The 22 most iconic hairstyles of the 20th century

From bobs, to Afros, to mullets, to “The Rachel,” hair has been just as important as clothes in understanding the beliefs and cultural influences throughout history.
By Anonymous

When you look at old photos of you and your family, what is one of the first things you notice? If it isn’t your clothes, it’s probably your hair. Whether you’re cringing and regretting your life choices or smiling fondly at your tacky hair wrap, one thing is certain: Hair tells a story and shares a ton of history.

From bobs, to Afros, to mullets, to “The Rachel,” hair has been just as important as clothes in understanding the beliefs and cultural influences throughout history. So all of you history and style junkies are going to love this roundup of the most iconic hairstyles from 1900 to the ’00s.

The 1900s: Gibson Girl Hair And Pre-Raphaelite Tresses

At the turn of the century, the illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson’s ideal traditional woman started making the rounds, complete with a cranium curving hair style. And thus, Gibson Girl hair was born. It was often topped off with a simple top knot.

The other popular was long, soft waves because, apparently, long hair is the ultimate symbol of femininity. Uh, right.

The 1910s: Curtain Hair And Pompadours

Hair accessories became a lot more popular in the 1910s, which was a perfect companion to the curtain hair look: short hair with a bit of curl and a severe center part.

Other girls kept their ultra long hair but often tied it up into intricate coronets and pompadours.

The 1920s: The Bob

Okay, here’s when things get spicy. Well, spicy for the ’20s. All that long hair that was so popular? Yeah, the cool girls of the ’20s said “LOL L8R” to that noise and chopped their hair off. This caused a lot of controversy, especially since it coincided with the suffrage movement and the jazz age. Josephine Baker, Clara Bow and the Dolly Sisters were huge style inspirations at the time.

The 1930s: Finger Curls And Marcel Waves

The short hair stayed, but there was an appreciation for a lot more volume. Finger waves were popularized by actresses Bette Davis and Jean Harlow. This was done by pinching one’s hair between their fingers and combing it in opposite directions to create a wave shape. Then, setting lotion was applied to maintain its shape.

Marceling was another method of achieving a similar look but instead of relying on setting lotion, hot tongs were applied to the hair to create the same effect.

The 1940s: Victory Rolls And Glamour Waves

Rita Hayworth was the queen of victory rolls in the post-war era. Sure, it took a lot of pins and a lot of hairspray, but it looked rad.

Lauren Bacall was another style icon of the era, popularizing the ultra glamorous, thick barrel curls.

The 1950s: The Marilyn And Short Bangs

Of course, what’s ’50s style without Marilyn Monroe? Her flared pin curls were the hottest look around!

For the more mature set, however, more conservative bouffants and curled bangs were the way to go.

The 1960s: The Beehive And The Pixie Cut

The ’60s were an era when things finally started getting really interesting and diverse when it came to hair. The early ’60s were dominated by ultra volume like beehives (as seen with the Ronettes) and bouffants that every “cool mom” of the era rocked.

By the late ’60s, pixie cuts–popularized by celebs like Twiggy–and bone straight hair was the preferred look of the mod set.

The 1970s: The Afro And The Farrah Flip

The ’70s were the age of the afro for black women (and men) and it was nothing short of fabulous. From politicians to musicians to actors to the everyday citizen, the afro was all the rage. Those hair straighteners weren’t touched for a while.

Later in the decade, Farrah Fawcett hit the scene and became known for her unique hairstyle. It was quickly deemed the Farrah flip and everybody and their mom was trying to cop it.

The 1980s: The Mullet And The Jheri Curl

Oh, the ’80s. It was a tragically beautiful decade in the world of hair. If you weren’t trying to copy Madonna’s messy curls, you were probably rocking a mullet.

If you were black or Latin@, then you were probably rocking a Jheri curl. Either way, the ’80s were a…special time in hair history. Very special indeed.

The 1990s: Box Braids And The Rachel

Whenever someone mentions ’90s hair, the first thing that comes to mind is “the Rachel.” Yes, literally the hairstyle of Rachel from Friends. It was, by far, the most iconic look of the era.

Also popular: box braids, especially the ones Janet Jackson rocked in Poetic Justice.

The 2000s: Scene/Emo Hair And Beach Waves

The ’00s had a strange love affair with bangs. Front bangs, side bangs, swooped bangs…bangs bangs bangs. Oh, and bone straight hair. If you also happened to love hair dye and My Chemical Romance, you were probably rocking an emo/scene kid hairstyle like Hayley Williams.

For those of you who weren’t so keen on burning your hair to a crisp, you were probably trying to rock the perfect beach waves like the Olsen Twins or Misha Barton.