CALL NOW 888.886.HAIR (4247) Support 247

A History of Wigs & Hairpieces: Then & Now

Wigs and hairpieces have come a long way in terms of design and materials since their invention thousands of years ago, but one thing that hasn’t changed is their fashionable and functional nature. Whether you’re looking to add flair to your style or boost your confidence with a wig or hairpiece, you’re in good company, joining royalty, founding fathers, and fashion icons from throughout the centuries. Here’s a brief history to catch you up:

Ancient Egypt, 2700 b.c.e

Looking at statues and hieroglyphs from ancient Egypt, you might assume that the predominant hairstyle of the time was the structured, straight bob or braids that hung just below the shoulders. But truthfully, what you’re seeing is most likely the depiction of wigs, which were more necessary than optional back then. In the hot, dry climate of the Egyptian desert, people couldn’t let their hair grow long without getting overheated or attracting lice, so most men and women shaved their heads and wore wigs made of human hair, animal hair, palm leaf fibers or wool. 

As wigs become more popular in a functional sense, they started to denote religious piety, social status and wealth, with the most luxurious wigs being made with human hair and beeswax and decorated with gold pleats, beads and ribbons. It’s no surprise that most Egyptians were buried in their wigs so they would look their finest in the afterlife.

Europe, 1500s-1700s

Once again, wigs were introduced into society for purely functional reasons but then evolved to elaborate fashion statements. A syphilis epidemic in Europe in the mid-1500s resulted in hair loss for those infected, and along with a desire to keep natural hair lice-free, simple wigs made of human or animal hair became popular among all classes. King Louis XIV of France famously hid his thinning hair with beautiful, tall wigs in the 1600s, sparking a fad that lasted over a century. High-status men were partial to long, fluffy curls, while women experimented vertically, with large, elaborate hairdos decorated with jewels, ribbons, and even stuffed birds.

Wigs became essential fashion items in Europe and colonial America in the 1700s, and even people in lower classes wore cheaper versions or styled their natural hair to look like wigs. But by the time the French Revolution erupted in 1789, ornate wigs came to symbolize the recently-ousted aristocracy, and wigs of all types fell out of fashion to be replaced with naturally-styled locks.

America, 1900s-2000s

Although wigs had fallen out of fashion by the 1900s, they were—and still are—used for theater, festivals, and other occasions calling for costumes. But there was a rather unfortunate yet practical place for wigs in everyday life, as African Americans were pressured to fit into white society during the reconstruction period after the Civil War. Hair straightened with hot combs and oils became the norm for work, school, church, and other public occasions, but in 1951 African American hairdresser Christina Jenkins invented a better option: the “hair weave,” now known as the “weave,” which is natural or synthetic hair sewn into small, tightly woven braids against the scalp for long-lasting looks and unlimited creative freedom.

Wigs and weaves still play a significant role in African American fashion today. Additionally, wigs of all styles and colors have exploded in popularity with the rise of fan conventions that give people an excuse to dress up outside of Halloween. Celebrities often use wigs for fashion and sometimes even political statements, and American drag queen culture has contributed to the development of bigger, fluffier, more outrageous wigs this century.

Modern Wigs: Real hair vs. Synthetic

Thanks to advancements in technology, modern wigs can either be made of natural human hair or with synthetic hair. Much like real human hair, you can customize your look by styling the wig in between washes. 

Not all human hair wigs are created equal, though, as much of the finished product depends on the processing technique. The chemicals used to strip and sanitize the hair can damage it if not done properly and with high quality chemicals, so it’s important to do your research or consulting with a hair expert before making the investment.

Synthetic wigs are actually much less durable than real human wigs, and typically last about 4-6 months if worn frequently. The benefit of synthetic wigs though, is that they tend to be cheaper than their human hair counterparts, and don’t require re-styling in between washes. Oftentimes, you’re able to wear them straight out of the box, as many come already styled. And with the improvements in materials and production over the past several years, it can be difficult to tell the difference between synthetic hair and human hair in wigs.


Let’s not forget the hairpiece. Wigs for men fell out of fashion by the 1800s, but the golden age of film led to the rise of shorter, natural-looking men’s hairpieces. Cosmetics giant Max Factor developed finely-crafted toupees with human hair sewn into flesh-colored lace. The popularity of these hairpieces quickly spread beyond Hollywood—by 1970 the company claimed about 2.5 million customers for men’s hairpieces. 

Modern Hairpieces

Hairpieces can have a bad rep, but modern hair pieces (if made well) are extremely undetectable by the untrained eye. For those with fine, thinning hair or only partial hair loss, modern hairpieces can be a great alternative to surgical hair loss solutions for both men and women. They come in a variety of colors, base sizes, lengths, and hair types (Similar to wigs, they can be made of either human hair or synthetic hair), and typically blend in with existing hair on your head, easily clipping in place with pressure-sensitive clips. Hairpieces provide coverage in a variety of areas depending on your needs, such as side coverage or full top coverage.

Not to mention, there are removal hairpieces for fuller, longer locks as well. These extensions allow you to transform the look and length of your hair without having to wait years for natural hair growth. These hair extensions are often customizable too, allowing for various lengths and colors..

A full head of hair never goes out of style. Today, there are a number of safe and effective hair restoration options that can restore your hair—and your confidence. Whether you’re looking for subtle or dramatic changes, Ultimate Hair Dynamics has a hair loss solution for you. 

Hair Loss Solutions at Ultimate Hair Dynamics San Diego, CA

Hair thinning and hair loss can happen to anyone, from European kings to modern celebrities. If you’re looking for a hair loss solution, Ultimate Hair Dynamics offers a full range of options for men and women, from undetectable hair systems and extensions to hair integration and surgical solutions.  Everyone’s hair loss is different, and each person requires a customized solution. With over 35 years of hair restoration experience, Ultimate Hair Dynamics is the most trusted hair replacement and restoration clinic in San Diego. We’re confident we can find a solution that helps you look and feel your best.  Fill out our contact form or call us at (619) 298-1111 to schedule a free, private consultation today.