Thursday, June 11, 2009

John Adams


I have been watching the HBO mini-series, John Adams. I think it is quite well done and although a little dry is some places, I did wake up this morning thinking about the powdered wig. I was just wondering if there is a woman alive today that finds these attractive in anyway? Seriously what on earth possessed them to think those things looked good? I looked it up on Google and learned a few things about the wigs, which quite frankly, I had never given much thought to until now.


"Powdered wigs were an integral part of high fashion for both men and women during the 18th century. Sometimes employed as part of formal accessorizing for both social events and for public appearances, the powdered wig sported an elaborate design of curls and waves that was topped off with a dousing of white powder. While the use of the powdered wig declined drastically by 1800, limited use of the device remained in some countries around the world, notably as part of proper attire for barristers and members of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

The process for creating a powdered wig often involved the use of frames. The basic materials normally included horsehair and various binding agents. The horsehair would be arranged and set into place into a finished product that would remain in place even in a strong wind. To complete the basic look, powder that was specially developed would be applied liberally to what was essentially a helmet made of horsehair.

In actual design, the style for the powdered wig often related to gender, purpose, and social standing. White wigs for women in high society were often high piles of curls that were enhanced with elements such as bows, garlands of flowers and even feathers. These types of wigs were considered ideal for presentation at a royal court, attendance at a formal ball, and other key social situations.

By contrast, a powdered wig for a man would often be a simple design. For use in social situations, the wig would feature a design that was relatively close to the scalp and the shape of the skull, with a minimum of curls. A small amount of curl normally extended at the nape of the neck and was tied with a simple black ribbon. As with the more elaborate wigs designed for women, this simplistic design for the well dress male would be liberally powdered to achieve a white or near white appearance.

The powdered wig designed for use in the courtroom was more elaborate. Wigs worn by barristers and sometimes judges would involve rows of curls that covered the head and sometimes hung to a length around the top of the shoulders. A wig of similar design became common in government settings as well, and remains popular in some countries today.

Wig makers of the period could spend weeks or even months designing a powdered wig. Under certain conditions, a wig could become infested during the preparation. When an infestation occurred, the powdered horsehair would have to be cleaned thoroughly in order to remove the vermin."

Portrait of John Adams
1st VP of the US and 2nd President

Ewww! Is all I can say. I think fashions for men today can tend to be a bit boring at times but better that than the fancy knee highs, the bouffant satin pedal pushers, the waistcoats with tails and the ruffled white shirts. I cannot imagine my man in any of those, can you? He would not be happy or a camper...that is for sure.

And there you have it...I am back with a history lesson for you to ponder upon today. What do you think of men's fashions today and if you are a man, can you envision yourself being taken seriously in a powdered wig? Men's suits I will have to say have not changed much at all over my life time. And I think most men look great in them...or is that just something we are use to after this many decades? Maybe a little variety in colors, textures and prints might be fun? As for Jim I know he'd still choose a black, gray or brown suit, a white button-down shirt ( no ruffles, thank you very much), dark shoes and socks. I guess the only hope here is a fancy tie! One thing is for sure...no matter what happens to his hair, there will be no powdered wigs and no ribbons, no fancy buckles on his shoes, and no gold braided trim anywhere on the outfit. And I, for one, am just fine with that.

Dr. Franklin

It was fun to note that even back then they had their rebels. Good ole Ben Franklin sat around with his naked head on top and the gray, fringed, long hair around the periphery. There are always a few that refuse to play by the rules and there is nothing new under the sun, as they say. At least he didn't attempt the comb over.

5 comments:

MCGROVER said...

All I can say is: "Bald is beautiful"!

Bonnie said...

Yes it is, Michael! God in his wisdom only uncovers the perfect heads!

Shaun at Oak Den said...

I really enjoyed the John Adams mini series and thought it was well done. I LOVE history and I really love early American history. The powdered wigs are a curiosity, to be sure!

Marie said...

I really enjoyed that series as well Bonnie. I have to say I found your post and all the info about the powdered wings fascinating. Eww, is right! I was so glad that when I met Todd he didn't have a cheesy comb-over!! If he had, I'd have been changing it real fast. I hate the things!

Deanna said...

I would have never made it through the powdered wig era as my allergies would have killed me immediately. I do wish that we could all dress from the fifties era. Oh how I wish I could wear a lovely bouffant skirt with little matching gloves and a sweet hat. The shoes were to die for and I would have no problem wearing those high heels at all! LOL!

I do love John and Abigail though and have written many themes of them throughout my high school years.

Great post!
Deanna :D