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 for cleanliness and 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.
Wigs were also popular in ancient Greece, both for personal use and in the theater. In Imperial Rome, fashionable women wore blond or red-haired wigs made from the heads of captives, and even Caesar used a wig and a laurel wreath to hide his baldness.
During the twelfth century, wigs were introduced to England. They became increasingly common, and women began to wear them regularly in the late sixteenth century. During the Black Plague of 1665, hair was in such short supply that there were persistent rumors that the hair of disease victims was being used to manufacture wigs. This shortage of hair was partially remedied by using wool of goats or hair of horses to make lower grades of wigs, in fact, horsehair proved useful and retained curls so effectively that it is still used in some lower quality wigs today.
Wigs were the height of fashion, but what goes up must come down. The enormous popularity of wigs in England declined greatly during the reign of George III, and except for people who would continue to wear them as symbols of their professions (e.g., judges, doctors) hardly anyone would be caught wearing a wig. In fact, so many wigmakers were facing financial ruin that they marched through London in February 1765 to present George III with a petition for relief. Bystanders were infuriated, noticing that few of the wig-makers were wearing the wigs that they made and yet still expected others to wear them. A riot ensued, during which the wigmakers were forcibly shaved.
So as we can see the history of wigs goes back many years and spans over many different countries -and religions. Today wigs are still very popular with both men and women of different backgrounds. People who have lost all or part of their own hair due to illness or natural baldness can disguise the condition using a wig. And for strictly cosmetic reasons, a person may use a wig to alter their appearance or to quickly achieve a longer, fuller hairstyle or even to try out a new color.
A religious woman may use a wig to protect her hair and to keep a part of herself private, allowing only a special few to see her natural hair. In the 16th century, coinciding with the appearance of wigs as a fashion statement in Europe, some Jewish women began wearing wigs for that exact purpose.
Wigs continued to gain in popularity among Jews well into the 18th century. This resulted in an ongoing debate for rabbis; some criticizing the use of wigs while others defended the practice. Still today some religious women prefer wearing a headscarf to a wig, but in most Orthodox, Hasidic and Lubabivtch communities wigs are the more popular option.
In the 19th century, trendy European women no longer wore wigs. As modernization crept into the ghettos, many Jewish women did not cover their hair altogether. However in traditional circles hair covering was maintained, and even really frum women stuck to wearing wigs. They did this according to the allowance by some rabbis, and under the idea that any form of hair-covering is better than nothing. It was in this time that the sheitel came to be an identifier for Jewish women.
These days, even though some rabbis still criticize the use of wigs, their popularity is still very high. Before her wedding, one of the most important things a religious Jewish woman will do is find her first wig. This can be a difficult process; finding the right color, style, and make has never been easy. However Jewish women have been working on it, and now there are a lot more resources out there for those looking for a wig, for example, this site, Shaytell, allows you to compare the quality of various wigs. There are many similar sites out there, making wig-buying a simpler, easier, more enjoyable experience.
On our site, you can find a top quality wig that will be your perfect fit, with absolutely no fuss at all.