At the 2016 Oscars, when presenting the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, hair-god Jared Leto sung the stylists’ praises to all 34 million viewers:
[T]hey deserve an award just for putting up with us actors, not to mention the prosthetics, the wigs, the occasional merkin. If you happen to be laughing, please explain it to the person next to you, and if you aren’t, Google it.
And so anyone who wasn’t in the know got a crash course in pubic wigs. Around since the the middle ages, merkins were originally worn as the more stylish option when one had to shave for hygiene (pubic lice were rampant), or to hide the symptoms of STDS (those sneaky syphilitic prostitutes), or to cover junk when male actors were playing women in nude scenes on stage (silly rabbit, women weren’t allowed to act back then!).
These days, with the aesthetic trend strongly favoring “The Kojak” look (a.k.a. “The Vin Diesel,” “The Emperor Ming,” “The James Carville”), many actors have to don merkins during nude scenes in period pieces (or just to avoid inadvertently flashing any labe). With the artistry of — and modern technology — available to today’s professional Hollywood stylists, pubic wigs now come in all shapes, textures and colors. Above, behold some of the most icon merkin styles of the past century!