Why Did Men Wear Powdered Wigs in the 1700s?
Although wig wearing dates back to ancient times, the fad of wearing powdered wigs was popular during the 1600s and 1700s. The fashion started in France when Louis XIV began wearing one to hide his baldness.
The seventeen year old King and his cousin began sporting wigs, which the aristocrats instantly copied which created a hierarchical trend that issued from the crown downwards. Soon every fashionable man in Europe wore a wig as a flattering imitation of royalty.
Wigs then became large and heavy, and expensive. Wigs were crafted from horse, goat and human hair and were coated with powder, dyed white or grey and scented with lavender or citrus to mask foul odors.
Usually they were powdered white. Families had special rooms for “toilette”, where they arranged and powdered their artificial hair. Wigs were powdered with starch or Cyprus powder.
To powder wigs, people used special dressing gowns, and covered their faces with a cone of thick paper. To wear them men had to shave off their own hair. A man who wore one was called a “bigwig.”
English judges began wearing wigs in the days of Queen Anne, and still wear them today.