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Irish
Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Turtlechick Comments: 130, member since Fri Apr 29, 2005
On Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:56 PM

Hey
I have a school project I'm doing on Irish Dancing and can't find any information on why we wear wigs? Where did that idea come from? Any help would be appreciated!!! As well as any other interesting tidbits on Irish dancing.
thanks
Steph :)

30 Replies to Why do we wear wigs?

re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By IrishBollyDancemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 79, member since Thu May 15, 2008
On Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:59 PM
I heard, and I have no idea if this is true, someone else will have to verify, but I heard that there were like competitions and whatnot on Sunday, so all the girls would dress up nice and curl their hair for church and then afterwards they would dance, with the curly hair and all. But like I said, I'm not sure if its true, but that is just what I heard. It'll be interesting to hear what other people say.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Twitchkitmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 259, member since Tue Mar 13, 2007
On Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:35 PM
^ This story isn't true. Somehow everyone (esp in the coimisuin) hears it; I have dubbed it "the wig story". Yes they danced on Sundays after church, no they did not all curl their hair.

The wigs are not based in tradition. We can look at old pictures of irish dancers; they wore their hair naturally. The wigs just happen to be popular because at some point curling your hair became popular and it was a pain to do. One of the reasons curls are so popular is because they add extra bounce and sort of perkiness to a dancer.

I really hope that didn't sound harsh or anything; it totally wasn't meant to. I just get a little annoyed at the wig story (not those who tell it mind you because I know it is what they have heard).
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By dancing_sheep85 Comments: 291, member since Sun Apr 23, 2006
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 01:49 AM
I guess its two separate questions: why shound we have curly hair in the fist place and why we use wigs to have it?

I am not sure about the first one, everyone just keeps saying its a tradition but at some piont girls realised how difficult and uncofortable it was to curl your hair for every competition and someone started to offer the wigs instead. BTW does anybody happen to remember who was the first vendor who offered wigs? And when was it? Must have been some time around 1995 I guess...
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Clodaghmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 951, member since Wed Dec 27, 2006
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 07:25 AM
The wig story is not totally untrue.
Around the early 1900's when Irish Dancing was being premoted in Ireland it was the thing for every Sunday the girls would curl thier hair for mass. This went on up until the 60's really. So it is not altogether untrue. How it got connected to Irish Dancing I dont know, but there you are. BTW they curled it by washing their hair and tying it up in rags, so it never looked anything like the wigs do.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Crazy_Clairemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 5645, member since Wed Jan 26, 2005
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 07:37 AM
I'm not sure about either. But as for the wigs the first types available were the banana clip ones, not sure what vendor started offering them. But they were not particuarly as popular as they are today. I think this happened a couple of years after 1995, as I started dancing in 1996, and I don't remember there being any wigs about then. So I'd say more round the 1998 mark was when they began to appear. Then when the full wigs started to appear they took off.

I'm not sure where the idea of wigs came from, but I guess for most people it saves the hassel of curling hair, as some people's hair types do not hold curls. Wigs also last longer than many hair do's would.

Claire.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By mrslovettmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1372, member since Sun Jan 06, 2008
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 09:34 AM
Hey - I've read all your stories about how wigs started and I just think it's funny that they caught on. I mean, it's a really weird idea if you think about it. At least, I think it is, and when I first started dancing, I thought they were strange. Now, of course, I can't imagine dancing without one, but still.
re: Why do we wear wigs? (karma: 1)  en>fr fr>en
By AinetheDragonPremium member Comments: 2333, member since Tue Jun 25, 2002
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 11:27 AM
I think its kind of a combination of the nostalgic "little girls curling their hair for mass on sunday" combined with 1980's big poufy hair that resulting in the big curly hair style of the early 1990's. Then the wigs started, and it sort of took on a life of its own. In 1994?I think my teacher wore her naturally wavy/curly hair natural, with a bit of mousse and a half up half down ponytail at nationals. It wasnt at all out of place, because that was the look (granted most people needed a little more work then that, but still). Once we got wigs with those perfect curls that hardly anyone could ever get, and the fullness too.... well, they got bigger and bigger, and the shirley temple on steroids look became popular. It was like "well, since it isnt real anyway, it might as well be unrealistically perfect and huge" Over time, people became accustomed to the curls, and now they think they have to have them.

