Yes, Africans wore/wear wigs; they are formally known as headdresses. And as many know, the Ancient Egyptians adorned magnificent headdresses. However, contrary to popular belief and the media interpretations, wigs were not made of bone-straight hair. As shown in several classic Hollywood productions, like The Ten Commandments, and films today, like The Mummy Returns and Dream Girls, Egyptian wigs have the appearance of relaxed, straightened hair.
Anne Baxter as Nefertiti in The Ten Commandments
Patricia Velasquez as Nefertiti in The Mummy Returns
Beyonce as Cleopatra in Dream Girls
Digging deeper beyond this visual facade, I was amazed and intrigued to find that Ancient Egyptian wigs were not similar at all to their Hollywood representations.
Wigs were made of human hair, although some vegetable-fibre padding was also used T. The wig illustrated has a mass of lightish curls on top and a multitude of thin, tight plaits below ear level. The foundation for these elements was a net woven of plaited human hair, with rhomboidal openings, The wig comprises about 300 strands, each of which contains about 400 individual hairs. These have been coated with a mixture of beeswax and resin.
Of course, it is not unlike Hollywood to “re-imagine” an image in a manner that disregards its true historical elements. When I was younger, I surprised several people by informing them that Egypt is in Africa and, “Yes, Egyptians were Africans.” Aliens did not build the pyramids, Egyptians skilled in architectural design and mathematics did.
Similarly, Egyptian wigs were not made to simulate a relaxed bob cut, but rather were made of plaits, braids, and hairstyles that are familiar to African hair.
In one article I read, “Clothes for Women and Wigs: Ancient Egyptian Fashion, the author stated:
There does, however, seem to have been an element of idealization in the rendering of wigs, as there was in clothing, for surviving examples are far less elegant than their regular, sculpted counterparts.
That sounded odd to me as if the author meant that because the historical Egyptian wigs do not look like the mainstream, media interpretations, they are somehow less glorious, less beautiful, “less elegant.”
In reality, the Egyptian wigs, as is, possess a beauty of their own. It is a beauty that is untainted and speaks louder than modern media representations.
photo courtesy of ancient-egypt.info