Wigs & Windows of Opportunity

 

 

It was an odd situation. For a century and a half, men got rid of their own hair, which was perfectly comfortable, and instead covered their heads with something foreign and uncomfortable. Very often it was actually their own hair made into a wig. People who couldn’t afford wigs tried to make their hair look like a wig.” 
Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Colours

The definition of a peruke or periwig, according to my Google search is: a type of wig for men, fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The definition of a “window of opportunity,” which is common to every age, is a favourable opportunity for doing something that must be seized immediately.

Richard Arkwright understood both concepts and recognized their relevance in his life. His brilliance, in my estimation, was based on his ability to see the future needs of an agrarian society on the verge of an extraordinary transformation.  He identified many windows of opportunities during his lifetime, acting quickly, resourcefully, and efficiently to exploit them before they closed.  Perhaps his greatest talent was to partner with those who could help him realize his ambitions.

Education was expensive; young Richard was home-schooled by his cousin Ellen. In the early 1750’s, when he was in his twenties, he apprenticed as a barber and wig maker.  The attire of an 18th century gentleman included the essential periwig, powdered to give that characteristic white or off-white colour.  It was in those formative years as he worked on producing wigs, that Richard experienced a breakthrough.  He invented a waterproof dye for colouring wigs.  It was not long before he received a substantial income from this initiative.  He  would soon parlay this capital  into a cotton machinery enterprise.  Another window was about to open.

I imagine that there were people who asked, “Why didn’t I think of that?”    Perhaps the question that Richard Arkwright asked, “What could I invent that others need?”  He seemed to know the answer before anyone else.

We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work” 
 Thomas A. Edison

114 thoughts on “Wigs & Windows of Opportunity

    • Indeed, there is! A few years back, I was discussing business strategies with the owner of a well-known and successful hair salon. When I asked who her main competitors were, she told me her competition did not come in the form of other hair salons; instead, it was the local drug stores, grocers – businesses that sold hair supplies, especially the hair colour products. There was a time when hair salons had specialty products that could only be sold through their establishments. That has all changed now…

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    • I agree. In fact, when I look at how decisions are made, I have discovered that outcomes/solutions/choices depend on how well we ask questions. I find Sir Richard Arkwright to be an interesting discussion on how ethics play a vital role within the context of exponential change. Why did a child born into poverty, allow other poor children to work long hours in dangerous jobs? For me, this series of posts is my way of asking questions!!! So glad that you are here!

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      • I’m so glad, that you are asking this questions, Rebecca!♥ I really enjoy reading your posts – and all the comments too!
        Big hug
        Dina

        By the way: Bill Bryson lives only half an hour away from us in Cley. We feel very honoured that he has choosen this quiet little village in North Norfolk as his “home”.
        I was on my knees laughing as I read his impressions of England in “Notes from a small island”. 🙂

        “Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it.”

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      • How wonderful for you to stop by and make my day memorable! Love the quote, which confirms my sentiment exactly. In my humble opinion, however, Bill Bryson is fortunate to live in the same village as the Fabulous Four!! Hugs coming across the waters…

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    • A very interesting point – you bring up the idea of “useful” which, to me, is the basis for progress. It is so easy to move from useful to useless, depending on context. Recently, when I went through a career transition, I cleaned out my closet. What once was essential, was no longer required or useful to me. I think Coco Chanel had the right of it: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Thank you for adding depth to this discussion.

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  1. Such a great (and interesting) post! My husband and I were just brainstorming work-from-home ideas last night and may have hit upon our own little window of opportunity. Food for thought! 🙂
    Loving the snow on your blog, btw 🙂

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    • Ah, the snow!! It reminds me of the first time I started a blog on WordPress – it was Christmas time. I love brainstorming for it signals an openness to explore, not only what is possible, but what may be impossible. Windows come is all shapes and sizes. They are there (what would we do without sticky notes) waiting for the right person to discover the right time, for the right reason, to do the right thing. One of my most favourite quotes is by Walt Disney:

      “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

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  2. We take so many things for granted today. We just assume they always were there.
    Thanks for returning us to the past. It is so interesting to read how the wig developed and the weaving thread too.