Personally, I wear a wig because a hairpiece is easier then just about any hairstyle I have tried. One less source of stress.
re: Why do we wear wigs? (karma: 2)  en>fr fr>en
By Hop_123member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 4008, member since Sat Feb 03, 2007
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 01:38 PM
So our kids can swim in the hotel pool, and not ruin their hairstyle for dancing!
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By reel_treble Comments: 811, member since Tue Jul 08, 2003
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 07:01 PM
Because sleeping in sponge curlers is torture. Ugh. We would spend two hours curling my hair at night, and then I would spend the night tossing and turning, and then we would spend another hour in the morning taking the curlers out, splitting the curls, hair spraying them. The whole bit. Wigs were a bunch easier. They were fairly looked down upon when they first came on the scene though. My dance teacher forbid us to have them. Eventually the ease was apparent and we started getting them. I was about 4th grade when the first ones (banana clips) started appearing, so that's 1998. My first wig was a two comb Celtic Curl wig in 1999. They started being widely worn in the 1999-2000 eras. It was also around then when dresses started becoming neon, stiffened and appliqued. Kind of when Irish dance took the turn towards where it is now.

Granted, that doesn't explain why we have our hair in curls in the first place. I've heard the Mass story. I've also heard that because of 80's hair, it became popular with dancers and just kind of stuck. Hopefully the timeline helps, though!
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Turtlechick Comments: 130, member since Fri Apr 29, 2005
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 07:43 PM
Thanks everyone for your help! I'm going to try incorporate all your stories into my project. Thanks a lot!!! :)
But now I have a new question ;
Why do we wear poodle socks and when did they come in?
Thanks
Steph :)
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By TheStoryTellermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2234, member since Mon May 19, 2008
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 08:21 PM
i'm not sure when they came in but maybe we wear them so that everybody is kind of uniform? if you look at Highland dancers they all have standard sock lengths too, so maybe it's just so we look uniform? i don't know though, i've never really thought about it to tell you the truth
re: Why do we wear wigs? (karma: 3)  en>fr fr>en
By KnotworkMolltPremium member Comments: 2795, member since Sat Oct 09, 2004
On Sat Jun 07, 2008 11:46 PM
The central issue isn't where the wigs came from - they appeared as soon as there was a sufficient market for them, which the Riverdance boom created starting 14 years ago. The issue is, where did the curly hair fetish come from? I wish I knew the answer to that because it was firmly established when we got involved in Irish dance in the 1980's. It isn't much older than that: Dr. John Cullinane, a historian of Irish dancing, has pictures of Irish dancers dated as recently as 1975 that show the girls wearing their hair in whatever style was fashionable in the world at large at the time.

(Dr. Cullinane also poo-poos the idea that we dance with our arms by our sides because it kept either the British occupying forces or the clergy from realizing that we were dancing. He says that it became firmly established in the 1950's, when he was a champion dancer, because of the insistence of some influential adjudicators. The photographic record bears him out - the oldest photographs we have of Irish dance competitions show the arms in use. It's amazing that our art, which is sporadically concerned with tradition, is so full of fabricated stories about our own history! Here's another one, which I'd believed myself until I read O'Keefe & O'Brien's 1902 "A Handbook of Irish Dances" [www.archive.org . . .]. The story is that women didn't dance hardshoe until after the First World War. So many Irish soldiers in the service of the British army had been killed or maimed that women were allowed to dance hardshoe so the art wouldn't die out. Alas, O'Keefe and O'Brien report that the shameless women of Cork were dancing hardshoe just like men a dozen years before the first guns of that conflict were fired!)

When the population of Irish dancers grew to the point where it was feasible for wigmakers to offer wigs specifically designed for them, people who'd experienced the frustrations that we had jumped on them. To us, wigs seem like a solution rather than a problem. The insistence on curly hair is the problem!

I wish I could help with the origin of poodle socks but they were also a fixture when I got involved in ID, and a pain in the ankle they were! They were 100% cotton at the time, so they'd wilt and sag as you wore them, and nobody had been crazy enough to think of sock glue at the time! We tried starching them, which is even crazier than gluing your socks to your leg, but they still wouldn't last the day.

Historical photographs aren't much help with poodle socks because although some show girls wearing ankle socks, and some wearing knee socks, it isn't possible to tell whether they're patterned or plain.

Having dealt with An Com as long as I have as a teacher, I'm inclined to think that the answer to all of the questions is the same as Dr. Cullinane's answer to why we dance with our hands at our sides - some influential adjudicators decided this was the way it should be, and nobody's had the nerve to change it. If you have access to the super-secret An Com rule book, you'll discover that there is no requirement in the rules to curl your hair, wear poodle socks, or for adults to wear tights. None. The actual rules don't cover much of anything except student transfers, which they cover in minute detail because there you're talking about our income.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Clodaghmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 951, member since Wed Dec 27, 2006
On Sun Jun 08, 2008 10:47 AM
Edited by Theresa (28613) on 2008-06-08 16:12:05 member request
The story is that women didn't dance hardshoe until after the First World War. So many Irish soldiers in the service of the British army had been killed or maimed that women were allowed to dance hardshoe so the art wouldn't die out.


