Perucas: The Origins, History, and Craft

At Jasmine Nicole, we want to make the modern day, multi-dimensional woman feel like the queen she is—and that’s why we chose the word “peruca” for our products instead of “wig.”

Peruca is the feminized version of the word peruke, which were handmade wigs designed and produced for prestigious and notable men of the 17th through the early 19th centuries. Yes, those wigs—the big, white, curly, ostentatious, and elaborate hairpieces that defined the high-society look of those times.

Why were peruke so popular? A few reasons.

First, long and luxurious hair was a status symbol. Balding or hair loss was seen as something to be ashamed of, particularly for men of status. And during those times, hair loss wasn’t only caused by typical male pattern baldness—it was also being caused by widespread syphilis, which results in patchy hair loss without modern day antibiotics. Wigs were a way for any man to cover up this physical shortcoming and keep his pride intact.

But it really wasn’t until the mid-1600s that the peruke truly exploded as a fashion statement. Why? A vain King Louis XIII, who was afraid that losing his hair would lose him respect. When he started going bald at a young age, he hired a full staff of wig makers, who crafted him elaborate perukes to cover up his hair loss.

King Charles II followed suit when he started going bald, and thus perukes became not only practical but also trendy. The more elaborate, expensive, and painstakingly made the peruke, the more status it conferred upon the wearer.

But white European men didn’t invent the idea of using wigs as a way to visually communicate status and wealth—they just gave it a name. The craftmanship of perukes was actually modeled after the wigs created and worn by ancient Egyptians, who referred to them as hair adornments (in hieroglyphics).

If asked to describe what ancient Egyptians looked like, most people will probably mention their penchant for adorning themselves in precious metals and gems, their masterful use of black eyeliner, and their bold, unique hair styles—made possible by wigs.

Wigs were worn by many Egyptians to protect them from the scorching desert sun, and were most often constructed entirely from human hair, this obtained either through the trade of gold or cut from the heads of slaves, who were forbidden to wear wigs.

The caps of the wigs were typically made from fine lengths of hair crocheted to form a mesh-like foundation. Each segment of hair could then be woven or knotted onto this base by hand.

The incredible craftsmanship of these wigs and the enormous care taken by ancient Egyptians to preserve them is what allowed some of them to survive thousands of years—giving us a small window into styles of a time that was as old to the Romans as the ancient Romans are to us.

Modern-Day Perucas

Flash forward several hundred years, and the era of the modern-day peruca has begun. At Jasmine Nicole, we wanted to ensure that our perucas hearkened back to ancient times, and as such, we make our traditional perucas by hand to fit a specific customer—instead of producing them with machines and/or unskilled workers.

All of our perucas model the grandeur, elegance, and quality of the wigs made by ancient Egyptians, but for the modern multidimensional woman. Each step of our process uses highly skilled workers specifically trained in one area of expertise. The entire process takes 21 days, but the results are worth it.

Here’s a crash course on how Jasmine Nicole perucas are made:

  1. Jasmine Nicole acquires luxury wefts of the desired length and texture, as well as a top piece from India (a weft is a collection of hair strands that have been woven onto a fine strip of cloth, which will later be attached to the wig cap). We hand pick all of our hair and, once received, we thoroughly clean it to ensure that it is free from lice.
  2. After the hair has been obtained and cleaned, a master constructionist hand ties each weft and the lace top piece to a breathable, state-of-the-art cap. This process is the most arduous and takes several days to complete. All of our constructionists are trained to sew perucas using a triple-stitch method created by Jasmine Nicole, and we use the same crochet method ancient Egyptians used to make our lace pieces.
  3. Next, the fully constructed peruca is cut and styled by a professionally licensed and highly-skilled stylist with at least 5 years of experience. None of our hair pieces come pre-cut or styled, so you can rest easy knowing that your peruca was cut and styled by a true master.
  4. After the stylist has cut the peruca, it is next colored by a professional colorist to create the desired effect. Like stylists, our colorists must be licensed professionals with at least 5 years of experience in their specific field. They are trained rigorously and are skilled in master techniques such as balyage, ombre, babylights, and highlights. Our colorist does all of the coloring; we do not use any hair pieces that have been pre-colored or glued on.
  5. The completed peruca is delivered to the customer.

How To Ensure Perucas Are Authentic and High-Quality

There are a lot of wigs out there—some good, some okay, and some straight-up terrible. There is a lot of terminology that gets thrown around when you start digging into different kinds of wigs and their materials. Trust us when we say we know how overwhelming and frustrating this can be—and how incredibly disappointing, when you pay a premium price and get a product that leaves you with a product that is substandard or even unusable.

