After the fall of the Roman Empire, in the Middle Ages (1200 to 1400), wigs lost their importance. It was customary for young women to wear their hair long, whereas married women covered it with a scarf or a cap. This was to comply with the command issued in Apostle Paul's First Letter to Corinthians: to stress womenâ€™s dependence on their husbands only them had the right to see their heads uncovered.
The 16th century (also known as the Renaissance) saw a revival of the wig as a means of compensating for hair loss or improving one's personal appearance. They also served a practical purpose: the unhygienic conditions of the time meant that hair attracted head lice, a problem that could be much reduced if natural hair were shaved and replaced with a more easily de-loused artificial hairpiece. Fur hoods were also used in a similar preventive fashion.
Royal patronage was crucial to the revival of the wig. Queen Elizabeth I of England famously wore a red wig, tightly and elaborately curled in a Roman style.
King Louis XIII of France (1601-1643) became prematurely bald and pioneered the use of wigs from 1620 onwards.
During his reign, the Allonge wig for men was invented and became an important part of every garment. At this time, wigs were mainly made of human or animal hair.
His similarly follicle-challenged son, King Louis XIV (1638-1715), also known as Le Roi Soleil (the Sun King) took wig usage to a whole new level.
During his reign he built the ChÃ¢teau de Versailles, a large and extravagant royal residence and moved there the court life from Paris. He created an elaborate court style at Versailles, that included forty-eight wig makers.
King Louis XIV was dictating men's fashion at the time with his sophisticated style, and his exuberant taste for luxury.
Marie Antoinette, born in the imperial house of Austria, last queen of France. Here depicted wearing the classical pouf style wig.
Among women in the French court of Versailles in the mid-to-late 18th century, large, elaborate and often themed (such as the stereotypical "boat wigs") were in vogue for women.
These wigs were often very heavy, weighted down with pomades, powders, and other ornamentation.
In the late 18th century these wigs (along with many other indulgences in court life) became symbolic of the decadence of the French nobility, which only helped to fuel the French Revolution.