Powdered Wigs, Syphilis, and Tradition

This post has been getting a bunch of hits lately. I thought I would repost it, something I don’t often do, for those who haven’t seen it yet. I think the subject matter is both interesting and absurdly comic. When encountering any tradition of power you should, as they say, “Trust, but verify!”

Windup Wire

Today I was at a friend’s house watching the new History Channel miniseries about the Revolutionary War.   While we were watching it my friend asked me why people wore wigs back in that time period.  I had to find out and upon doing so found this article:

Why Did People Wear Powdered Wigs?

A sample:

For nearly two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the rage. The chic hairpiece would have never become popular, however, if it hadn’t been for a venereal disease, a pair of self-conscious kings, and poor hair hygiene.  

The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the Black Death. According to William Clowes, an “infinite multitude” of syphilis patients clogged London’s hospitals, and more filtered in each day. Without antibiotics, victims faced the full brunt of the disease: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness…

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