The other day, I saw a wonderful web site regarding paper cutting as an art form. And the most interesting pieces I found were the paper wigs. They were spectacular, and an homage to 18th Century wigs.
Wigs are head coverings made most generally from human or synthetic hair, worn for fashion or other reasons. The word "wig" stems from "periwig" which first came into the English language in 1675. Hair is an important vanity, and the loss of it can be devastating. Of course, if it is an accepted tradition, like in ancient Egypt, no one makes a fuss. Today, the acceptance of loss of hair because of medical treatments has fast become commonplace. People are not hiding under wigs, or kerchiefs, but once upon a time it was different. In fact, today the rather manly man losing his hair has taken to shaving his head completely. Fashion takes many forms!
In the 18th Century, men's wigs were powdered to appear "distinct". White was the attractive way to go. Women did not so much wear wigs, as they included additional, supplemental pieces of artificial hair attached to their own. From the 1770's onward, women powdered their own hair, with the fashionable color either grey or bluish grey. The powder was made from finely ground starch, scented with orange flower, lavender or orris root.
Wigs became essential for men as part of court dress, or for magistrates or those of the legal profession, but by 1790 wigs were reserved for older people. In 1795, the British government put a tax on hair powder of one guinea per year. This caused the demise of the fashion!
As wigs and their maintenance could be costly, in the military, men grew their hair out, and wore it in pony tails, tied and greased, with a silk bag to cover the hair hanging on the back.
In France, of course, the court of Versailles saw more elaborate do's, with large poofs and items weaved into the hair, but in response to the French Revolution, the fashion of the decadent court declined.
By the way, barristers in London still wear the small wig for heading into court. This goes for women and men, and they are not trying to cover their own locks. It's just part of the formality and tradition that goes along with the legal profession.