The custom of men wearing wigs was actually started by French King Louis XIII who wore a wig to cover his premature balding. By the 1700s, wearing a wig was very popular among English and French nobles. Wig soon became a distinctive status symbol of the upper class. Certain professions adopted the wigs as part of their official costume, a condition that continues even today in the British legal system.
Wigs can be made from horse, goat or yak hair but the most desirable and expensive ones are made from human hair. Wig wearing also caught on in America. As in Europe, wigs in America were a symbol of wealth and status.
Some rich people even bought wigs for the slaves working into their homes to show their upper-class status. Most of American’s founding fathers belonged to the privileged class and many of them followed the wig-wearing trend. But not all of them: (the article continues after the ad)
For example, George Washington kept his long hair and never wore a wig even though he powdered his hair as it was the custom. On the other hand, Banjamin Franklin didn’t wear a wig or powdered his hair.
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Photo: JHU Sheridan Libraries
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