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History of Toupees

July 30, 2013

Akin to wigs, toupees too have their own unique, ancient histories behind them. Essentially it is said (somewhat jocularly) that the concept of a toupee came to the fore when an additional section of mammoth skin came and accidentally fell on a balding caveman’s head. All of a sudden, there seemed to be a readymade way to cover baldness or at least not make it so apparent.

 

Apparently, the first toupee was conceived when a piece of mammoth skin came and fell on a bald caveman’s head!

 

Understanding Toupees

Toupees are essentially hairpieces which are used to cover patches of baldness. The obvious question in such a scenario that arises is how are they different from wigs? Well, while wigs are meant for the entire pate, toupees are only meant for strategic portions. Also, while wigs are more intricately designed in line with the desired hairstyle, a toupee maybe nothing more than a patch of hair that simply covers the said portion which is balding.

The size and spread of toupees is therefore directly related to the extent of baldness; the more bald one is, the more likely that a larger or widespread toupee would be mandated. And as far as genders go, traditionally men have been the more prolific patrons of toupees, but off-late we find that there is a veritable range of toupees meant for women in particular – which they are in turn patronizing with immense fervor.

 

Ancient, Documented History of Toupees

While the instance of mammoth skin coming and falling on a bald caveman’s head to form the first known instance of a toupee may well be an element of folklore – or the figment of imagination of a very poignant storyteller, truth is that when it comes to stigma as associated with baldness, it has been around for centuries.

Even if we go back to the ancient Roman era, we find that there was considerable humiliation or at least a feeling of disgrace associated with being bald. It is this feeling of humiliation which drove demand for toupees in a really big way. In fact even before the Romans, one can note that the Egyptians too were prolific when it came to adoption of artificial means for covering their bald pates, such as wigs…with toupees being a natural extension of the same. Interestingly the first instance ever of an ancient toupee was found in a tomb in Egypt, near Hierakonpolis, what used to be the Predynastic capital of the country.

And specific to the Romans, we find leaders like Julius Caesar being strong proponents of toupees who used it himself to hide his balding head. Over time, seeing their leader sporting a toupee, others followed suit with vigor.

Julius Caesar sporting the toupee he apparently wore

 

Industrialized Approach to Toupees

Much later, the trend for toupees was catching on quite rapidly. In the United States, once Sears Roebuck started selling toupees via mail order catalog in 1900, there was virtually no looking back at all with sales being very brisk. This was at a point in time when toupees had already become immensely popular across the United States, right from the 1800s.

 

Toupees like these started to be promoted in the United Stated by Sears Roebuck through mail order catalog, in a really big way

Advancements in technology played a key role since the quality of toupees improved dramatically. Once put on, they remained in place. Further, it is also true that unlike previous times when it was very easy to identify if a toupee had been worn by the concerned person, vastly improved quality meant that it was next to impossible to gauge with certainty if the person in question did not actually have real hair and that he or she was sporting a toupee.

 

Marketing and Promotional Efforts

The uptake of toupees increased dramatically with the onset of marketing efforts on the part of companies involved in this business. Companies like Max Factor were particularly at the helm of affairs in terms of ensuring that there was wider, greater acceptance of toupees as a whole. A noteworthy mention would be the fact that around this time, many toupee brands came to the helm. This meant that from being a small scale initiative, toupees were now a major business. Of course, this could only be sustainable if people were willing to partake in these toupees in large numbers, which they wholeheartedly did!

Along with marketing initiatives, there were concerted efforts to ensure that when it came to toupees, they were of the highest possible quality. For instance, Max Factor as mentioned above came out with toupees that were made out of hair woven into skin colored lace that was practically invisible and therefore not at all clearly discernible in terms of actually being toupees, giving an altogether natural appearance. 

Very natural looking toupees as proffered by the likes of Max Factor made a world of difference in terms of wider acceptance of these toupees

 

Modern Day Scenario – and Conclusion

Today we find that a lot of the action on the toupee front has moved to Asia – like a lot of other realms in life! In particular we find that toupee manufacture has been taken over in a big way by a Japanese company called Aderans which is one of the biggest wig manufacturers of the world and also happens to be the largest makers of toupees on the planet.

Aderans has clearly left no stone upturned in promoting itself

At the same time, there is some decline in the uptake of toupees being witnessed, especially thanks to other, more advanced technologies coming to the fore such hair weaving. While being a reasonably costly procedure, the results are much more than satisfactory, since the natural look is maintained really very well.

Additionally, there is a small but increasing group of men and women which seems to have come to terms with baldness well, often choosing to shave off additional hair which may still be there on the head, to eventually have what could be referred be referred to as a clean pate (or slate?!). Naturally, there is no demand for toupees coming from this group.

 

Hollywood actors like Yul Brynner preferred the completely bald look over sporting wigs or toupees

Finally, it would be noteworthy to mention that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are taking to toupees to cover their baldness in increasing numbers.

 

Chemotherapy patients can indeed sense a whole new life with toupees or wigs