wig, arrangement of artificial or human hair worn to conceal baldness, as a disguise, or as part of a costume, either theatrical, ceremonial, or fashionable. In ancient Egypt the wig was worn to protect the head from the sun; short-haired and in many tiers or long and thickly plaited, the wig was an ingenious structure and rather formalized in appearance. Roman women, who favored light hair, often wore blond wigs. The wig came into popular fashion in Europe in the 17th cent. First worn in France during the reign of Louis XIII, who himself wore a wig of long curls that was meant to simulate real hair, the fashion became widespread during the reign of Charles II of England. As human hair was both difficult to obtain and expensive, the hair of horses and goats was often used. The natural wig eventually gave way to the formal peruke or periwig. Later (c.1690) scented pomade and white powder of starch and plaster of Paris were used on the wigs; pink, gray, and blue powder were fashionable as the fad grew. At its height during the reign of Louis XV, the powdered wig was out of fashion by 1794. The periwig gradually gave way to a smaller wig with horizontal curls above the ears and with the back drawn into a loose queue and tied with a bow. By 1788 men began to wear their own hair tied at the back (and sometimes powdered) in imitation of a wig; wigs however continued their hold on the professional classes and can be seen today in the official dress of English courts. After 1800, as long hair for men lost favor, the wig became a part of women's fashions. Today the use of the wig is dictated by fashion.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
a covering of hair for the head, made of human hair, animal hair, or synthetic material sewn onto a cloth foundation. Wigs were widely worn in ancient Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and other countries. They were very popular in ancient Greece and Rome from the first century A.D., mainly among women. Wigs were introduced in Europe at the end of the 16th century. They became obligatory for the nobility and the state employees in the 18th century but at the end of the century went out of style. Wigs have continued to be traditional for judges in a number of foreign countries into the 20th century. In the late 1960’s, wigs again became fashionable for everyday wear. Wigs are used in the theater and in films to alter an actor’s appearance and achieve certain make-up effects. Trick wigs, with concealed mechanisms, are sometimes used in the circus.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.