When Were Wigs First Worn?
The wearing of wigs by both men and women dates from our earliest recorded history. Wigs have been found on Egyptian mummies, and the appearance of the frizzled-out hair on some of the figures on the frescoes at Knossos suggests that wigs were also familiar to the ancient civilization of Crete.
The Medes and Persians also wore artificial hair, and Greek women were using hairpieces by the 4th Century BC. The Romans began wearing wigs in the early years of the Empire. The word wig is a shortened version of periwig, which is derived from the French perruque. It was in 17th-Century France that wigs began to assume their greatest glory as features of men’s fashion.
Louis Xiv, who was very proud of his own hair when he was young, did not wear a wig until after 1670 when he was in his 40s. From Versailles, the fashion then spread throughout Europe. During the first decade of the 18th Century men’s wigs reached their maximum size, covering shoulders and back, floating down over the chest.
After that they gradually became smaller until, for normal wear, they disappeared. In recent years wigs have again become popular with women and the wearing of artificial hairpieces has become an accepted device among men. Some people wear wigs to disguise baldness; a wig may be used as a less intrusive and less expensive alternative to medical therapies for restoring hair or for religious reasons.
Wigs are worn by some people on a daily or occasional basis in everyday life. This is sometimes done for reasons of convenience, since wigs can be styled ahead of time. They are also worn by individuals who are experiencing hair loss due to medical reasons (most commonly cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or those who are suffering from alopecia areata). Some men who crossdress as women wear wigs in different styles to make their hair seem more feminine.