We can look at history and our culture through many lenses – not least beauty. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be filtering the past ten decades through the trends and subcultures identified through hair. This week, we will be looking at #1-20 in our look at the history of the world in 100 hairstyles.
1/100 – BEEHIVE
If the old adage about ‘the higher the hair, the closer to Jesus’ is true, the beehive is truly doing God’s work. This towering hairstyle reached its peak in the late 1950s and early 60s, helped along by British celebrity hairstylist, Raymond Bessone, who was such a master of backcombing that he was widely known as ‘Mr Teasy-Weasy. The style requires extensive backcombing (or hairpieces) and lots of hairspray – and lots of leave-in conditioners to brush out. Popular amongst icons from Ronnie Spector to Amy Winehouse, it’s long been a sign of cool-girl glamour.
2/100 – BOB
There’s no shortage of rumors about who cut the first bob, but French hairstylist Antoine de Paris is the name most commonly cited, after transforming 40-something actress Eve Lavalliere into a teenager for a role in 1909 by cutting her hair short. Other rumors point to dancer Irene Castle, whose blunt ‘Castle Bob’ was widely copied – and originally cut because she found it easier to dance with short hair. Coco Chanel was another early adopter; she apparently burnt her hair while styling it with primitive curling tongs. Rather than cancel her night out, she gave herself a DIY repair job. Regardless of its heritage, the bob caused nothing short of outrage when it first started to appear in the early 1900s. As well as offending the sensibilities of those who preferred traditional longer hairstyles, including the father who allegedly sued a stylist for cutting his daughter’s hair without his consent, the bob also ostracised salons who feared that women with short hair would have no use for their business (which in those days predominantly dressed hair, rather than cut it.)
3/100 – CORNROWS
Formed by braiding the hair along the scalp, cornrows originated in Africa and the Caribbean and gained their name thanks to the neat, straight lines formed by the style. Dating back as far as 3,000BC, braided styles were once an identifier of heritage, with different tribes preferring different patterns and finishes. Braids came to prominence in Western culture in the 60s as the Black Power movement took off and people embraced their cultural roots and styles reflective of that heritage. In recent history, this traditional style has been co-opted by a different market – thanks in part to Bo Derek’s beaded cornrows in the 1979 film, 10. Controversy has rightfully reigned pretty much ever since over this co-opting of a traditional hairstyle, which nevertheless continues to be popular in both black and white culture.
4/100 – DA
Known in polite society as a ducktail, and in less-polite society as the duck’s ass, the DA developed in the 1940s, named for its slick ‘seam’ of hair and inspired by Pachuco culture. These stylish Mexican Americans favored slicked-back styles, which caught on amongst a wider audience. Philadelphia-based barber, Joe Cirello, is known for popularising the trend – particularly thanks to one of his celebrity clients; none other than Elvis Presley. The look relies on a heavy dose of shiny, sticky, slick grease – and a comb kept in the back pocket at all times, just in case it needs touching up.
5/100 – FARRAH FLICK
Farrah’s feathered cut was a precursor to ‘the Rachel’ in that it was copied by thousands of women across the globe at the height of its 70s fame. The fluffy, feminine style was created by California hairstylist, Allen Edwards, with short face-framing layers and a flat crown. The popularity of the cut didn’t just confirm Farrah’s status as a style icon, but also led to a deal for her own hairstyling line – a sadly now defunct, eponymous range.
6/100 – 5-POINT CUT
Perhaps the pinnacle of hairdressing history, Vidal Sassoon’s five-point cut was truly revolutionary. Prior to Vidal’s short, geometric styles, women were subject to lengthy weekly salon visits to have their hair washed and set. Cuts like this, which he created in 1965, freed women from the time and cost of such appointments, allowing them to “wash and wear” their hair from the comfort of their own home, whenever they wanted. The cut – first modeled on a young Grace Coddington – features a bob shape with a point over each ear and a ‘W’ at the nape of the neck, and arguably made Vidal’s name in the industry.
