Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair

Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  Peter Mallone 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Scholastic , 2011   ISBN: 978-0439676403

These days, when you walk down a street, you might see a man with a long braid, a woman with a short and spikey crew cut, a girl whose hair is dyed pink, or man whose hair is bleached blond. You might see people with dreadlocks or exotic cuts. These days, when it comes to hair, anything goes.

   This was not always the case. There have been times in human history when people did not have the freedom to wear their hair as they wished. In China, when the Manchu government came into power in 1644, all men had to “shave the top of their heads and grow a long pigtail in back.” Dissenters would not be tolerated.

   At other times certain hairstyles were the fashion and not the law. However, if you chose not to follow the fashion, then you were considered unfashionable and being unfashionable could affect your social or even financial status in society. This certainly was the case in France during the reign of King Louis XIII. The king, who began to lose his hair, decided to don a wig, and because they wanted to ingratiate themselves with the king, everyone in court starting wearing wigs. Wealthy Frenchmen and women followed suit, and soon the well-to-do in England were wearing wigs as well. It did not matter that wigs were heavy, uncomfortable and silly-looking. All the mattered was that one looked fashionable.

   In addition to telling us about hairstyles, the author of this book also tells us (among other things) about how the first blow dryer was created, how the Marcel Wave was invented by a man who groomed horses, and how a woman who developed hair products for African-Americans became one of the first African-American millionaires.

   Throughout this highly entertaining book a lighthearted and often amusing text is paired with gorgeous illustrations to give readers a picture of some of the highlights (no pun intended) in the history of hairstyles and hairdressing.