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The Evolution of the Wig

Posted on 26 January 2017

On rainy afternoons here in Portland, it is always relaxing to snuggle up by a fire with a hot cup of coffee and dive into a large stack of vintage Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines. Can you relate?

On this particular afternoon, amidst the gorgeous fashion editorials and human interest pieces, the ads jumped off the page in a fascinating way.

After the third or fourth issue, a common theme could be traced: skin care, makeup, weight loss, and... WIGS!

When you read about the history of wigs, the evolution moves from the Egyptians to other ancient civilizations, and on to King Louis XIII who was presumably bald. Various hair pieces and elaborate wigs were popular among French and other European royalty into the 18th century, becoming a part of the British court system that still exists today. Black women have used wigs throughout the entire 20th century, but other wig styles dropped in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century, with many people opting for natural hair styles.

 

16th and 17th Century Powdered Wigs and Hair Pieces

 

That was until 1968, when there was a huge rise in wig sales. Mass produced acrylic wigs burst on the scene for the first time and quickly oversold their handmade predecessor. These wigs arrived at the perfect time, offering a cheaper, washable accessory that was up to the challenge of keeping up with the quickly changing styles of the time.

This wig boom was evident in the advertisements of the time, showing off the endless possibilities for these fun and exciting tresses.

 

Gray Vintage 1971 Acrylic Wig

Kanekalon acrylic wig ad featured in Vogue, March 1, 1971

 

I can see the appeal of these affordable accessories! You could change your look in an instant, going from waist-length braids to a mod pixie in minutes without committing to a big cut.

Vintage 1971 Vogue article about wigs
"Easy Does It: The Prettiest Hair on the Block" article on wig maintenance in Vogue, April 1, 1971

 

American Woman's Weekly ad for Wigs
Summer fashion editorial in The American Woman's Weekly, September 23, 1970

 

You could pick out and order your favorite styles right out of the magazine!

 

Various Mail-In Wig Advertisements Vintage Wig Advertisements

 1970s Vintage Wig AdvertisementVintage Mail in Order Form For Wigs

 

Who was the ultimate hair chameleon? The one and only Diana Ross.

 

Diana Ross Vintage Natural Hairstyles and Wigs

 

From au naturale, to brilliant bouffant wigs, Diana Ross is the queen of hair.

 

Since the 1980's, the wig itself seems to have completely dropped out of modern advertisements. Hair extensions and their ability to quickly turn a short bob into luscious locks have taken their place, offering a more natural look.

 

I can't wait to see the next stage of hair adornment, and perhaps a resurgence of these creative and fun accessories! Which wig would you want?SaveSaveSaveSaveSav

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2 comments

  • Melinda: January 26, 2017

    I think wigs are so much better now because they use human hair and you can’t tell that they are wigs! Maybe a lot of people wear them and we just don’t know!!Loved the photos!

  • Bridget: January 26, 2017

    I wish they’d come back! It would make life so much easier :)

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