Wigs are worn for either prosthetic, cosmetic, or convenience reasons. People who have lost all or part of their own hair due to illness or natural baldness can disguise the condition. For strictly cosmetic reasons (or perhaps to alter their appearance), people might wear a wig to quickly achieve a longer or fuller hairstyle or a different color. In an article in Vogue magazine, the wife of a prominent politician was described as using a wardrobe of wigs to avoid $8,400 and 160 or more hours spent with professional hairdressers each year, in addition to the complicated task of finding appropriate hair care while traveling.
Based on an ivory carving of a woman's head found in southwestern France, anthropologists speculate that wigs may have been used as long as 100,000 years ago. Wigs were quite popular among ancient Egyptians, who cut their hair short or shaved their heads in the interests of cleanliness and comfort (i.e., relief from the desert heat). While the poor wore felt caps to protect their heads from the sun, those who could afford them wore wigs of human hair, sheep's wool, or palm-leaf fiber mounted on a porous fabric. An Egyptian clay figure that dates to about 2500 B.C. wears a removable wig of black clay. The British Museum holds a beautifully made wig at least 3,000 years old that was found in the Temple of Isis at Thebes; its hundreds of tiny curls still retain their carefully arranged shape.
Wigs were popular in ancient Greece, both for personal use and in the theater (the color and style of wigs disclosed the nature of individual characters). In Imperial Rome, fashionable women wore blond or red-haired wigs made from the heads of Germanic captives, and Caesar used a wig and a laurel wreath to hide his baldness. Both Hannibal and Nero wore wigs as disguises. A portrait bust of Plautilla (ca. 210 A.D. ) was made without hair so wigs of current fashion could always adorn this image of Emperor Caracalla's wife.
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