Research, Technology

Why 17th century men wore curly wigs. You 100% saw them in old paintings

If you look at the portrait of any aristocratXVII century, you will notice that they all wore huge wigs with snow-white curls on their heads. They are called allonges and for several centuries have been a symbol of wealth and high status. The appearance of an aristocrat in public without a luxurious wig was considered a shame, so we will never know how the representatives of the upper strata of society of past centuries looked without them. Perhaps this is even good, because initially these wigs were intended to disguise deformities that arose due to a terrible sexually transmitted disease - syphilis. In this article, we invite you to learn how an infectious disease and a pair of shy kings caused the fashion to wear wigs. Believe me, you will discover a lot of new things for yourself.

White wigs with long curls have become fashionable due to a dangerous disease


  • 1 Symptoms and ways of transmission of syphilis
  • 2 Syphilis epidemic in Europe
  • Why do men wear wigs in old paintings?
  • 4 Why men wore white wigs even after the epidemic

Symptoms and ways of transmission of syphilis

Syphilis is a dangerous sexually transmitted diseasewhich is manifested by damage to the skin, mucous membranes, bones and nervous system. The skin of a person infected with syphilis becomes covered with a pale rash (“necklace of Venus”), the lymph nodes are enlarged, there are mild ailments with a slightly elevated body temperature and cough. Also, a person's hair begins to fall out, up to complete baldness.

The causative agent of syphilis Treponema pallidum

Syphilis is caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria. Basically, the disease is transmitted sexually, but sometimes through the things of an infected person.

See also: The most rare and unusual diseases in the world

Syphilis epidemic in Europe

In 1580, syphilis became one of the worstdiseases since the Black Plague. The English surgeon William Clowes wrote that an endless number of patients with syphilis filled the London hospitals, and every day there were more and more of them. Antibiotics did not exist then, so patients suffered from the full effects of infection: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and hair loss.

Death Comes to the Banquet Table by Giovanni Martinelli

In those days, long hair was in fashion, sono one wanted to walk with a bald head - the reputation instantly fell below the plinth. When the brother of an English official, Samuel Pepys, contracted syphilis, he wrote in his diary:

If my brother survives, he will not be able to show his head, which will be a very great shame for me.

Why do men wear wigs in old paintings?

To hide the disfigured skin and baldness, the victimssyphilis began to wear wigs. They were made from horse or human hair - usually the hair of executed people was used. Sometimes wigs were covered with lavender or orange-scented powder to hide unpleasant odors.

"Portrait of a Man in an Allonge Wig" by Nicolas de Largillière

At first, wigs were not in fashion, rather, it wasshameful necessity. However, when the 17-year-old King Louis XIV of France began to go bald in 1655, everything changed dramatically. Fearing that a bald head would ruin his reputation, he ordered 48 wigs to be made for him. It was his court barber Birua (also known as Binette or Binnet) who invented the allonge wig, which is depicted in all portraits of aristocrats.

Interesting fact: the word "barber" was borrowed in the XVIII centuryfrom the German "Perückenmacher". It arose as a result of the addition of the words Perücke (wig) and Macher (master). It turns out that literally a hairdresser is a wig maker.

Louis Louis XIV in a wig

Five years later, his cousin Charles II alsobegan to go bald - apparently, they were both infected with syphilis. He also began to wear a full allonge wig, after which other aristocrats began to copy the style of the two kings. Over time, representatives of the upper middle class began to follow this fashion. In the 17th century, the indicator of wealth was no longer real hair, but wigs. Prices for them jumped up a lot, so not everyone could afford them - an everyday wig cost 25 shillings, which is equal to the weekly salary of an ordinary Londoner of those times. Luxurious allonges cost up to 800 shillings. White wigs were everywhere, so people of past centuries are portrayed in this form.

See also: New molecule found to be ideal hair loss drug

Why men wore white wigs even after the epidemic

After the death of Louis XIV and Charles II, the fashion forwigs have not disappeared - they were worn even by those who were not stricken with syphilis. In those days, there were lice everywhere, and it was not always possible to wash. People realized that instead of washing their hair, they could shave their heads and just clean their wigs. Wealthy people gave wigs to the masters who made them - they, knowing their business, boiled their hair and removed all parasites.

The fashion for allonge wigs disappeared only in the 18th century.The French stopped wearing them after the revolution, the British - after the introduction of a tax on hair powder in 1795. After that, short, natural hair came into fashion.

Today, white horsehair wigs are worn only by judges and parliamentarians in the UK and Australia.

In Russia, wigs were also in fashion, but only intimes of Peter I. The craftsmen who made wigs were called "stupid artists". This name originated from the word "tupey", which means "forelock over the forehead."

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In the modern world, wigs are also popular, becausewhich are relatively inexpensive. But those who are ready to fork out resort to hair transplantation - after the operation, you can stop being shy about baldness. We talked about how hair transplantation takes place and how much it costs in this article.