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8/18/14

Hair History : Powdered Wigs

Blame King Louis XIII of France. The French monarchy had long suffered from a hereditary condition of embarrassing male pattern baldness, and so, tired of being mocked by the King of England, Louis wore a wig to show that he was the most virile king around. Before long, his unconventional style became a fashion statement in the royal court, with most of the king's men adopting the elaborate hairpieces, whether they were bald or not. With France being the center of European culture in the 17th century, anything that was sexy in France quickly spread to the rest of Europe. As aristocrats tried to outdo one another, the wigs, called perukes or periwigs, became more and more fabulous. This led to the creation of a whole industry of wig-makers, who established their own guild in 1665. The wigs became such a part of the culture that you had to wear a wig to move upward in society. By the late 1700s, men were pouring a starch-based powder over their wigs to make them as white as possible. The wig craze died in England when the government sensed a money-making opportunity and imposed a hefty tax on hair powder. At the same time, the French Revolution made it uncool to be seen in public wearing a symbol of the aristocracy. But until then, the peruke phenomenon had been one of the most long-standing and weirdest fashion crazes in European history.