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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 177-178  

Unraveling the locks of wigs: A historical analysis

1 School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wrexham, UK
2 Department of Dermatology, Wrexham Maelor Hospital, Wrexham, UK

Date of Web Publication19-Aug-2019

Correspondence Address:
Miss Yakeen Hafouda
School of Medicine, UHW Main Building, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijt.ijt_68_19

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How to cite this article:
Hafouda Y, Yesudian PD. Unraveling the locks of wigs: A historical analysis. Int J Trichol 2019;11:177-8

How to cite this URL:
Hafouda Y, Yesudian PD. Unraveling the locks of wigs: A historical analysis. Int J Trichol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 12];11:177-8. Available from: https://www.ijtrichology.com/text.asp?2019/11/4/177/264729


A wig is a covering of artificial hair for the head made from synthetic or natural hair. Currently, in dermatology, wigs are used to help minimize the psychological consequences of hair loss in patients. Throughout history, wigs have often had a deep-seated cultural and societal value with correlations to wealth and positions of power.

The word “wig” itself derives from the term “periwig,”[1] which was first used in the English language in 1675 by William Shakespeare in his famous play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In an emotional outburst, the character of Julia looks at a picture of her love rival and exclaims, “Her hair is auburn, mine is perfect yellow: If that be all the difference in his love, I'll get me such a colour'd periwig” (Act IV, Scene IV).[2]

The art of wig-making can be dated back to Ancient Egypt.[1] The earliest specimen was found in a female burial at Hierakonpolis dating from c.3400 BC. Predominantly worn by the elite of Egyptian society, wigs served a dual purpose: they signaled high rank in Egypt's strict social hierarchy and helped protect shaven scalps (a sign of nobility) from the sun. Wigs also helped maintain hygiene levels by reducing the incidence of head lice.

The establishment of the Roman Empire (c.27 BC) reignited this trend and elaborate wigs became a fashion accessory for wealthy women. Baldness was seen as unattractive in men and so many opted to attach hairpieces onto their scalps.[3] Other ancient cultures that used wigs include Phoenicians, Assyrians, and the Greeks.

Historical records show that wigs fell into abeyance for several centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. There was a resurgence during the 16th century in Old Regime Europe. The trend of wigs was popularized by French and English royalty, notably Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) and the French courts of Louis XIII (1601–1643) and Louis XIV (1638–1715).[4] Queen Elizabeth herself was reported to own no <80 wigs. The Restoration of King Charles II (1630–1685) from the French Court in 1660 further ignited the trend in Britain and wigs quickly became an aristocratic ornament for the upper-class households of both nations. In France, the rate of emerging master wigmakers outpaced population growth during the 18th century – “there is no neighbourhood (in Paris) where one does not find many of them.”[5] Later, fashions in the 1700s included powdered wigs, or “perukes,” with affluent households even demanding their coachmen and butlers wear them. Many would shave their heads to make wigs more comfortable. By the 19th century, men had completely ceased wearing wigs, preferring natural and shorter hairstyles.

Although wigs have seen a revival in the modern day, they no longer carry a weight in social hierarchy. Types of wigs commonly used today include those for fun and dress-up, legal wigs, and finally wigs to cover hair loss. Conditions such as alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia, and scarring alopecia can inflict a devastating impact on a person's psychological well-being; therefore, wigs can help patients cope with the emotional distress of hair loss; they are a minimally intrusive and cheap alternative to other hair loss therapies.

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Conflicts for interest

There are no conflicts for interest.

   References Top

Banka N, Bunagan MJ, Dubrule Y, Shapiro J. Wigs and hairpieces: Evaluating dermatologic issues. Dermatol Ther 2012;25:260-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Act IV. Scene IV. William Shakespeare 1914. The Oxford Shakespeare Bartleby.com; 2019. Available from: https://www.bartleby.com/70/1244.html. [Last accessed on 2019 Jun 12].  Back to cited text no. 2
Bunting S, Leslie K, Levell N. Be damned or be beautiful: The history of alopecia and wigs. JAAD 2005;52:33.  Back to cited text no. 3
Cheesbrough MJ. Wigs. BMJ 1989;299:1455-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kwass M. Big hair: A wig history of consumption in eighteenth-century France. Am Hist Rev 2006;111:631-59.  Back to cited text no. 5

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