I can tell you straight away that this is bull. Around WW1 (1914-1918) Irish Nationalism was a growing thing (Easter Rising anyone?), a result of which meant that huge numbers of Irish Soldiers did NOT go to war with Britain. Only people who really needed the job, or people who believed that Britain would give in to independence if they supported them went. And conscription was not introduced to Ireland for during this war. This meant that there wasn't as many Irish Soldiers being killed that would mean the art would die out.

Also many people would have only worn one pair of shoes, they wouldn't have had different ones, people would have danced in their normal shoes (women included) which would have been similar to the hardshoes danced in today.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By KnotworkMolltPremium member Comments: 2795, member since Sat Oct 09, 2004
On Sun Jun 08, 2008 04:01 PM
^ Clodagh, thanks for the elucidation! Once again, the historical record debunks an ID fabrication.

Someone suggested to me that the Irish women's hardshoe story was borrowed from the Scots. Their story is that women weren't allowed to wear kilts and do the Highland dances until after WW I (and still aren't at some competitions). The organizing officials allowed women to enter Highland dancing events because so many of the Jocks had been killed or maimed. I have no idea whether that story is any more true than the Irish one but the similarity is revealing.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By MrsFinnigan Comments: 8044, member since Mon Aug 12, 2002
On Mon Jun 09, 2008 01:03 PM
About the poodle socks, the ones I wore back in the 1980's were nothing like what they are now. My guess is that they were invented to keep Irish feet warm and dry in the cold, damp weather, as they were originally wool or of some wool blend, and extremely thick- much thicker than they are now. They were also shorter. Due to the thickness and the relative shortness of poodle socks then, the problem of socks falling down (bear in mind, this was back in the kilt daze) was almost entirely a guy thing. (And my poodle socks from back then were quite durable, too, lasting me several years.)

But yes, poodle socks were never required. Somewhere I even have pictures of my sister and me at a dance-out... in nice white cotton ankle socks.

As for wigs, yes, the story of curls becoming the norm for Irish dance because that's how girls wore their hair for Mass is not true. I only started seeing wigs in dance competition in the mid-1990's, and even then, many dancers didn't even bother curling their hair. The only rules I'd seen at that point about curls was from individual teachers, and they only encouraged curls, rather than outright require them. The only requirements were that hair be neat and clean. Everything else was just a matter of preference.

Somewhere along the line, people got the idea that the encouragement from some individual teachers to curl hair equated a requirement across the board. Wigs were tried as a convenient alternative to meeting that "required" hairstyle with sponge curlers or spikes (and in the case of my daughter and me, they failed that experiment).

As for that other unrelated tidbit of Irish history, Clodagh, from what I'd read, actually a lot of Irish did serve in World War 1 out of sympathy for Belgium, France, Serbia, and other small nations who's freedom was threatened and in hopes that England would recognize that "freedom of small nations" should then logically apply to Ireland as well.

Most Irish nationalists regarded the war as for a just cause, but perceived England's role in the war to be rather hypocritical, and when conscripting Irish troops passed later in the war, it embittered many people who might have otherwise volunteered willingly.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By lilmegzibutt Comments: 1590, member since Thu Jan 29, 2004
On Mon Jun 09, 2008 01:51 PM
I remember when wigs were first introduced to irish dance.
The story I was always told, as to why Irish dancers wear their hair curly was because when you jump your hair is lifted and curls tend to bounce more. Basically way back when, we used to sit around with OLD school curlers, this is before the soft spikes came about. we'd wear them until about 5 minutes before our competition and just rip them out and PRAY the curls lasted through the feis... and that they looked good. I have a picture of me with my hair in CRAZY curls, and one just sitting ontop of my head.
Then eventually someone got the idea to wear a curly wig, and that idea spread. Kind of like the materials used in dress making and styles. There were no "emma" "rachael", etc. named wigs, it was... you went to a wig store and bought one, for about $25. (I STILL get mine for under $20). then natuarally competition took place, everyone wanted bigger hair. and the trends kicked in.
My old school was one of the last on long island to use wigs, were were REALLY against them, but we decided to give them a try for the oireachtas. it was quite amusing, because I'm tiny and our wigs were soooo long, it came down to my waist, we had to cut it.

So, that's what I remember of how the wigs came about. granted, I used to dance when solo dresses were for CHAMPIONS only, competitions were on sunday only, socks weren't an issue and the price of a full costume (dress, shoes, socks, etc) was about $300.00,, for TOP OF THE LINE
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By momsjigmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 441, member since Thu Jun 21, 2007
On Mon Jun 09, 2008 02:01 PM
This is such a fun thread.
When I danced as a girl, I danced from about 1971 to 1979. We always danced in our normal hair, which for me was a short page boy....that was like everyone else. And we wore black tights...because that was what our dance school costume required. Some schools did wear ankle socks, which were much easier to find and easier on the fee when you wore hard shoes (so jealous at the time).