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    • We do indeed take so many things for granted today! I remember when telephones were on party lines; now we are completely mobile with WIFI.

      It seems that humanity tends to look forward, for that is how our lives unfold in our finite existence; even so, we can’t help but look back to see how far we’ve come. Perhaps we are curious, or simply nostalgic. Whatever the reason, I am learning as Søren Kierkegaard once said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

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      • This Kierkegaard quote is so a propos. I’m constantly amazed by your ability to find the right quote, and I enjoy them immensely.

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      • Thank you so much for your kind comments! I have been collecting quotes most of my life (my father did too so it runs in the family DNA). Now the internet makes it even easier to add to my collection. So glad that you stopped by – much appreciated.

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    • I agree wholeheartedly. Most of us (including myself) are risk-averse, especially when the rewards are uncertain and unpredictable. But then, some things are worth the risk…and that is when the adventure really starts. I can’t help myself – I just have to add a J.R.R. Tolkien quote. It somehow seemed so appropriate.

      It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

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    • Thank you!!! I am learning as I go along. Who would have thought that wigs would lead to cotton machinery? And to think that clock-makers made it all possible. There is a lot more to the story….
      While one person may be the driving force behind a new initiative, it takes a team to make it happen!!! 🙂

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    • Thank you, Cindy! Ever since I started to blog, I find that my knowledge level has increased because of all of the interactions with other bloggers. Blogging us truly an amazing adventure. 🙂

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  3. Clan, You provide some of the most interesting posts I read. I and always intrigued with where your taking me from the opening line. This post is just another example. Thank you, Bill

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    • Bill!!! Thank you – so glad that you are enjoying my forays into the past. There are so many stories that have relevance to our generation.

      “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
      Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

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    • That is exactly what I thought – who knew? And the story becomes even more interesting, as I am finding out. I had no idea who Richard Arkwright was until a couple of months ago.

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    • More to come! I’m learning as I go along, Valerie. I am exploring how personal values change when there is great upheaval and movement. How do our decisions affect our actions and belief systems. Richard Arkwright is an excellent case study for me for I find his support of child labour in deplorable conditions appalling. Yet, I cannot discount the complexities of this era for they are but a foreshadowing of our age. Your comments are always so much appreciated!

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  4. How very strange! I never knew that the men used their own hair to have the wigs made. 🙂 Richard Arkwright was quite brilliant in spite of his home schooling. His cousin Ellen did a great job at preparing him for life.

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    • I agree! I found it interesting that the family made an effort to educate their 13 children, despite their financial circumstances. Fast forward to present-day, home schooling is becoming more prevalent, especially with those who have outside activities like dance, sports etc or who travel a lot. In Vancouver, there is a movement to have some distance education combined with traditional classroom. I just have to add a quote from our dear Nelson Mandela on education:

      “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

      One thing is certain – Richard Arkwright changed the world…

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  5. The ability to foresee things is a gift …. but knowledge, fortitude, and an opportunity are needed to take the gift to the next level …. oh yes … I forgot …. there’s one more thing …. a stroke of luck.

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    • I’m so glad you like it!! I chose it because it had large fonts; then I realized how the colours changed depending on the type of post, whether it was standard, quote or image! 🙂

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  6. I just love when reading (or watching!) historical fiction how most authors conveniently forget about the wigs. I guess they figure that most modern women would have a hard time identifying on any level with a male character in a wig…. and as much as I like those sorts of novels/movies to be accurate, I think they may be right.

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    • A very insightful comment! I have read historical fiction and have never read about someone putting on their wig to go out to the theatre or ball! We see history in terms of our present day reality. I wonder what they will think of our fashion style 100 years from now?!

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    • Vielen Dank für alle Ihre wunderbaren Videos und Kommentare ganze Jahr über. Frohe Weihnachten – alles sehr, sehr am besten zu Ihnen und zu Ihrem! Wir freuen uns auf unsere Blogging-Abenteuer im Jahr 2014.

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    • Grazie per la vostra visita e commenti. Ho goduto seguendo il tuo blog lo scorso anno. Si dà il dono della bellezza! Buon Natale! Guardare avanti per le nostre avventure nel 2014!

