"Beyond the horizon of hair": Masculinity, nationhood and fashion in the Anglo-French Eighteenth century

Aschendorff Verlag
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Hinter dem Horizont Band 2: Projektion und Distinktion ländlicher Oberschichten im europäischen Vergleich, 17.19. Jahrhundert, 2013, First, pp. 79 - 90
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Fashion is a distinctive format as it is both an economic product and a part of the imaginative horizon. It exists in a double register of material actions and also in its representations. The wearing of false hair in replacement of one's own is a cultural act that was transformed from the social requisite of an elite to a more individualised consumer choice over the course of the long-eighteenth century. Worn almost universally by men in England and very widely in France by the early-eighteenth century, the wig was offered in a variety of formats and qualities, and was constantly subject to fashion change and also innovation in design. Over the course of the century changing priorities about health, science and also aesthetics became allied with notions of comfort and convenience, meaning that the wig did not become "old fashioned" but rather was "refashioned" in new ways. Even at the time when the wearing of one's own hair was gaining currency in the 1760-1770s, "fashion" created new tastes for very high toupées, long tails and particularly mannered appearances for male wigs. Although wigs represented a cost, the hair of young men could likely be modified or amplified with false hair in order to appear fashionable. This paper will present aspects of the evidence that survives for this practice, as well as speculating at length on what the hairstyles might have meant or inferred. In this way, the chapter will consider both a social, bodily and material culture practice - hairstyling and hair-pieces - with broader social, psychological and cultural meanings.
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