7/100 – MOHAWK
Named for the Mohican Native Americans, the Mohawk has, in fact, been traditionally worn by various Native American tribes over the centuries. The tall crest of hair, contrasted against shaved (or, traditionally, plucked sides gives its wearer the profile of a ferocious animal or a fearless warrior. Over the decades, its intimidating silhouette was adopted by London punks, who colored their hair in bold shades to create a style that was designed to shock and intimidate – much like their ancient predecessors, going into battle.
8/100 – NEW STRAIGHT
Straight hair has been in and out of fashion since trends began, enjoying a major boost in the 70s when style icons like Cher led people to take actual clothes irons to their hair in a bid for poker-straight results. But while straightening tools have been available since the turn of the century, it was the launch and mass availability of ceramic straightening irons in the 1990s that led to a new take on straight. Flat-ironed hair, typically worn with a center parting and hanging in two, thick heavy curtains became the 90s supermodel staple.
9/100 – THE WEDGE
British hairdresser and Vidal Sassoon protégé, Trevor Sorbie, has been responsible for numerous now-staple cuts over the years. In 1974, he created the Wedge. Not dissimilar to a classic bob, the precision cut features a strong weight line with layering underneath, to create a style with movement. Trevor’s model for the look was featured in British Vogue as a double-page spread; the first hair photo to ever achieve such a thing. It went on to be a global success throughout the 70s and 80s, gaining particular attention in the US in 1976, when teen figure skating champion, Dorothy Hamill, wore it win gold at the Winter Olympics.
10/100 – THE 70S AFRO
In the Western world, Natural hair worn in a full Afro has long been subjected to straightening, scorching temperatures and other chemical treatments designed to bring it in line with Caucasian ideas of beauty. In the 1970s, the Black is Beautiful movement gained momentum and made strides in countless areas of black society – including promoting the Afro as a powerful beauty statement. Activists like Angela Davis and actress Pam Grier became known for their defiant Afro hairstyles; a symbol of pride and confidence. As the disco movement gained momentum in the 70s, artists like the Jackson 5, Chic and Gloria Gaynor continued to fly the flag for natural hair throughout the decade.
11/100 – THE MULLET
The long-time butt of fashion jokes, the mullet actually boasts a long and proud history. The cut has been around in one form or another for centuries; ancient warriors favored the style as it was good in battle – long hair kept them warm, while a shorter cut at the front meant that hair didn’t get in your eyes or hinder your fighting skills. There are examples of mullets in numerous cultures too, from Vikings to Romans and early Native Americans – it has even been speculated that the Egyptian Sphinx has a mullet and President James K Polk was a proud wearer. The mullet as we know is gained prominence in the 70s and 80s thanks to sports stars and musicians eagerly adopting the style. From hair metallers like KISS and Journey to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust crop, the mullet truly had its moment – and then an inevitable downfall. Today, the cut is undertaking something of a revival, albeit worn softer, with a head-hugging shape and relaxed styling.
12/100 – THE MARCEL WAVE
More than just a beautiful hairstyle, the Marcel wave provides some of the earliest examples of creating marketable tools and personal branding in the hairdressing industry. Hairstylist Marcel Grateau created the waved look in 1982, after curling his mother’s hair using his hair tong, turned upside down. The tong, when heated over a gas burner and held at that angle, created a lasting deep wave in the hair, and proved a popular alternative to the curls that were popular at the time. The resulting look remained in vogue for the next 50 years, earning Marcel a fortune and many.
13/100 – THE FLAT TOP
Forever associated with early 90s hip-hop, the flat top style creates a tall, squared-off hairstyle with hair standing up on end. Named for aircraft carrying boats – which feature a long, flat deck on top of the ship – the style is an evolution of the quiff hairstyle, but with more volume, all over. Structure is integral to this look, which is perhaps why the Flattopper tool (a wide, flat, shovel-like comb) comes complete with a spirit level for maintaining that perfect smooth surface all over.
14/100 – LE POUF
When it comes to big hair, there’s none more notorious than Marie Antoinette. Le Pouf was the name of the style given to her towering updos, which were supported by padding and decorated with all manner of props to signify the wearer’s mood, interests or political allegiances. During Marie-Antoinette’s reign, women competed for the biggest hair they could manage and decorated their coiffures with birds, butterflies, bows and all manner of other topical and seasonal accessories. When the French warship, La Belle-Poule, went to war in 1778, high society ladies found no better way to show their support than wearing boats in their style – a short-lived trend which has nevertheless gone on to define an era.
