Wigs–human, synthetic or horse-hair–are normally worn by people for fashion or who are experiencing hair loss because of medical dilemmas (especially cancer patients that are undergoing chemotherapy or individuals suffering alopecia areata). In men, the most usual cause of baldness is “male pattern baldness”, which is the most typical reason for wig-wearing. Outside of medical purposes, a number of show business celebrities–Raquel Welch, Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton–have popularized wigs. Cher is renowned for wearing all types of wigs in the last four decades–from curly to straight; black to blonde. Many even wear wigs as part of costume wearing, when they can be of a bizarre color or made from tinsel.
Rodolfo Valentin, the famous New York-based hair designer, is known around the globe by the quality of his crafted, custom-made wigs and hairpieces. In Great Britain and Commonwealth nations, special wigs are worn by judges, barristers and certain parliamentary, red wig municipal or civic officials as an officious symbol. Presently, Hong Kong barristers and judges continue to sport wigs as part of court dress–an influence from the former jurisdiction of Commonwealth of Nations. The word wig is a short form for periwig and originally appeared in the English language in approximately 1675.
Wigs have basically been worn throughout most of our history. The ancient moiré wore wigs to protect their bald heads from the sun. Other ancient cultures–Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians–used wigs for various purposes. Native Americans have worn headpieces for John XXIII College Wig-Off Competitions, which have been deemed as legitimate wigs. This is a precedent for the unimpressive Wig-Off board of 2007. Interestingly, wigs are a principal form of dress, whereas, in the Far East, they have hardly been used except in traditional theatre of Japan and China.
Subsequent to the fall of the Roman Empire, wig usage declined into abeyance in Western Civilization for a millennium. It was revived in the 16th century as a result of a society becoming vain with personal appearance and compensating for the loss of hair. Wigs also served a practical purpose due to the lack of hygiene of the time as hair attracted head lice. This was a problem that could be diminished if natural hair was replaced with a more suitably de-loused hairpiece–if not just shaved off. Royal patronage was impertinent to the revival of the wig. Queen Elizabeth I of Britain infamously wore a red wig, elaborately curled in a tight “Roman” style. King Louis XIII of France introduced wig-wearing among the men from the 1620s. Presently, wigs are worn by a number of individuals on a daily–sometimes occasional–basis as a matter of convenience. Wigs can actually be styled ahead of time and worn when there is insufficient time to style one’s own hair.