Could a Man Wearing a Wig in Worship Really Be Considered Uncovered?

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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I visited an historical site recently and a man there reminded me that ministers (and nearly all men) in the colonial times (in the New and Old Worlds) would wear wigs during public appearances. Including worship. These wigs were made to look quite striking, they conveyed wealth, were marks of status, and were often as expensive to buy and maintain as a vehicle might be for us today. In fact, the reason a minister or a judge would wear a silver wig (even if a young man) was that it would lend him an air of wisdom.

As I reflected upon all this, I thought to myself, "What mental gymnastics a man wearing a wig for these reasons in worship would need to perform, in order to squirm away from obeying the Scripture!" Yet, I know there were many men in those days far more godly and knowledgeable than I.

My main questions for the board are:

1. Could a man wearing a wig in worship (for no other reason than convention) with any believability claim that he was obediently uncovering his head (per 1 Corinthians 11:4)? In other words, do we believe the apostle was only arguing for the removal of a head-dress (or mitre, or turban, etc.) for men in this passage, and that a covering that looks passably close to natural hair is fine?

2. Given the clear association between wigs and wealth/status, why didn't more ministers and godly men reject the wearing of such finery? John Wesley is a notable example of a minister rejecting the "wig culture" of his time. Perhaps you know of any from this time period who wrote upon this question?

3. What things are perfectly normal for ministers and godly men in our society today, upon which our spiritual descendants might look and shake their heads in disbelief, and wonder how godly men of the early 21st century could have been so blind to their times and to the Scriptures? (Note: I'm not saying I think the men who wore wigs were necessarily blind to the Scriptures and to their times, just thinking about our own possible blind-spots.)
 
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Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
"...most Second Reformation divines promoted a strong negative ethic. Voetius, for example, forbade “such practices as visiting public houses, playing with dice, the wearing of luxurious clothes, dancing, drunkenness, revelry, smoking and the wearing of wigs.”

See à Brakel CRS, vol. 1, pg. lxxxvi
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
My mind went to modern toupees. I was gonna say did Elton John visit your church?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
The good guys in the English Civil War were called "Roundheads" for a reason.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
The good guys in the English Civil War were called "Roundheads" for a reason.

If I'm not mistaken, that was because of the way their hair was cut. The Parliamentarians had closely cropped hair while the Cavaliers wore their hair long and often in ringlets. Wigs did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I think of John Flavel, a minister who lived during the height of wig fashion. Because of persecution, there's no way he could have afforded a wig. And anyway, it would seem to go against his character. The only picture I found of him online shows him wigless, although it does show him in his younger days.

It's an interesting question. I wonder if any writers make mention of wig-wearing as vanity or something like that.
 

Joshua

Administrator
Staff member
I suppose I've just never thought about it (the wig-gy wearin' worship), and prolly wouldn't've, 'cept for this thread, and think I'll still not.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is not the actual physical having-of-some object on one's head that matters; it is whether an object is worn as a covering; as with most things, it is the intent of the heart that matters. Wigs were not considered a covering in that particular society--you still put on a hat to go outdoors: that was the covering. You took off your hat to show respect--for the king, for a lady, for the house into which you entered. But you did not take off your wig. It was not considered a covering in that sense, so the ministers of that day likely did not see it as violating that precept.
A man with a toupee nowadays could also not be considered to have his head covered with it; it is not a covering in that sense. If we were to say that God required that no physical object be on our heads, where would it stop? Would hair dye count as covering? Would pomade? Dandruff? Once sight is lost of the meaning of a precept, the keeping of the word of it becomes pretty silly. Look at modern Jewry with their separate kitchens.
 
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