15/100 – MICOR FRINGE
Fringes, or bangs, have been in and out of fashion for decades. Both men and women in Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire have been found to wear fringes, as did Ancient Greeks and those in the Middle Ages – both on wigs and natural hair. In the Victorian era, very short fringes became very popular after Alexandra, Princess of Wales wore them – in a style which became known, befittingly, as ‘the Alexandra fringe’. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was never seen without her signature short, tight, curly bangs in the 1950s, while Audrey Hepburn paired her irregular choppy fringe with a pixie crop. Pin-up model Bettie Page is perhaps the go-to poster girl for a short fringe, with ‘Bettie Bangs’ still a style staple to this day.
16/100 – THE PIXIE
Super-short hairstyles for women enjoyed a moment in the 1920s, but really gained mainstream appeal in the 1960s when British supermodel, Twiggy, switched her long hair for a daringly-short crop. Not entirely intentional, legend has it that the model visited London’s acclaimed Leonard of Mayfair for a trim and walked out with a new cut, which made her one of the most in-demand models in the world. She told the Daily Mail, “I was a bit shocked initially, as I didn’t know what he was going to do — and I’m not sure he did either. It all took seven-and-a-half hours; Leonard would cut a bit then send me upstairs to see Daniel Galvin for color, then Leonard would cut more. ‘It got shorter and shorter!”
17/100 – SUPERMODEL SWOOSH
Big, thick, bouncy blow-outs are synonymous with 90s supermodel style. It’s all about hair that oozes health, sex appeal and the kind of luxurious quality condition that comes only with super-human genes (and perhaps some help from the hands of the world’s leading glamsquads) – albeit worn with a casual, undone finish. Icons like Cindy Crawford and Stephanie Seymour bring the look to life best, with masses of beautiful hair worn in an oh-so-effortless flip over the forehead. The undoubtable originators of #wokeuplikethis girl-next-door glam.
18/100 – WIG WARDROBE
Wigs and hairpieces have long been part of many women’s wardrobes, but in recent years, some wigs have even taken the place of clothes for those that operate on the edgier side of fashion. Hairstylist-cum-artist Charlie Le Mindu crafts entire outfits from human hair, blurring the line between couturier and coiffeur. His bold looks have been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, and presented at fashion weeks in London and Paris.
19/100 – THE BUZZ CUT
Initially restricted to those conscripting in the military, the super-short, clippered Buzz Cut was once known as the ‘Induction Cut’, thanks to its association with falling in line as part of the armed forces. The style gained popularity in the wider world during the 80s and 90s as subcultures adopted the style; most famously, the skinheads. Their adoption of this style was all about creating a threatening, tough look that stood outside of societal norms for the era. This desire to be defiantly different is what has kept the look popular amongst subcultures ever since; it’s the polar opposite of a short back and sides and is immensely easy to DIY.
20/100 – KISS CURLS
Also known as the Spit Curl for those who used to lick, not lacquer it and the croche couer – ‘heartbreaker’ in French, perhaps for the impact they had – these slicked-down snaking wisps of hair added a cartoonish sex appeal to stars of the 1920s and 30s and lent a femininity to the otherwise androgynous crops of the era. The look also allowed women to show off their locks in an era when hats had to be worn in public – a peekaboo curl poking out from the perimeter of a cloche hat on either side, slicked to the cheeks, provides just a wink of what lies beneath. Twenties dancer Josephine Baker wore them with a vinyl-like shine, Marlene Dietrich wore them in elaborate loops for a role in The Devil is a Woman and Betty Boop made them infinitely memorable – as indeed did singer Helen Kane who later claimed her image, and indeed hair, was exploited as the inspiration for the cartoon sex symbol.
by Rachael Gibson
Rachael is an editor and social media manager in the hairdressing industry, with more than a decade of experience. Her main interests lie in the social and cultural history of hair and trends in the hairdressing industry.
Illustrations by Sierra Holmes