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    • Merry Christmas, Dave!! I am so enjoying our shared blogging experience. The other day I was on your radio station – the song that you played was one that you downloaded with a Starbucks “Pick of the Week.” I had never thought to download one of these songs before. Now, I am an active fan of “Pick of the Week.” We learn from each other!! Thank you and all the very best in the New Year!

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  7. Leider habe ich Ihren neuesten Blog nicht gefunden. Deshalb schreibe ich Ihnen meine Grüsse zu Weihnachten hier hin.

    Ich wünsche Ihnen und den Ihren ein frohes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr. Ich danke für Ihre Besuche unter dem Jahr und den Gedankenaustausch, der daraus resultiert. Ich mag Ihre Kommentare und sie erfreuen mich.

    Lebensfreude, Gesundheit und spannende Momente sollen Sie im neuen Jahr begleiten. Das wünsche ich Ihnen von Herzen.
    Liebe Grüße. Ernst

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    • Danke, mein lieber Freund, für Ihre nachdenklichen Kommentare und fröhliche Weihnachtsgrüße. Wir leben in einer Welt, die periously unterteilt ist. Es ist unsere Bereitschaft, die Reise zu teilen, neue Ideen, die Hoffnung für unsere Generation gibt und diejenigen, die folgen zu erkunden. Ich habe unseren Dialog genossen und freuen uns auf die Abenteuer, die uns im Jahr 2014 zu erwarten.

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  8. Christmas night holy aside worries and sorrows. Open your heart and gets a touch of blessing that flows over the world tonight!

    Whether this year’s holidays will fill your heart with joy, confidence, hope and love. And Santa will bring the most desired and unexpected gifts and those close to you.
    Merry Christmas

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  9. Interesting read from Clanmother here. For us Textile professionals especially so. One of the first lessons was about the legendary ‘ spinning Jenny ‘ invented by Richard Arkwright. He was a pioneer of the industrial revolution as rightly described by you.

    Thought the spinning jenny has long been overtaken by new technical innovations and revolutionary new designs, credit must be given to Richard Arkwright for his innovative mind.

    One of our first practical works was on the spinning jenny, not an easy machine to operate.

    I enjoyed reading your article immensely – for obvious reasons indeed.

    Thank you for posting.

    Merry Christmas !

    AFRICASIAEURO TEXTILE MACHINES
    http://africasiaeuro.com/
    http://africasiaeuro.wordpress.com

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    • Thank you so much for your comments – much appreciated. The Richard Arkwright story is truly extraordinary. I’m just at the beginning of my research! Thank you for joining the discussion….

      Merry Christmas!

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    • I agree – we take interesting pathways…..

      I always liked this thought from Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:

      “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

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  10. In the same way that a wheelwright used to be a maker of wheels and a cartwright a maker of carts, an arkwright was a maker of arks, where ark meant a chest or box (think about the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that contained sacred scrolls). It’s interesting that Richard Arkwright didn’t make his fortune as an arkwright.

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    • A very, very interesting point! One thing is certain – he did make a fortune several times over….
      I’m delighted that you stopped by for a visit and made comments. Thank you!!!

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  11. I’ve really enjoyed reading your post and many thought concerning hair, Richard Arkwright and many other things. I must admit that his name did not sound familiar to me, but the cotton machine, yes. You asked why it had been possible that he made work children in his factory despite the fact that he, as a child, had to do so too. I think we often see that people who have suffered because of the violence committed to them when children act exactly in the same way when adult. Unfortunately, we copy behaviour and attitudes, at least that is how I see it. Last but not least, I would never have thought that hairdressers would have the kind of problems you mentioned. Good evening

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    • How wonderful to read your comments tonight. Thank you for adding your insight into this discussion. Human behaviour is complex and difficult to understand at times. I had no idea about the history of wigs until I looked into the Richard Arkwright story. In 1665, a wigmakers’ guild was established in France, a practice that spread throughout the rest of Europe. It was prestigious to enter the wigmaker profession and no respectable man would go out in public without a wig. 🙂

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