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The history of hair extensions and wigs is a long and interesting one. It turns out having a good hair day was as important to our predecessors as it is to us.

Hair was a key indicator of wealth and nobility, dating back to ancient times. Hair extensions and wigs have since developed into the mainstream and have become heavily linked to fashion and trends.

Read on to discover the history of wigs and hair extensions!

Ancient Egypt

The first documented use of hair extensions and wigs is around 3400 BC, in Ancient Egypt. Whilst body hair was a big no, thick hair on the head was seen as a status symbol. Wigs and hair extensions were worn by both men and women who were higher up in society. This included politicians, pharaohs and queens.

When we think of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra immediately springs to mind. Cleopatra’s hair was likely enhanced using hair extensions and wigs to create her now iconic, thick, braided mane.

Archaeologists have uncovered remains that show sheep’s wool was braided into the hair in order to add thickness. This is the earliest incarnation of hair extensions.

Egyptians are also credited with inventing wigs. Wigs were usually worn for ceremonial purposes and were created using human hair, vegetable fibres and sheep’s wool. They were often attached using beeswax.

16th Century

Queen Elizabeth I was known for many things, including her hair!

She often wore height enhancing hairpieces and wigs throughout her reign, sparking a major trend during the Elizabethan era. She was famous for her tightly curled, red hairpieces, worn in the ‘Roman’ style. It was said that she first began wearing wigs after losing some hair due to smallpox and continued in an attempt to maintain her youthful appearance.

With access to the latest fashion and trends, Queen Elizabeth I was thought to have over 80 hairpieces. They were also commonly worn by courtiers and aristocrats but were unaffordable to most.

Elizabethan wigs tended to be made of sheep’s wool, as the Ancient Egyptian wigs were.

17th and 18th Century

The 17th and 18th centuries gave way to some of the most famous wigs in history. It was also when wigs started to become more popular. A man getting hair extensions now is much more common but in the 17th century, King Louis XIII of France was somewhat of a trendsetter. 

He was one of the first high-profile males to wear a custom-made wig. He was said to wear a wig in order to cover up his baldness; however, they soon became a status symbol amongst wealthy men. For special events, it was common for wigs to be created that incorporated pearls and beads.

As the 17th century gave way to the 18th century, the wig trend grew.  King Louis XIV (also of France) had a number of large and luxurious wigs created. There are many portraits depicting King Louis XIV wearing long hairpieces. Wigs were often created using human hair, as ours are. The hair however was collected from poor women who grew their hair with the purpose of selling it. 

20th Century

The 20th century is when hair extensions became part of the mainstream. With wigs previously being a symbol of status and wealth, the 20th century saw hair enhancements trickle down to the lower levels of society.

In the early 20th century, hats and hair pins were extremely popular. They also gave women the opportunity to experiment with new hairstyles, creating volume and curls to complement their hat and give the impression of fuller hair. Many women also collected stray hairs from their hair brush and used them to support complicated hairstyles. This is one of the first iterations of human hair extensions.

The 1960s

As the swinging 60s rolled around, big hair was all the rage. Beehives, full flowing locks and heavy fringes were the signature styles of the 60s. Unless you were blessed with extremely thick hair, hair extensions and enhancements were the ideal way to create the 60s look.

People often wore clip in hair extensions to thicken their hair and add the necessary length to create the classic 60s styles. Many people also wore specifically-made beehive hairpieces to add height. 

The 80s

When it came to the 80s, hair extensions were pretty commonplace. Glam rock and tv shows like Dynasty made big hair a must have. Whilst backcombing and perms had their place, hair extensions were one of the best ways to create a show stopping 80s hairstyle.

Synthetic hair extensions were very popular. Weave in hair extensions were also growing in popularity, with a wider range of styles becoming available. 

The 90s

The 90s may not have been about big hair, but hair extensions weren’t going anywhere! 

The classic 90s hairstyle was all about poker straight, long locks. Clip in hair extensions were a great way to achieve the 90s look. They became cheaper to buy thanks to new techniques, making it easier than ever to replicate your favourite 90s icon’s hairstyle. Think Britney Spears, Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.

Coloured clip ins were also extremely popular. They were perfect for adding a pop of colour, and were often worn by those in the 90s rave scene. With cheaper hair extensions now available however, they tended to be made of synthetic materials that were prone to fraying and didn’t last very long.

The 21st Century

The 21st century is where hair extensions began to improve in quality, with human hair extensions growing in popularity.

2000’s Hair

2000’s hair was all about having fun. From chunky highlights and coloured streaks to crimped sections and fun hair accessories. Whilst clip ins were still popular for adding length, coloured sections or volume, other hair extensions techniques also began to emerge.

Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie began to appear wearing long hair extensions. In many cases hair extensions were attached to the hair using glue. This particular method is still used today but is known to cause damage to the hair. We always recommend non-damaging hair extension techniques such as micro ring attachments.

Early 2000s hair extensions were still largely made from synthetic materials but as we moved towards the 2010’s and beyond, human hair extensions became more common.

Present Day

Hair extensions in the present day are more luxurious and natural-looking than ever. With 100% human hair extensions available, modern day hair extensions look better to begin with and last longer if looked after properly. They are also easier to look after with hair care ranges dedicated to those with hair extensions.

Check out our hair extension aftercare advice

The choice of hair extensions styles, methods and hair has also increased. This wider range of options means there are hair extension methods to suit almost any budget. You can choose from cheaper European or Asian hair or more expensive hair extensions that use Russian and Slavic hair. We use Russian hair as it is the highest quality hair available anywhere in the world. We also offer virgin Russian hair that has never been damaged through hair dyes or heat.

In terms of attachment methods, there are options such as clip ins, tape ins, micro rings, mini micro rings and more! You can use hair extensions to add length, add volume, or even to have different colour dimensions to your hair.

Previously getting a seamless blend with hair extensions was difficult but with modern techniques, different coloured strands can be combined to get a perfect match for your hair. 

Learn more about our custom colour blending process

Of course, it is not just hair extensions that have grown in popularity. Bespoke wigs are commonly worn by the likes of Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. Wigs are ideal for those with thinning hair and hair loss, but they are also great for changing up your look quickly and easily.

Now you know the history of hair extensions, book a free consultation appointment to discuss the best method for you!

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