The hand making of bespoke wigs, postiche (facial hair) and hairpieces.
|Historic area of significance||London|
|Area currently practised||London and Bristol|
|Origin in the UK||17th century|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||201-500|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees||1-5|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
The craft of wig making is thousands of years old. Some similar techniques are still used today which are in evidence in surviving wigs from ancient Egypt. The craft reached the height of popularity between 1760 and 1800, as wigs were fashionable for men and women. After this period, smaller, more natural looking hairpieces continued to be made into the 1900s, falling out of fashion in the early part of the 20th century, with a brief resurgence in the 1960s. Most professionally made wigs are now made to service the theatre, film and television industries, however there is also a branch of the industry which services alopecia suffers, Orthodox Jewish women and people undergoing chemotherapy.
Constructing a base from fine net and hand tying hair (human, animal and synthetic) into the lace net using a very small hook (this process is called knotting in the UK and ventilating in the US). Each wig is made to measure and constructed to design requirements (usually to replicate natural hair growth).
Weaving involves knotting the hair between strands of thread under tension, then constructing wigs and pieces with these lengths of weft.
- Foundation making
- Switch making
- Diamond cluster making
- Hair mixing
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- Raw material (hair) has increased in price in recent years. Cheap, lower quality wigs are now readily available from China and India.
- Changes in vocational training have lost some aspects of teaching the craft.
- Many practitioners are freelance and work from home, which makes traineeships/apprenticeships difficult.
Craftspeople currently known
- Campbell Young
- Ray Marsten
- Peter Owen
- Alex Rowse
- Royal Opera House
- English National Opera
- National Theatre
- Bloomsbury of London
- Banbury Postiche
- The Wig and Makeup Studio – Corinne Young and Philip Carson-Sheard, run wig making courses
- Ede & Ravenscroft (legal wigs)
The entertainment industry currently provides enough employment for the craft to continue. The National Theatre has an apprentice programme.
- Bouviet, Melanie, A practical guide to wig making
- BBC, Why are England’s wig-makers thinning out?