For over a century, European men refused to go outside without first donning an enormous wig. At the time, the headpiece was better known as a peruke or periwig, and just like other bizarre fashion trends, the peruke wig has a fascinating history. It turns out that powdered wigs weren't as innocent as they look - there's a surprising secret hidden in peruke history.
Why did men wear wigs? It wasn't just to show off their manly hair-growing powers. In fact, many donned wigs to cover up a sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis ravaged Europe for centuries, and one common side effect was patchy hair loss. And that's only the beginning when it comes to powdered wigs and syphilis. The enormous wigs could also cover open sores and a multitude of other sins.
But wigs weren't just enormous flashing signs pointing out STDs. They became fashionable in large part because of vanity. Similarly, America's first president George Washington, who styled his hair to look like a wig, bought teeth from his slaves to hide the fact that all his own teeth had fallen out. Vanity makes one do odd things. Wigs were also popular for the ladies, who never shied away from scandalous fashion trends. But aristocrats, who spent huge sums to pile their heads with human hair, were furious when commoners tried to adopt their fashion trend. That lasted until the French Revolution, which subsequently didn't go great for the aristocrats.