The History of Hair Extensions

Once upon a time, in a not so far away land, a noble king started a trend that would revolutionise they way we perceive our hair, and the enhancements we seek to improve it.

Who knew that today’s trend for mega-tresses has one key precedent – the man wigs of the 18th century, originally worn by French King Louis XIV. It turns out that Louis was rather a dandy, and when he became follically challenged in his early 20s he sought a solution to ensure he was coiffed with pompous abundance!

Louis hired a staggering 48 wig-makers to save his image – the artisans of the age. Five years later, his English cousin Charles II joined in when his hair started greying. Their ‘courtiers’ swiftly followed.

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A wig-maker sought out the hair, often from the poor (think Fantine in Les Miserables and you won’t be far wrong) and collated it into a sensational style. Hair was a really big deal at the time – a trendy status symbol if you will, and patchy hair loss was common (in both men and women!)

The cost of a basic wig was about 25 shillings (a week’s pay for a common Londoner). A king’s rather epic ‘peruke’ could cost as much as 800 shillings!

Heard of the phrase ‘big wig’? It was originally created during this time to describe people who could afford the really fancy hair.
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Over time, whilst the fashion for grand wigs has come and gone, the trend for oodles of glamorous hair remains strong. Today, extensions are worn for a number of reasons – for volume, length, colour or ever to cover thinning hair.

Celebrities are leading the way, and there are a few similarities between Charles II’s grand wigs and our favourite, implausibly tressy pop-princesses. Big hair is undeniably having a restoration moment!

One element that is considerably different between then and now is the way hair is sourced – all Great Lengths hair extensions are 100% ethical. In India, women and men voluntarily sacrifice and donate their hair to temples in a process known as tonsuring. Great Lengths collect the hair and pay a fair price. This money goes back into the local economy, developing temples, medical services and even schools.

By the time the hair reaches you, it has undergone an extensive cleansing and purification process to ensure that it is in perfect condition – fit for a prince or princess!


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