An Abridged History of Human Hair Extensions

Human hair extensions have a longer history than you might imagine, but the high-quality real hair extensions from Milani Hair are nothing like the primitive pseudo-manes of yore. In centuries past, human hair extensions were sometimes made of odd materials, and the good stuff (the real hair) was always reserved for the privileged. Nowadays – thanks to the affordability of trusted brands like Milani – anybody can purchase their own real hair extensions and look like royalty. Of course, just like any trend, real hair extensions have faded in and out of popularity, even disappearing for centuries at a time. Let’s take a journey back through time to look at the history of human hair extensions.
  • ~100 Years Ago: The Early 1900s. A hundred years ago, women cared about their appearance just as much as they do today. Real hair extensions were seen as a luxury, and only people who had a surplus of money could afford them. The extensions of this era were called “switches,” and they were clipped into hair, just like Milani real hair extensions today. The advertisement to the left (c. 1905) states “these switches are … made of splendid quality selected human hair, and to match any ordinary shade.” The prices ranged from 95 cents for a 2 oz. 22-inch switch all the way up to 25 bucks for a customized style (which in today’s market would come to about $2,500!)
  • ~150 Years Ago: Victorian Era (UK) or the Gilded Age (US). The Victorians are often remembered for their decadent tendencies, and they were no different when it came to their hair. In 1873, Britain imported an estimated 102 tons of human hair from France. In what was perhaps the heyday of human hair extensions, both men and women wore these products as a sign of beauty and wealth. Women used the extra length to create complex and opulent hairstyles like Apollo knots, which resembled the beehives of the 1950s.  Let's give a quick shout-out to the 1700s and the powdered wig (real hair extensions made with human hair) before we take a long jump back to …
  • ~3400 BC: The Ancient Egyptians. There’s well documented evidence that human hair extensions were widely used in ancient Egypt as cosmetic adornments. Worn by pharaohs and other important members of society, these very intricate extensions were attached to the hair using a complex system of weaves and knots. For the poorer citizens of Egypt, there were plenty of cheap knockoffs. But these weren’t human hair extensions – vegetable fibers were often used instead. Think of these as the cheap weaves we sometimes see today, the ones that use synthetic hair.
When you're snapping in your real hair extensions by Milani, you can thank the ancient Egyptians. Five-thousand years ago, they were busy laying the groundwork not just for the pyramids, but also for your current, ultra-modern hairstyle. While we may have come a long way from tying cornhusks to our heads, it’s interesting to consider the mindset we  share with our ancestors: when it comes to beauty, anything goes.


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Posted: Jul 20 2011
by: Duck & Cover

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