Who invented wigs? What is the history of wigs? Why did people want to wear wigs in the past? You can find the answers to these questions in this article.

Today, women prefer wearing wigs for beautiful hair. It is also possible to wear wigs due to hair problems. In the past, wigs symbolized wealth, power, or status. Yet, wigs were also associated with aging, poor health conditions, and hair problems. But, who invented wigs? Why did people want to wear wigs? I have been curious about this for a long time. And, I make a little search and write the answers I find in this article.    

What is A Wig?

A wig, also periwig or peruke, is an accessory used as an ornament for hair or head. It can be made from either real human hair or artificial materials like wool or synthetic fibers. When it is made from human hair, it is more permanent and natural-looking but also expensive. The American Academy of Dermatology says that hair grows about 1/2 inch per month on average.  That's a grand total of about 6 inches per year for the hair on your head.  On the other hand, there are less women willing to donate their hair. So, the 100% human hair wig is more rare than before. And its also the reason why human hair wig can sell for as much as $ 1,500.

But, who first invented wigs? The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans,  Assyrians, Japanese, Chinese and Phoenicians used wigs. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that the Ancient Egyptians first used wings, so they are the inventor. They used wigs to protect their shaved or bald head against the sun.   

On the other hand, after the disappearance of the Western Roman Empire, wigs lost their popularity. They could only become popular beginning from the 16th century. Therefore, I can divide the history of wigs into two periods: ancient wigs and modern wigs. Now, let’s dive into how different civilizations and nations used wigs and why they wore wigs.



Who Invented Ancient Wigs?

As I said above, historians commonly agreed that the Ancient Egyptians invented wigs. However, other civilizations living in the same period also used wigs. Thus, we cannot say who actually invented wigs. I think it would be better to focus on how and why old civilizations used wigs rather than who invented them.

The Ancient Egyptians

The Ancient Egyptians made wigs from human hair, wool, and palm fiber. Also, they made and used wigs made from metal or wood for important ceremonies. They liked ornamenting wigs with beads, ribbons, jewelry, or flowers. When it comes to why Ancient wore wigs, people usually shaved their hair in Ancient Egypt. As a result, they needed to protect their shaved head against the sun. Consequently, wearing wigs was a good solution for such protection. In addition, people with a high status wore more elaborate wigs for showing their status.

The Greeks

For the Greeks, natural hair was sacred. So, mostly, they preferred having their natural hair. At the same time, some people wore wigs for both hair problems and aesthetic purposes. 

The Romans

The Romans wore wigs for beauty or status, not for practical reasons like sun protection or balding. Both men and women liked wearing wigs. Wigs were usually made from hair taken from slaves. Especially wigs made from the blonde hair of Germanic slaves and from the black hair of Indian slaves were Romans’ favorite. They ornamented wigs with braids having contrasting colors. Rich women preferred wearing more elaborate and voluminous wigs. Wigs were an important part of their hairstyle.  

The Japanese

In Japanese songs and dances, you can see traces of wigs. The Japanese used flowers, stems, or grass to decorate their hair. Higher classes preferred wigs for showing their status. Women wore wigs in social events like wedding ceremonies. Wigs were made from hairs taken from one’s own hair. Women used wigs together with buns.

Who Invented Modern Wigs?

As I said before, wigs lost their popularity after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. They came to be popular again after French King Louis XIV wore a wig in the 17th century. King Louis XIV had a thinning hair problem. At first, he tried to solve this problem by adding false pieces to his hair. Then, he decided to completely shave his hair and wear a wig.

Afterward, people wore wigs all across Europe for either showing status and for aesthetic purposes, apart from for hair problems, and wigs have evolved into their modern forms of today.   

Modern Wigs in England

We can say that the English borrowed the modern wig from the French. Charles II had to live in exile in France for years. When he returned to England and became the king, he took the custom of wearing wigs in French royalty to England along with other hairstyles. Shoulder-length wigs among English men soon became popular. Although people avoid wearing wigs for the fear of the infection of plague, the contagious disease at that time, at certain times, they continued to wear wigs. People felt they had to wear wigs in higher ranks, and wearing wigs became obligatory in courts.

Modern Wigs in the 18th Century

Powdered wigs became extremely popular in the 18th century. Powdering wigs gave them a white color.  Women did not prefer wearing wigs but wore coiffures with artificial hair. Women also powdered these coiffures so that they would have grey color. Wearing powdered wigs and coiffures became an indispensable part of the overall apparel in special events. Wearing powdered wigs was rather tedious and messy, so young people gave up powdered wigs and preferred simpler wigs. A tax was levied on wigs in England in 1795. That’s why wigs began to lose their popularity beginning from this date.

Modern Wigs in the 19th Century   

Wigs were no more significant for social status in the USA or France in the 19th century. For example, only four American presidents wore wigs in this century. On the other hand, women continued to wear wigs, as they wore in the 18th century, but they wore smaller wigs. Full wigs were only worn by old women or for health reasons.

Modern Wigs Today

Today, especially women wear wigs mainly for a good look. Wigs have become an essential element of women's fashion. A wide range of people from celebrities to ordinary people like wearing wigs. As a result, the wig industry was born. Thanks to this industry, you can have access to your favorite wigs with different hairstyles.


All in all, if you want to change your hairstyle by wearing a wig, there are lots of choices for you. Simply make a search on the internet, choose your favorite wig among hundreds of options, and place your order. 

November 10, 2021 — Camila Witman

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