6 Weird Fashions From History (With Weirder Explanations)

If you intend to do any traveling in a time machine, you'd better invest a whole lot of money in costumes. After all, people in the past looked ridiculous. Why the hell did they, for instance, wear giant white wigs everywhere?

Actually if you look into it, you find some pretty interesting explanations for ...

#6. Those Ponytails Stuck on the Top of Samurais' Heads

sirismm.si.edu, Wikipedia

The iconic image of a Japanese warrior (or today, sumo wrestler) comes complete with a weird hairstyle in which the front of the head is shaved while the remaining mullet is bound up in a bun or topknot. The origin of this bizarre haircut, called "chonmage," goes all the way back to the age of the samurai, as it helped to keep a samurai's helmet on his head.

"Nah, I'll stick with the chin strap. I don't want to look ridiculous."

Since the samurai class were wealthy and influential nobility, it didn't take long for the style to catch on among the Japanese public, who longed to be sword-slinging badasses. Over time, it became traditional for boys turning 13 to shave the front of their heads and adopt the samurai hairstyle to signal that they had become men. Hair neatness was so important in Japan that artists usually employed messy hair as shorthand to represent someone who had been in some way disgraced.

"I knew letting Tom Cruise into the country was a bad idea."

The fashion was pretty widespread until globalization forced the Japanese to realize that the rest of the world found their hairstyles absolutely ridiculous -- which is a ballsy claim, considering everyone in the West was wearing powdered wigs at the time (but more on that later).

"... the fuck is this?"

A story from 1863 recounts the adventures of two Japanese students who covered their chonmage hairstyles with hats while visiting Holland. When forced to remove the hats at the theater, they caused such an uproar of hilarity that the play had to be stopped, and the story made the national press the next day. It's just another example of a national pastime ruined by racism.

Unless your national pastime is racism, in which case, go wild.

These days, the legacy of chonmage remains almost solely with sumo wrestlers, who are too fat to be bothered with your criticism of their hairstyles.

#5. Tiny Penises on Greek Sculptures


You probably know at least two things about Ancient Greece -- it was the birthplace of Western culture, and if all those marble statues are to be believed, everyone had really tiny wangs. Given that most men habitually add around three inches to the real size of their packages in the relatively unlikely event that they're asked, we have to wonder why a washboard-chested warrior civilization decided to portray all their manliest heroes with a chronic case of shrinkage. Was it just really cold back then? How well did they expect that sad little thing to please a woman?

"At least I have my children. The ones who didn't die of typhoid."

Actually, pleasing women was about the last priority that any self-respecting Greek hero would have had back then, if you catch our drift.

Experts have actually exhaustively studied the role of dongs in Greek society and written entire books on the subject. Cecil Adams over at StraightDope.com neatly summarizes it: "Long, thick penises were considered -- at least in the highbrow view -- grotesque, comic or both ...". So in art, big dongs appeared on non-human creatures and barbarians, and the perfect penis in those days, "... was small, thin and covered with a long, tapered foreskin." Which is to say that the Greeks preferred their penises to look, uh ... younger.

"Putting a finger puppet on the end and doing a show" kind of young.

See, in Ancient Greek culture, one of the most common and socially acceptable relationships was between a man and a young boy. It was basically the exact society that fundamentalist Republicans imagine right before they shoot bolt upright, whimpering in a cold sweat. The ideal object of beauty and desire was not Jessica Alba in a hand bra but an athletic, clean-shaven male with the neat and unobtrusive genitalia of a boy just coming into puberty.

In the interests of context and open-mindedness -- ewwww.

So, rather than bragging about having a pork missile so huge that they could make a woman climax twice simultaneously, back then they would brag about having a dick so small that they could attract the wealthiest men in Greece by looking like a 12-year-old. We cannot stress enough how much of a different world this was.

As a result, as the ancient playwright Aristophanes put it, what was most sexy in Ancient Greece was "a gleaming chest, bright skin, broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks and a little prick."

Actually, most people we know who look like this tend to be massive pricks.

#4. Huge, Ridiculous Powdered Wigs


The fastest way to identify a movie as a period piece is when everyone important in the film is wearing a stupid-looking wig. Kings and aristocrats, presidents, politicians and composers are always decked out in elaborate white/blond curly wigs, often adorned with plaits, ribbons and bows. In Britain and Australia, judges and barristers still wear them. So who the hell thought that was a good idea?

"Tradition overwhelms the fact that I have a huge clump of dyed hair sitting on my sweaty comb-over."

Blame King Louis XIII of France. The French monarchy had long suffered from a hereditary condition of embarrassing male pattern baldness, and so, tired of being mocked by the King of England, Louis wore a badass wig to show that he was the most virile king around. Before long, his unconventional style became a fashion statement in the royal court, with most of the king's men adopting the elaborate hairpieces, whether they were bald or not.

"Apparently he's jumping off a cliff next week. I'm totally going to do that, too."

With France being the center of European culture in the 17th century, anything that was sexy in France quickly spread to the rest of Europe. As aristocrats tried to outdo one another, the wigs, called perukes or periwigs, became more and more fabulous. This led to the creation of a whole industry of wig-makers, who established their own guild in 1665. The wigs became such a part of the culture that you had to wear a wig to move upward in society. By the late 1700s, men were pouring a starch-based powder over their wigs to make them as white as possible.

This had the brilliant effect of making them look like idiots.

The wig craze died in England when the government sensed a money-making opportunity and imposed a hefty tax on hair powder. At the same time, a minor incident in France called the French Revolution made it kind of uncool to be seen in public wearing a symbol of the aristocracy. But until then, the peruke phenomenon had been one of the most long-standing and weirdest fashion crazes in European history. All because the King of France was self-conscious about his bald spot.

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