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History of Hair Extensions

History of Hair Extensions


Ever wonder why so many people have such beautiful and long hair?  One day, they’ll have short or medium-length hair, then all of a sudden they have an extremely long ponytail or have so much hair that you sit there and wonder, why not me? Well my friends, the secret is: hair extensions.

This begs the question: “who began this fashion statement of wearing other people’s hair to transform their look into something entirely different?”


As fashion and culture have evolved over time, hair extensions now play a major role in most hairstyles. There have also been a handful of instances where celebrity hair extensions have sparked new trends both recently and in ancient times, but where and how did it all begin?

So let’s go back and take a look at the history of hair extensions, the types of extensions that were used in ancient times, from sheep’s wool, to real hair extensions and everything in between.

Ancient Egypt

Studies have found that hair extensions date back to around 3400 BC in Egypt. That’s right, you have Cleopatra to thank for that gorgeous set of locks and for pioneering this fashion!  Archaeologist have discovered ancient female remains and investigations show that sheep’s wool was meticulously braided into their real hair.

For ancient Egyptians, appearance was very important and indicated a person’s status in society.  They considered thicker hair ideal, so hair extensions were heavily used to enhance one's appearance.  Wigs were used mostly for special occasions, such as ceremonies or banquets. During this time, wigs were made from human hair, vegetable fibers, or sheep’s wool and were either braided into the hair or attached using beeswax.  

Europe and America, 18th Century

The extensions among European and American women developed in 18th century and gave way to powdered wigs.  These white powdered wigs, called Perukes, were highly fashionable amongst women and men alike. During this time, Perukes were not only made with human hair but were also made out of horsehair, yah, coy, goat and sheep hair. The advent of hair extensions in this time has a somewhat murky history.

Some historians believe it was due to the impending symptoms from King Louis XIV of France and the effects that Syphilis had on his hair. In order to conceal the fact that he had Syphilis, he hired 48 wigmakers to continuously create new wigs for him to choose from to save his image.  He wore them everyday and it eventually became a fashion trend and slowly the price for Perukes became cost-prohibitive for the everyday person, due to the Kings new hairstyles that wig’s cost increased to 25 shillings, or a week’s worth of pay.

Even after King Louis XIV died, people kept wearing wigs due to their practicality.  The average prices of wigs steadily declined, and pretty soon wigs became affordable to common people.  It was also convenient for commoners to wear wigs everyday due to the outbreak of lice. Lice were everywhere and nitpicking lice was painful and very time consuming, therefore shaving their head and wearing wigs was the preferable option.  Once their hair was shaved, the lice had nowhere to go but onto the wig, and clearing lice off of a wig was much easier because they would remove it and take it to a wigmaker who then boiled the wig with kill off the lice. Once these Perukes were placed on one’s head, the wigs were powdered in white or grey, the most popular powder colors at the time.

19th Century

By the 19th century, Victorian women wore big voluminous hair, often curling the front hair that covered the forehead.    This hairstyle is known as the “Pompadour” hairstyle. It was sought out to give it a look of elegance. In order to achieve this look, women needed hair extensions for a fuller effect and then combed over in order to give it that big fluffy mass.  They styled the hair in order to accentuate the eyes and neckline. During that time, small round faces were part of the beauty requirements, therefore women would pull their hair forward, covering their forehead and tried to give the appearance of a round face as much as possible.  These wigs and hair extensions were often worn very high and upward from the face and over the forehead.. Because of this, long hair became very popular and the demand for long hair extensions was high.

20th Century Hair Extensions

In the 1950s, Christina Jenkins from Ohio patented a new hair weaving technique that is still used to this day.  Rather than clipping into the hair or gluing with beeswax like before, she sewed the hair into a weft, making her hair look more natural. By the 1960s, big hair was in style.  One popular hairstyle was called the Beehive, and it continues to be popular today. Look at Amy Winehouse, she made her beehive a trademark look, she once said the bigger her beehive was, the better she felt about herself.

Present Day

Hair extensions and their evolution have come along way and it seems like it is here to stay.   

Today, the options for hair extensions are endless and affordable. We at Secret of Medusa have a wide selection of hair extensions and accessories for Stylists or for Everyone Else! Whether you want long hair to your knees like Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, or Ariana Grande, or just want to add a little more oomph to your hair, there are extensions for all hair types and styles.   It is an easy way to enhance your look and give it a more natural and healthy appearance.

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