Imagine my suprise in 1997 when I returned to ID as an adult ceili dancer. Wigs? These plastered socks? Huh? And they thought I was nuts, when I told them how I used to dance!!

my 2 cents from ye olde momsjig
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By dance10looks3 Comments: 102, member since Mon Jan 01, 2007
On Mon Jun 09, 2008 02:17 PM
I get a kick out of this thread. I have to agree with the fact that the "wig story" is mostly that, and the dancers usually wore their hair in whatever styles was fashionable at the time (albeit perhaps "sunday best" which for kids at times meant curls). Mostly, the curls are now desirable because they dance well and look good in motion, riverdance made those popular, and with the boom in irish dance numbers, everyone wanted to keep up with the fads. As for wigs, with the boom in numbers, it became more cost-effective to do a wig (after all who wants to curl all that hair - by hand it takes hours and it would hold for only a brief time).

As for the arms, I think I would have to agree with Dr. Cullinane - again, more of a fad, although it is nice for shows to have a good "arm story" to explain it to everyone. I think over time, the arms were never the really important part of the dancing (hence the name "stepdancing"), and were dispensable, and perhaps even considered distracting. Now it is the practice, although with the increase in showmanship (again, courtesy of Riverdance and its progeny), the arms are becoming a bit more used, although not in solo competition.

As a TCRG and a history scholar by education, I love this stuff. It is very interesting to watch how the dance form has developed and changed over time. one of the reasons I gave up Highland dancing for Irish dancing (I did both initially) was the fact that the Irish dancing was much more a "living" art, subject to new interpretation all the time, versus the Highland dancing which tends to be much more limited, tied to strict steps. Not so much ongoing development going on in Highland dancing.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By MrsFinnigan Comments: 8044, member since Mon Aug 12, 2002
On Mon Jun 09, 2008 03:30 PM
Have to giggle about some of the "arm stories." My favorite one did receive a degree of substantiation some years ago when I taught ceili to a local folk dance society. I had heard that house dances could become so crowded that excessive use of arms meant the increased risk of slapping, punching, elbowing, or even clotheslining a partner. One guy decided to do the dance across in the 8 hand jig with his hands on his hips and his elbows out, and accidentally elbowed all the other gents in the process.

The story I really believe, however, is that Irish dance never had much use for armwork except to hold the hands of partners. Even in the ceili dances that call for some "stray arms," as I call them, the feet are never doing anything interesting. The left hand rests on the hip only of the resting partners during one figure of the Bonfire Dance. All hand clapping is done while the feet are at a standstill. The Three Tunes stands out as an exception because it involves men shaking a fist and stamping a foot- at the same time!

But then, I've noticed that in other dance forms, too. Those that make more use of the arms make less use of the feet, and vice versa.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Clodaghmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 951, member since Wed Dec 27, 2006
On Tue Jun 10, 2008 07:46 AM
Most Irish nationalists regarded the war as for a just cause, but perceived England's role in the war to be rather hypocritical, and when conscripting Irish troops passed later in the war, it embittered many people who might have otherwise volunteered willingly.[q/]

They never introduced conscription to Ireland because there was uproar about it, my great grandfather made sure of that as he petitioned against it in the house of commons on numerous occasions.


Also yes there were Irish people fighting in WW1 but not enough that the art as being threatened, and not for the reasons you have said. There was 2 groups of people who fought in the war on Britain's side. The Unionists who wanted Britain to see what a service they were doing and not give Ireland Independence. And some Home Rulers who thought that if Britain saw that they were willing to fight for them they would give them Home Rule.


Sorry for going of topic.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Bepac Comments: 212, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:10 AM
Because it hurts to sleep with curlers? ;)
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Turtlechick Comments: 130, member since Fri Apr 29, 2005
On Thu Jun 12, 2008 12:08 AM
Thanks to everyone for your help!! I have learn't heaps and it has really helped with my project!
Thanks
Steph :)
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By califeisgirl Comments: 2408, member since Thu Mar 21, 2002
On Thu Jun 12, 2008 03:45 AM
sorry, I have to be cheeky, its just in my blood.
Why do we wear wigs? Because wearing hats just never caught on?
Anyway, you've already got serious answers, so I don't feel so bad.
re: Why do we wear wigs? en>fr fr>en
By Mom2G Comments: 71, member since Wed May 07, 2008
On Tue Jul 29, 2008 06:37 AM
The Wigs are to make Moms lives easier! I tried once to curls my daughter's hair and I bought a wig at that feis! It got tangled and she couldn't sleep and I didn't look good for very long!
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