The Hair-Raising History of the Toupée

Smiling young man with a full head of hair.

What do John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Sean Connery, the original James Bond, and William Shatner, the original Captain Kirk, all have in common? They all reportedly wear toupées. Hairpieces are common in Hollywood and other corners of the entertainment industry and the media and everyday people have a lot of fun speculating whose hair is real and whose isn’t. But have you ever wondered where the toupée comes from?  They didn’t just fall from the sky on top of people’s heads. Like everything else, there’s a history behind hairpieces, and RHRLI thought it would be fun to take a look at that history while letting you know about our permanent solution to hair loss that involves your real hair.

RHRLI Will Restore Your Hair Permanently

Our permanent solution is called the ARTAS® System and it is a minimally invasive hair transplant procedure that finds your healthy hair, usually on the back or side of your head and using robotic technology, transplants them to where you’ve lost your hair. The result is a natural healthy head of hair, which is quite a far cry from what people have done throughout history to cover up hair loss.

The Evolution of the Toupée

Merriam-Webster defines toupée as a wig or section of hair worn to cover a spot where hair loss has occurred. According to Britannica, the toupée was originally considered any raised roll of hair located just above the forehead that’s either natural or artificial.

The history of the toupée weaves in quite a bit with the history of the wig. Humans have been using head covering that mimics hair as long as anyone can remember, according to History News Network. Wigs were prevalent among the high societies of Ancient Greece and Rome but declined in the Middle Ages. They came back in a big way in 17th Century France, during the reign of Louis XIII.  The style spread through the rest of Europe. According to the Independent, men began to shave their heads because the heavy wigs were becoming uncomfortable.

At around 1730, wig fashion moved away from artificial looking hair and the toupée became fashionable. This was a hairpiece that mingled with the wearer’s natural hair.  By the 19th century, men began to stop wearing wigs and toupées were used to cover up hair loss.

A toupée played a starring role in one of the ugliest incidents to ever take place at the United States Capitol. In 1858, just prior to the Civil War, two members of the House of Representatives, Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow and South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt exchanged insults, and then began fighting, according to the House historian.

Within 30 minutes, 30 House members were involved in the brawl, which largely involved northern members and southern members. It culminated when Wisconsin Representative John F. Potter, the “Western Hercules,” snatched the toupee from atop Mississippi Representative William Barksdale’s head. As members began to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, Potter shouted, “Hooray, boys! I’ve got his scalp!” The situation in Congress was diffused, for a while.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries much of the talk about hairpieces has been related to celebrity use. Decades after his death, John Wayne’s toupée from the 1967 film El Dorado was auctioned in England, according to BBC.

RHRLI Will Give You a State of the Art Hair Transplant

Today, there are easier ways to find a solution to hair loss. The ARTAS® System uses robotic precision to find donor hairs so you don’t need to worry about something like a scalpel. Most patients report little to no pain and you’ll be back to your normal life in just a few days. Contact us today.

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