There are two key words you want to look for when determining whether or not the hair used in the peruca is quality: virgin and remy. To be labeled “virgin human hair,” hair must pass a set of rigorous standards, which we’ve outlined below. If you’re on the market for a peruca, be sure to ask yourself these questions along the way to ensure you get a quality product.

How was the hair for the peruca obtained?

Was the hair for your peruca cut directly from a single person’s head, or was it collected from multiple donors and swept off the barbershop floor? If it all looks the same in the end, does it really make that much of a difference? When it comes to the quality and lifespan of your peruca, our answer is an emphatic yes.

When hair is collected from a single donor, it is typically gathered into a ponytail and then cut off. This method preserves cuticle alignment (i.e. the direction the hair originally grew in). Hair gathered in this way is known as remy hair. Because all the hair comes from the same person, no treatment is needed to ensure a consistent texture. Which brings us to…

Is the hair for the peruca natural, unprocessed, and properly aligned?

When hair comes from multiple donors using the “barbershop” method we noted above, it is gathered and sorted by length, and then—because it must have uniform texture—it is treated chemically. This damages the hair follicles, making them weaker and prone to breakage.

The hair cuticles will also be out of alignment, which often results in more tangling and matting. And despite the use of 100% human hair, the texture may look fake or manufactured because of the chemical treatment the hair has undergone. Your peruca won’t last as long, it won’t look as natural, and it will be harder to maintain. Lose-lose-lose.

By contrast, virgin (unprocessed) remy hair (which we use exclusively at Jasmine Nicole for our seasonal perucas, bespoke perucas, hair pieces, and luxury extensions) retains its original texture and cuticle alignment, meaning the hair will be stronger, healthier, easier to care for, and longer lasting.

Has the hair for the peruca been blended with any other fibers or synthetics?

Most manufacturers of perucas and wigs use a 50/50 blend that is made up of 50% human hair and 50% synthetic fibers. This cuts down on manufacturing costs, but the result is a peruca that looks, well, like a wig—and not like a natural head of hair. We do not blend our hair with any fillers, or fibers. It is 100% human hair.

Using 100% human hair is a practice that the ancient Egyptians used as well, often trading gold for hair or using the hair of slaves (who were forbidden to wear wigs) to construct them. Some wigs did use non-human materials like animal hair or other natural fibers. Similar to our synthetic blends today, these wigs were far inferior in looks and did not last as long.

How was the peruca made?

Was it made by a skilled constructionist, who hand tied each weft and strand? Or was it made by machines and unskilled workers? Just like any product, using machines and unskilled labor might be cheaper and faster, but it results in a product that is lower quality.

Cutting corners results in a peruca that looks cheaper and won’t last as long. Look for perucas that are handmade to fit you—not a “one size fits all” type of situation. Because one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to perucas. Every woman is different.

Craftsmanship is one of the things we are proudest of at Jasmine Nicole. Every part of the production process is completed by an individual that is highly trained in a specific skill set. The master constructionist only constructs the peruca. The stylist only cuts and styles the peruca. The colorist only colors the peruca.

Our constructionists have all completed rigorous training in our proprietary triple-stitch method, as well as the same crochet method ancient Egyptians used to make lace pieces. Our stylists and colorists are all licensed professionals with at least five years of experience in their specific field. Every step of the process is completed by hand, with meticulous care.

Is the peruca a lace front or full lace?

Lace front wigs and full lace wigs create a much more natural look for the wearer because they utilize a very thin, almost invisible lace material onto which hairs are tied one by one. This creates the illusion of a natural hairline rather than the blunt line cheaper wigs create. Creating perucas in this method is more time consuming and expensive than simply sewing wefts of hair onto a cap, but the end result is a wig that is more versatile and natural looking.

How should perucas be preserved?

Spending thousands on a luxury peruca and then receiving it in a cardboard box on a Styrofoam head… no thanks. Like the ancient Egyptians who inspired us, we understand just how important it is to preserve your investment.

Ancient Egyptians displayed their wigs on wooden heads, usually with long necks, which were either plain or sometimes decorated with faces. Wig boxes could be made of woven reeds or wood. One box, found in the tomb of Lady Meryt, was tall enough for her to place a block inside, on which she could hang her long wig for storage, care, and preservation.

Jasmine Nicole has modernized the wooden boxes and wooden heads ancient Egyptian women used—all of our handmade, authentic perucas come with a black fiberglass head and a burgundy acrylic box so that the modern-day woman can proudly display her peruca and preserve it for generations to come.