Perukes or periwigs for men were introduced into the English-speaking world with other French styles when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, following a lengthy exile in France.
These wigs were shoulder-length or longer, imitating the long hair that had become fashionable among men since the 1620s. Their use soon became popular in the English court.
With wigs becoming virtually obligatory garb for men of virtually any significant social rank, wig makers gained considerable prestige.
A wigmakers' guild was established in France in 1665, a development soon copied elsewhere in Europe.
Their job was a skilled one as 17th century wigs were extraordinarily elaborate.
Towering wigs covered the back and shoulders and flowed down the chest; not surprisingly, they were also extremely heavy and often uncomfortable to wear.
Also, such wigs were expensive to produce; the best were made from natural human hair, hair of horses, goats, and yak was often used as a cheaper alternative.
The 18th century, better known as Rococo, was the flowering period of wigs. Wigs gained enormously in importance and were adopted as a status symbol by both men and women. In the 18th century, both men and women's wigs were powdered in order to give them their distinctive white or off-white color.
Wig powder was made from finely ground starch scented with orange flower, lavender, or orris root, and was occasionally colored violet, blue, pink or yellow, but most often white.
Powdered wigs became an essential for full dress occasions and continued in use until almost the end of the 18th century. Powdering wigs was messy and inconvenient and the development of the naturally white or off-white powderless wig (made of horsehair) is no doubt what has made the retention of wigs in everyday court dress a practical possibility.
By the 1780s, young men were setting a fashion trend by lightly powdering their natural hair. After 1790, both wigs and powder were reserved for older more conservative men, and were in use by ladies being presented at court.
In 1795, the English government levied a tax on hair powder of one guinea per year. This tax effectively caused the demise of both the fashion for wigs and powder by 1800.
During the 18th century, men's wigs became smaller and more formal with several professions adopting them as part of their official costumes. This tradition still survives in modern times.