Have you ever wondered why people wore big powdered wigs back in the day? Here’s an interesting article by Mental Floss explaining this European fad of old.
The reason is not exactly glamorous. It appears this fashion trend started thanks to a little disease known as Syphilis. Indeed, as the infection spread, men started losing their hair, and getting sores on their head and face. This was unacceptable! So people began wearing wigs, and powdering their faces to hide unsightly sores.
When the King of France started losing his hair in 1655, he donned a wig. Suddenly all the nobles started copying him and the fashion trend took off. Very interesting.
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And so, the syphilis outbreak sparked a surge in wigmaking. Victims hid their baldness, as well as the bloody sores that scoured their faces, with wigs made of horse, goat, or human hair. Perukes were also coated with powder—scented with lavender or orange—to hide any funky aromas. Although common, wigs were not exactly stylish. They were just a shameful necessity. That changed in 1655, when the King of France started losing his hair.
Louis XIV was only 17 when his mop started thinning. Worried that baldness would hurt his reputation, Louis hired 48 wigmakers to save his image. Five years later, the King of England—Louis’s cousin, Charles II—did the same thing when his hair started to gray (both men likely had syphilis). Courtiers and other aristocrats immediately copied the two kings. They sported wigs, and the style trickled down to the upper-middle class. Europe’s newest fad was born.
[via Mental Floss]