Hairstyle trends change all the time, and that’s nothing new. The pace of change might be more frequent now that we have mass communication, but a look through history demonstrates the changing fashion of hairstyles through the centuries. Still, some styles go beyond popularity into iconic hairstyles.
What Makes a Hairstyle Iconic?
The formula for an iconic hairstyle is both clear and frustratingly elusive. It needs to be a change of pace from current styles, even if it is a resurrection of an older style. It helps if it’s widely flattering and attainable, though that hasn’t stopped utterly impractical styles from being trendy or iconic.
Most importantly and most elusive is the popularity and mystique of the originator, and how that blends with the hairstyle. Lots of incredibly popular celebrities never have an iconic hairstyle.
The flip hairstyle from the Sixties was associated with few different celebrities. Marlo Thomas popularized it in her series That Girl. Mary Tyler Moore started with a long, sleek flip similar to that of Thomas but it gradually shifted as the decade went on to the shorter, “poofier” style associated with her titular TV show character.
Even First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore a flip hairstyle. More recently the flip has made a comeback thanks to celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Beyonce.
Another popular Sixties hairstyle was associated with French actress Bridget Bardot. Technically she wore her hair in a bouffant style but rather than structured, Bardot favored a tousled pseudo-casual look that still influences “bed head” hairstyles today.
When the Seventies are mentioned, two hairstyles tend to come to mind. The Farrah, of course, was named for Farrah Fawcett who came to fame in that decade – partially through the TV show Charlie’s Angels.
The afro actually got its start in the Fifties but was more of a fringe style at the time. In the Sixties, singers such as Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, and Odetta wore their hair in afros which increased awareness of the style. By the Seventies, afros were being more widely worn with Pam Grier’s action movies further popularizing the hairstyle.
In the late Seventies, the structured haircut known as “the Dorothy Hamill” – named for the Gold Medal-winning Olympic skater – became the most popular short style. It was also known as “the wedge cut.”
However, the style is more commonly associated with the Eighties because Princess Diana wore a version of the wedge cut during her 1980 engagement announcement. Despite brief forays into longer hairstyles, Princess Diana wore the wedge cut or variants of it most of her life.
Old-School Style making a Comeback?
Some iconic hairstyles come back regularly, associated with a new celebrity each time. For example, the pixie cut has been popularized over and over again thanks to actors like Mia Farrow, Goldie Hawn, Meg Ryan, and Halle Berry.
While the headful of ringlet curls hairstyle is often known as the “Shirley Temple” for the child star who was the biggest box office star for years, the style isn’t just for kids. Adults can and have worn the iconic “curly top” style, including Nicole Kidman.
Similarly, box braids weren’t new when Janet Jackson wore them for the movie Poetic Justice. The iconic poster, however, put the style on the map with many women copying the style for years.
Jennifer Aniston popularized the haircut she wore on the early years of Friends but often complained about “the Rachel”. The layered hairstyle was difficult to maintain, requiring frequent haircuts and careful styling to get the right look – but it was much-asked-for in salons.
Curious about what was the popular hairstyle from the year you were born? Good Housekeeping magazine compiled them all going back to the 1920s and which celebrity was most associated with the style (when applicable).
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