The other day we were watching The Favourite – great movie, by the way – and every time male characters appeared on the screen a question arose in my mind: why on Earth did they wear wigs for? Set at the start of the XVIII, during Queen Anne’s short reign, male characters in The Favourite wear long, whitish and very curly wigs that look very obviously fake and honestly quite itchy and uncomfortable. And apparently they were.
The trend came from France, when the fashionable King Louis XIV started wearing them after noticing a receding hairline on his previously voluptuous and admirable hair. The poor guy couldn’t deal with his own baldness, so he decided to wear a wig to compensate for the lack of natural hair. Such a wig required 40 highly experienced wig makers – good times were coming for the trade – and soon after his royal head was set up for success.
The best wigs were made with human hair, but cheaper options made with horse or goat hair were also available. Wigs were heavy and not very comfy, and they were added on top of a small cap that served as a protecting layer for a recently shaved head.
But – you know – everyone wanted to be as fashionable as the King of France! And, I mean, who can blame them.
Flash-forward a hundred years, and it’s the XVIII century, when men started adding white powder to their wigs because – well – why not? Apparently women powdered theirs – not a full-on wig, but rather a coiffure - grey or blue but off-white hair was left for their male counterparts.
Powdered wigs (men) and powdered natural hair with supplemental hairpieces (women) became essential for full dress occasions and continued in use until almost the end of the 18th century. - Wikipedia
During the XVIII century, however, the wig-wearing trend started losing its former shine and wigs became smaller and more formal, being used as part of a uniform for certain professions. Understandably, wigs became a fashion faux pas in France after the French Revolution, as they were perceived as a ‘royal’ accessory.
This is some information that most people probably didn’t need, but in case someone wants to delve deeper into the matter, here are a couple of resources I used to write this brief note: