wig was essential. This limited the use of wigs until new manufacturing materials and methods allowed for the production of naturally white wigs, which could be worn every day. At the end of the 18th Century, a tax on the use of hair powder in England was introduced, which had the effect of gradually lessening the attraction of wigs – which finally went out of fashion.
For those interested in the history of wigs, ‘The Five Orders of Periwigs’ by William Hogarth 1761 (above) provides a fascinating insight into the different styles prevalent in the 18th Century.
The 19th and 20th Century
This was a period that saw toupees increase in popularity due to changing perceptions surrounding aging. Men wanted to preserve the appearance of youth – and this was made easier using a toupee. One of the most respected designers and manufacturers was Max Factor – their toupees showed incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail. The toupees were based on flesh-colored lace, and the sewing was so fine it was almost invisible. Hollywood actors especially valued the quality of these wigs. Wigs became increasingly popular, and it is estimated that by 1950 around 350,000 men in the United States were wearing hairpieces (out of a potential 15 million). By the close of 1969, that number had increased to 2.5 million.
The 21st Century.
Today the manufacturing center for wigs is no longer the United States but rather Asia. Qingdao, China, is home to Lordhair, which ships directly to consumers. This provides wearers with excellent value for money – there are no charges added on by the middleman. Consumers get extremely high-quality products in the form of hair systems at great prices. It is extremely easy to order your hair system. Visit Lordhair.com to view the full range – and the customization options which will provide you with a unique hair system solution made to suit your lifestyle and needs.