Why Did Individuals Put on Powdered Wigs
For almost two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the trend. The chic hairpiece would have by no means become well-liked, nonetheless, if it hadn’t been for a venereal illness, a pair of self-acutely aware kings, and poor hair hygiene.
The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had turn into the worst epidemic to strike Europe for the reason that Black Death. Based on William Clowes, an “infinite multitude” of syphilis patients clogged London’s hospitals, and more filtered in each day. Without antibiotics, victims confronted the full brunt of the illness: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and patchy hair loss. Baldness swept the land.
At the time, hair loss was a one-means ticket to public embarrassment. Lengthy hair was a trendy standing symbol, and a bald dome may stain any popularity. When Samuel Pepys’s brother acquired syphilis, the diarist wrote, “If [my brother] lives, he will be unable to point out his head—which will likely be a really great disgrace to me.” Hair was that massive of a deal.
And so, the syphilis outbreak sparked a surge in wigmaking. Victims hid their baldness, as well because the bloody sores that scoured their faces, with wigs product of horse, goat, or human hair. Perukes were also coated with powder—scented with lavender or orange—to hide any funky aromas. Though common, wigs were not exactly trendy. They were only a shameful necessity. That changed in 1655, when the King of France began losing his hair.
Louis XIV was solely 17 when his mop began thinning. Worried that baldness would harm his repute, Louis hired forty eight wigmakers to save lots of his image. Five years later, the King of England—Louis’s cousin, Charles II—did the same thing when his hair began to grey (each males likely had syphilis). Courtiers and different aristocrats instantly copied the 2 kings. They sported wigs, and the style trickled down to the higher-middle class. Europe’s newest fad was born.
The cost of wigs increased, and perukes grew to become a scheme for flaunting wealth. An everyday wig value about 25 shillings—a week’s pay for a common Londoner. The invoice for large, elaborate perukes ballooned to as high as 800 shillings. The phrase “bigwig” was coined to describe snobs who could afford big, poufy perukes.
When Louis and Charles died, wigs stayed around. Perukes remained in style because they were so practical. On the time, head lice have been in every single place, and nitpicking was painful and time-consuming. Wigs, however, curbed the problem. Lice stopped infesting people’s hair—which needed to be shaved for virgin fantasy hair the peruke to fit—and camped out on wigs as a substitute. Delousing a wig was much simpler than delousing a head of hair: you’d ship the dirty headpiece to a wigmaker, who would boil the wig and remove the nits.
By the late 18th century, the trend was dying out. French residents ousted the peruke through the Revolution, and Brits stopped wearing wigs after William Pitt levied a tax on hair powder in 1795. Brief, natural hair became the brand new craze, and it will keep that approach for an additional two centuries or so.