Hair has always been more than just strands on our heads. Historically, it’s been seen as a sort of status symbol depending on the style. But throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the influence of pop culture, fashion, and prevailing trends has transformed hair into a canvas of self-expression. Barbers and stylists, always attuned to the times, have dished out many unique cuts over the years. In this post, we’ll walk you through the most popular haircuts of each decade and what made them so popular in the first place.
1920s: The Bob
The bob of the 1920s was a fashion revolution in its own right—a short, uniform cut that tapered into a V at the nape of the neck that covered the ears and sometimes graced with a fringe. Perhaps one of the most recognizable looks was the French bob, easily identifiable by the mid-forehead bang, a length that just covered the ears, and a subtle wave framing the face. Actresses like Louise Brookes, Clara Bow, and Marion Davies all donned the haircut, challenging the conventional long tresses that dominated the acceptable styles of the past.
1930s: Finger Waves
A softened style to the 1920s bob, the haircut of this decade was all about waves and curls. Achieving this look was an art: women would first dampen their hair, brushing it flat against their face, before applying a setting lotion. With deft movements, they'd draw a comb down from the parting, then gently push it upwards, creating ripples that were secured between two fingers. Occasionally, a clip ensured these waves remained undisturbed while hair set under a dryer. Hollywood icons like Bette Davis and Anita Page were known for these looks, inspiring countless women to embrace these cascading waves.
1940s: Victory Rolls
Marrying practicality with elegance, victory rolls became popular in the early 1940s and carried throughout the decade. Many credit the name to the aviation maneuver, which was performed similarly to achieve this style. Voluminous curls were pulled back or framed the face depending on individual preference but could easily be pinned back with a hairnet or headscarf but peek out to maintain the look. Betty Grable was incredibly famous during World War II and pioneered the style in many of her acting roles.
1950s: The Pompadour
Popularized by the King, Elvis Presley, the pompadour, with its origins in the mid-18th century, made a roaring comeback in the 1950s. This versatile hairstyle, suitable for both men and women, was less about the cut and more about the art of styling. After towel-drying hair that is longer in the front and shorter on the sides, generous amounts of pomade was applied to ensure hold and shine. Using a comb, the hair was sculpted back and up to create volume. For the final touch, a blast from the hairdryer, with consistent brushing to ensure that the majestic wave held its form.
1960s: The Beehive
Following in the voluminous footsteps of the pompadour, the beehive became the it ‘do of the 1960s for women. So named for its taper and striking resemblance to what you would find in nature, this style was meant to fit under pillbox hats, which were the “it” accessory of the time. All hair should be brought on the top of the head through backcombing and pinned in place to keep it perfectly executed. Starlets like Bridget Bardot, Aretha Franklin, and Audrey Hepburn were known for their beehive hairstyles, which dominated in popularity throughout the decade.
1970s: Farrah Fawcett Feathered Hair
Bringing the volume below the ears, the feathered hair trend of the 70s was carried, undoubtedly, by Farrah Fawcett herself. With her meteoric rise to stardom in "Charlie's Angels," her iconic tresses broke onto the scene. To get the look, hair needed to be blow-dried fully and then put into large rollers, with particular attention to framing the face. The bouncy, feather-like texture was meant to look swept around the face, made possible by a heavily layered haircut, creating a look that was effortlessly windswept.
1980s: The Mullet
You’ve seen it, you know it, maybe you even love it. The business in the front, party in the back look of the 1980s was such a popular cut that you would be hard-pressed not to find an actor who rocked it back in the day. This style was most importantly characterized by the cut of the hair, where styling became a bit more secondary. On the top, hair was kept shorter and more tapered, sometimes choppy to accentuate the volume. In the back, the length had to cover the back of the neck but often translated into sweeping over the shoulders.
1990s: "The Rachel"
Making its debut in 1994, Friends quickly became a household name in sitcoms, captivating audiences worldwide. Naturally, as a cultural phenomenon, the characters' traits trickled into mainstream culture, including the cut, colour, and style of Jennifer Aniston, known as Rachel Green, on the show. “The Rachel” is categorized by a shoulder-length cut with several layers that create heightened volume up top. The face is framed, and the hair is turned towards the wearer's profile. Topping off this signature look were the distinctive blonde streaks, perfectly capturing the essence of the 90s.
2000s: Emo Hair
Exiting the era of punk and rock bands, emo stepped on the scene with performers like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. The heavily fringed, side-part and swept hair of lead singers sparked a wave of many variations among those who love the music, which influenced countless more in its wake. Layers helped make the look unique, and backcombing the sides or back of the hair gave it volume, texture, and a cartoon-heart-like shape. While the base style leaned towards straightened ends, especially for longer locks, it wasn't unusual to see vibrant streaks of colour juxtaposed against the typically sombre emo palette.
2010s: The Undercut
Despite its emergence almost a century prior, the undercut resurfaced as the defining hairstyle of the 2010s, propelled into the limelight by a slew of celebrities. Styled as a shaved or shorter cut on the right or left side of the head, the opposing side is complemented by longer locks. The height of the shaved portion essentially acts as the hair’s part, which is a defining feature. While some daring souls opted to shave around the entirety of the sides, leaving a tuft of length on top, the pronounced side part remained a pivotal element of the classic undercut.
Keeping Up with the Latest Haircut Trends
These haircuts by decade are a window in time to the styles that everyone was wearing, each with their own spin. To stay on trend and keep up with the latest looks from this decade, try out our men’s barber and women’s salon services at Kult. Book now and let our professionals help you find your best kut for the 2020s.