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A wig is a head covering made from human hair, animal hair, or synthetic fiber. The word wig is short for periwig, which makes its earliest known appearance in the English language in William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Some people wear wigs to disguise baldness; a wig may be used as a less intrusive and less expensive alternative to medical therapies for restoring hair or for a religious reason.

In Egyptian society men and women commonly had clean shaven or close cropped hair and often wore wigs. The ancient Egyptians created the wig to shield shaved, hairless heads from the sun. They also wore the wigs on top of their hair using beeswax and resin to keep the wigs in place. Wealthy Egyptians would wear elaborate wigs and scented cones of animal fat on top of their wigs. Other ancient cultures, including the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Jews in ancient Israel, Greeks and Romans, also used wigs as an everyday fashion.

fter the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the use of wigs fell into disuse in the West for a thousand years until they were revived in the 16th century as a means of compensating for hair loss or improving one's personal appearance. They also served a practical purpose: the unhygienic conditions of the time meant that hair attracted head lice, a problem that could be much reduced if natural hair were shaved and replaced with a more easily de-loused artificial hairpiece. Fur hoods were also used in a similar preventive fashion.

Royal patronage was crucial to the revival of the wig. Queen Elizabeth I of England famously wore a red wig, tightly and elaborately curled in a "Roman" style, while among men King Louis XIII of France (1601–1643) started to pioneer wig-wearing in 1624 when he had prematurely begun to bald. This fashion was largely promoted by his son and successor Louis XIV of France (1638–1715), which contributed to its spread in European and European-influenced countries.

Perukes or periwigs for men were introduced into the English-speaking world with other French styles when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, following a lengthy exile in France. These wigs were shoulder-length or longer, imitating the long hair that had become fashionable among men since the 1620s. Their use soon became popular in the English court.

n the 18th century, men's wigs were powdered to give them their distinctive white or off-white color. Women in the 18th century did not wear wigs, but wore a coiffure supplemented by artificial hair or hair from other sources. Women mainly powdered their hair grey, or blue-ish grey, and from the 1770s onwards never bright white like men. Wig powder was made from finely ground starch that was scented with orange flower, lavender, or orris root. Wig powder was occasionally colored violet, blue, pink or yellow, but was most often used as off-white.

The wearing of wigs as a symbol of social status was largely abandoned in the newly created United States and France by the start of the 19th century. In the United States, only four presidents from John Adams to James Monroe wore curly powdered wigs tied in a queue according to the old-fashioned style of the 18th century. Unlike them, the first president George Washington never wore a wig; instead, he powdered, curled and tied in a queue his own long hair.

The latest-born notable person to be portrayed wearing a powdered wig tied in a queue according to this old fashion was Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia (born in 1779, portrayed in 1795).

As the price of human hair has increased, there is concern that hair has been unethically sourced. Much hair comes from women in impoverished countries who are attempting to solve a temporary financial difficulty. Hair of some women have been forcibly cut by armed guards or prison supervisors.

From the late 17th to early 19th centuries, European armies wore uniforms more or less imitating the civilian fashions of the time, but with militarized additions. As part of that uniform, officers wore wigs more suited to the drawing rooms of Europe than its battlefields. The late 17th century saw officers wearing full-bottomed natural-coloured wigs, but the civilian change to shorter, powdered styles with pigtails in the early 18th century saw officers adopting similar styles. The elaborate, oversized court-styles of the late 18th century were not followed by armies in the field however, as they were impractical to withstand the rigours of military life and simpler wigs were worn.

Wigs are worn by some people on a daily or occasional basis in everyday life. This is sometimes done for reasons of convenience, since wigs can be styled ahead of time. They are also worn by individuals who are experiencing hair loss due to medical reasons (most commonly cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, or those who are suffering from alopecia areata).

Some men who crossdress as women wear wigs in different styles to make their hair seem more feminine.

There are two basic kinds of hair wigs: The traditional machine stitched weft wig and the hand tied lace wig. The machine stitched wigs are still the most widely worn wigs today. The hair is sewn on a stretch weft material and come with back straps for adjusting to various head sizes. These wigs are typically pre-styled and lack any kind of realistic expectations.

Lace wigs are quickly becoming one of the most sought-after wigs among wig wearers. The illusion of hair growing from the scalp is the feature that makes this wig the best of the best when it comes to wearing fake hair. These wigs are made with a French or Swiss lace material base. They are made as a full lace or partial lace front with a stretch weft back. Each hair strand is individually stitched into a lace material which creates the natural look of hair at the base. This is where the term "hand tied" originates.

Hair type is the distinguishing factor in human hair wigs. Four main types of hair are used in manufacturing: Chinese or "Malaysian", Indian, Indonesian or "Brazilian", and Caucasian or "European". The majority of human hair wigs are made of Chinese or Indian hair, while European hair is considered the most expensive and rare, as most donors are from Russia or Northern Europe, where there is a smaller portion of hair donors to the market.

Remy human hair is considered to be the best quality of human hair because the cuticles are kept intact and not stripped away. The preserved cuticles are also aligned in a unidirectional manner, which decreases tangling and matting. It has been carefully separated after collecting from the hair donor to ensure all the cuticles are of the same length.

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