18th Century Men And Their Extravagant Hairstyles


18th century men's hairstyles

If ever there was an age of elegance, it was the eighteenth century. The men and women of this era were outrageous to the point of being artificial, wigs were generously used in the styling process. The ” Rococo style ” was most widely worn till the very end of this century. It was a fluid and lavish hairstyle where the letter ‘s’ was created asymmetrically to emphasise the contrast. Travelling to the new continent America bestowed the Europeans with more wealth than before thus forming the newest order of the bourgeoisie was aside the nobility and the clergy. The Rococo style was thus formed in accordance with the new age.

Why Were Wigs Used?

A man standing

King Louis XIV was the one who made wearing of wigs popular among men. The wigs were worn mostly by middle and upper class men on formal occasions.  During informal occasions they kept their hair long which they brushed back and then used a black ribbon to tie at the nape of their neck. White haired wigs were popular amongst the men as they were an indication of wealth and this look was achieved by powdering wigs. As the frequency of hair care depended upon the individual, presence of pests and availability of hairdressers, wigs were given a greater preference than their own hair.

How Were Wigs Worn?

a group of people

 Wigs started to be powdered in the early 18th century. Toilette, or special rooms were developed where wigs were powdered with starch or cyprus powder. People wore special dressing gowns and used a cone of thick paper to cover their faces while powdering the wigs. 

The powdering of the wigs gave a natural hue to it which wasn’t possible by using dyes which were destructive to the hair.Hairdressers easily cleaned, combed, washed the wigs and presented the perfectly clean wig to the wearer without any inconvenience on both sides. They also repaired wigs infusing them with fresh fragrances and powder. By the end of the century wigs lost their significance and were associated with only older, less fashionable men.

What Was The Wig Industry?

The wig making industry blew up in this century, with a small portion of the population mainly the nobility behind the profilication of this industry. It created a lot of new jobs and opportunities for so many people. However, it affected the millinery industry as people stopped wearing hats to show off their extravagant wigs and thus new hats were required to fit the hairstyles accurately. A majority of the population who couldn’t afford to buy wigs which were quite expensive wore their own hair and kept it unpowdered. Thus the eighteenth century hairstyle of workers reflected how they required minimum time to wear their hair.

How And Why Did Pests Affect The Wigs?

The powdering of wigs was often followed by the Pomade, which was basically using grease to slick back the hair. Lard and fat were used to make the grease which as we can easily assume was quite smelly. It wasn’t the most pleasant hairstyle as it easily became a complete playground of pests. It attracted dust in addition to insects, was irritated by lice and became itchy due to accumulation of various products. Relief from all of this came in the form of head scratchers and hairpins that festooned the dramatic hairstyles, by using them to scratch the hair discreetly. The head scratchers or grattoirs helped in reducing itching while causing minimum damage to the elaborate coiffeurs. 

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