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Wigs First Appeared in 1550 BC Africa

by Shelby Hawkins on June 23, 2018

Archaeologist Ticia Verveer is extremely accomplished in her field. She has 18 years of excavation experience in the Middle East, the Sahel and North Africa. Verveer is also a Maternal Health Ambassador for Global Fund for Women, a leading foundation in gender equality.

Recently the acclaimed archaeologist took to Twitter to provide some interesting insight on the history of wigs in ancient Thebes.

Originally, wigs were made of human and included two colors. A lighter shade with loose curls sat on top of a straighter, darker hair braided into two long single braids.

Presented in various styles, these wigs date back as far as 1550 to 1292 BC.

The existence of wigs led to the invention of the hair curler, which were purposefully made for the wigs. These small pieces of metal were heated then applied to the hair, much like modern day ones.

Unlike modern day wigs, ancient ones did not have closure of lace fronts, but the hair could easily fall apart. In order to combat this, certain pomades, hair creams and beeswax was applied to hold the pieces together.

Beeswax still is the most common ingredient added in lip balm, skin and hair products. For varying colors, the ancients found henna to yield the best outcome.

How Were Wigs Popularized?

Men and women alike donned the wigs, usually for festivals or celebrations. Interestingly enough, men’s wigs were more elaborate than women’s. Their female counterparts opted for more natural-looking styles. Elaborate wigs and cologne identified wealth in early society.

Wigs were also used for practical reasons. In ancient Egypt, women and men often shaved their heads, and so the false hair would provide their scalp protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Later, the trend migrated to Greece and Rome where the aristocrats adopted wigs as a sign of status during the renaissance era. Likewise, they were found on the heads of nobility in the Elizabethan era, and utilized during performances as well.

Archaically known as “perwigs”, William Shakespeare even mentioned the popularization of these new hair trends in his works.

While nobility and kings regularly displayed and popularized powdered wigs, or perukes, they really became prevalent after a syphilis outbreak. Victims of the venereal infection hid hair loss and bloody sores on their face with large wigs.

Today wigs are a widely adorned fashion accessory, which can either be elaborate or natural looking. They can also be enlisted to help hide alopecia, thinning and baldness; wigs are often used as a disguise costume, or a protective style for natural hair.


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Shelby Hawkins
My name is Shelby, like the mustang, and I am an avid lover of photography, literature and desserts. I identify as a proud feminist and Pan-Africanist; hopefully that manifests in my writing.