The History of Hairstyles: A Journey Through Iconic Looks From the 1950s – 2000s

The History of Hairstyles: A Journey Through Iconic Looks From The '50s - '00s

Hair has a powerful grip on our consciousness. Throughout history, it has been a symbol of femininity, virility, health, and status, but also of rebellion, strength, and freedom. 

The most malleable part of our body, hair can really make or break our mood (may those who never felt the urge to punch a wall on a bad hair day cast the first stone). Over the last decades, human creativity has given us a remarkable variety of hairstyles and trends.

Take a look at some of the most iconic hairstyles from the 1950s to the 2000s, and let yourself be inspired for the next hair salon visit. 

The Elegant ’50s: From the Bouffant to the Pompadour

Image by Sir Manuel on Unsplash history of hairstyles

The ’50s were all about glamour and elegance. Movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor dictated women’s hairstyle trends, which favoured classy waves and updos. By the late 50s, the bouffant became an instant classic, with the iconic raised hair at the top of the head.

Equally popular, the poodle cut (think Lucille Ball) and the pixie cut (think Audrey Hepburn in Rome Holiday) captured women’s imagination during this period. Teens of the time also loved a high ponytail, usually secured by a scarf. 

It was during this time that shampoos became mass-marketed. Initially made with harsher ingredients, the formulas were refined throughout the years, paving the way for higher quality products made with natural ingredients, like the De Lorenzo shampoo line and other prime haircare solutions available today.   

As for men, the pompadour hairstyle became a true icon of the 50s, immortalized by celebrities like Elvis and James Dean. While the slicked-back look with the voluminous top was sexy and screamed rock n’ roll, the average man would often sport more understated looks like a crew cut, a flattop or a simple side part. 

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The Expressive ’60s: From the Beehive to the Mop Top

The Women’s and Civil Rights Movements that marked this revolutionary decade helped liberate beauty standards, igniting self-expression and fierce looks. 

Because of that, the ’60s hairstyles were very diverse. Icons from the ‘60s like Aretha Franklin and Brigitte Bardot rocked the bold beehive, a voluminous updo in which hair is piled on the top of the head in a cone. Longer hair with a middle part became popular, as well as shorter angular cuts perfected by Vidal Sasson. 

As the Beatles became all the rage in the ‘60s, so did their legendary hairstyle (no, Justin Bieber didn’t do it first). The Mop Top rebelled against the classic slick look of the ’50s, paving the way for more relaxed, shaggy looks. 

The Groovy ’70s: From the Shag to the Afro

Photo by Marvin Maduro on Unsplash history of hairstyles
Photo by Marvin Maduro on Unsplash

Let’s get down and funky! The ’70s celebrated natural hair textures and laid-back looks, and the Afro sported by legends such as Diana Ross became an icon of power and self-expression, especially in the disco scene. Dreadlocks and the spiked punk look were also breaking the conventions of earlier decades. 

The shag, with its layered cut and choppy ends, hyped by celebrities like Mick Jagger and Jane Fonda, was very popular between men and women. The fabulous Farrah Faucet feathered hairstyle was another quintessential 70s look, widely coveted by women everywhere. This was also the time when long, straight hair à la Cher became popular.

Men in the ’70s embraced the sideburns and the moustache, which perfectly complemented the shaggy, carefree hairstyle of the time.

The Flashy ’80s: From the Mullet to Huge Perms

Image by javi_indy on Freepick
Image by javi_indy on Freepick

Oh, the ‘80s. A period of experimentation, individualism, and excess. We’ve all seen galleries of photos shared online of grandiose perms and wacky mullets. And we’ve all been delightfully amused by it.

In the ’80s, Big Hair was in. Men and women wanted volume and curly locks (inspired by glam and heavy metal), and perms were in fashion to achieve the desired puffiness.  

Another iconic look was the mullet, flaunted by stars like David Bowie but also the regular folk on the street. In recent years it made a comeback, modernized for a cooler, cleaner look.

The glossy Jheri Curl, the hi-top fade, and the spiky mohawk were also symbols of the creative ‘80s hairdos. 

The Vibrant ‘90s: From the Rachel to the Heartthrob

The ’90s hairstyles weren’t as extreme, but there was still a lot of experimentation and variety. This was the time when new technology arrived and grunge, hip-hop, and teen pop culture were making waves everywhere.

The “Rachel” haircut popularized by the “Friends” sitcom character became an icon of the decade. The layered shoulder-length haircut (that Jenniffer Aniston hated, btw) was a phenomenon, and women everywhere were lining up at the salon to get the face-framing hairdo. 

Cramped hair, lots of accessories (butterfly clips, hair beads, scrunchies), straight and sleek, grungy, supermodel bouncy blowouts, high ponytails, and mini buns, were some of the many female hairstyle variations you would find in the 90s. Wasn’t it fun? 

For men, the middle-part “heartthrob” hairstyle was an iconic look during this decade, named after celebs like Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt. Men also frequently sported spiked hair, the short Caeser cut, cornrows and flattops. 

egoist mirror by Koket

The Playful 2000s: From Pin-Straight to Frosted Tips

From wildly fun to tacky and cringe – opinions are divided when it comes to the whole 2000s vibe. Still, looking back at the hairstyles from those years fills our hearts with warm nostalgia.

Some of the playful looks of the ‘90s carried on and got even more popular, such as the cramped hair, the colourful butterfly and glitter bobby pins, and the high pigtails. There were also the zig-zag parts, the baby braids, the side-swept bangs and the pixie cuts!

This was also the time when girls pulled out their hair straighteners to get the sleek, super straight look that pop stars like Britney Spears were rocking those days. 

Spiky hair with frosted tips (it involved a lot of gel and blonding the tips like Justin Timberlake used to do) was a popular look for many men during this period. The emo and scene subcultures also started to gain popularity, and so did their signature hairstyle of long, straight (and blinding!) bangs. 

The Eclectic 2010s: From the Lob to the Man Bun

history of hairstyles men Image by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash
Image by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash

During this decade, Millennials wanted to get cooler. Women started experimenting with ombrés and balayage for more dynamic hair colour gradients. Beachy waves were also very popular for its cool, relaxed vibe. 

The lob haircut, a longer version of the bob at around shoulder length, became in fashion for its sophisticated look. It could be worn sleek or textured, with or without bangs, flattering most types of faces. The messy buns, the natural curls and coloured hair also gained terrain during this decade. 

The Man Bun had its haters, but the hipster look helped many men exude confidence and sex appeal. From Jared Leto to Jake Gyllenhaal, many celebrities sported this look. On the other hand, there was also a renewed interest in classic looks, such as the Quiff and the side part. 

And back to today…

We still don’t know exactly what the defining hair looks of the 2020s will be. So far, we’ve seen a wide range of micro-trends pointing to Gen Z’s interest in the revival of retro looks, from the mullet to the bombshell butterfly cut, plus the shag, the wolf cut, and the heartthrob. The Y2K aesthetics are in style, as well as embracing natural textures!

Although hair trends are ever-changing, the joy of looking back in time to all of the creative ‘dos is timeless. Hopefully, you found some inspiration for your next hair salon visit!

Feature Image by Alexander Krivitskiy   | Unsplash

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