The Coolest 80s Hairstyles That are Making a Comeback
It’s been thirty years since the 80s have ended, but that doesn’t mean that they’re dead. Once popular hair tricks and tips have started to reappear in the fashion shows and runways of today, but they have yet to hit the mainstream at large.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait for these styles to become trendy. If you want to get ahead of the curve—or even become a retro trendsetting influencer yourself—take a look at these tubular hairstyles to get inspiration for your next great 80’s hairstyle.
Curls, Curls, and More Curls
In contrast to our current trends of sleek, middle part hair or soft brushed out curls, the 80s were all about one thing: volume. Whether it involved copious amounts of teasing and hairspray or just a simple trip to the salon to get a permanent curl through chemical perms, women and men alike used any means necessary to boost the vertical length of hair above their head.
For some, this meant embracing their own naturally curly hair, such as actresses Jennifer Beals and Whitney Houston. Others used hot rollers and perms to acquire bouncy curls, from celebrities to teenage girls. Even Cher, infamous for her pin-straight, thigh-length hair, ditched her normal tresses for some voluminous curls.
Another way to achieving curls was to take what was naturally curly and curl perm it, creating the glossier, looser curl pattern known as the Jheri curl. Invented as a more natural alternative to hair relaxers (although it still involved high strength chemicals, so it sort of defeated the point), the Jheri curl was adopted by celebrities both male and female, including Jamie Foxx, Michael Jackson, and Ola Ray.
The celebration of curly hair defined the 80s and it’s a celebration that has been making a comeback for sure. With the natural hair movement gaining traction within Black and African beauty communities, hopefully, everyone will soon be embracing their natural hair texture without shame and with tons of volume.
The Feathery Farah Fawcett
Perhaps the most beloved and worn hairstyles from the 80s, if not the wackiest and memorable, the Farah Fawcett hairstyle involves a middle part through blunt bangs and short side layers that are curled outward and generously hair sprayed.
This soft yet glamorous look was an instant hit as soon has Jenilee Harrison of Three’s Company adopted it, with everyday moms and teachers all the way up to Princess Diana herself donning this flattering look. It looked great on men as well, as exemplified by John Travolta and Rob Lowe, as it only asked for the wearer to have slightly shaggy hair.
While this look is a bit dated, in that your mother might have worn this style and thus deemed it too “old” for you to wear, the feathery look can be modernized by feathering longer side layers, giving you that soft-edged look while still feeling sleek and streamlined on a contemporary level.
The Whale Spout
The Whale Spout is most definitely not dead, and Ariana Grande is the contemporary example of this classic 80s style. Featuring a half-up, half-down ponytail perched high up on the head to create a waterspout-like effect of hair cascading down the head, the Whale Spout is a quintessential style for those looking for volume and length.
It’s a cute style that only takes a couple of hair ties and minutes with a smoothing brush to achieve, making it one of the most versatile styles of the 80s to wear. Celebrities like Debbie Gibson and regular high schoolers and mall rats could be seen adding their flair with the addition of scrunchies, crimped hair, and blown-out bangs.
If you’re looking to bring the Whale Spout into a more modern light, try wrapping a loose strand of hair around the hair tie to elevate the look. Otherwise, grab your fluffiest scrunchie and let that hair flow!
Crimped hair has been crawling its way back over the decades, popping up here and there in various runways in the 2010s and the 90s with Lizzie McGuire. But to no one’s surprised, crimped hair made its debut in the 80s, offering a way for those with straight hair to gain a little extra volume without resorting to chemical perms. This popular was especially popular with teenagers and nouveau hair hoppers, who could achieve this look with just a hair straightener if buying a crimping iron was too much.
Although crimped hair tends to come back solely on runways or TV shows, that doesn’t mean that this style isn’t wearable for the modern daily life. Try crimping small sections of your hair to add texture to an otherwise simple hairstyle, or push yourself to go bold and voluminous by braiding damp hair and then lightly brushing the dried, now kinked hair.
The 80s introduced the idea of customizable consumables, and one of the biggest accessories used to customize your look was, well, hair accessories! From headbands, big bows, banana clips, and the newly trending scrunchies, these small and simple accessories allowed hair-lovers to zhuzh up their looks with minimal effort.
From Madonna’s iconic teased chignon finished with a head wrap to 80s workout stars rocking matching scrunchies and leotards to Lisa Turtle inspiring waves of young girls to invest in a bunch of Hello Kitty hairclips, the 80s truly taught us the power of a simple accessory.
Bangs have somewhat fallen out of the mainstream in the 2010s, but it might be time for their dramatic comeback. As the goal for hair in the 80s largely lied in volume, parted hair was a no-no as it could deflate the careful teasing and primping put into the hair. Thus, a lot of women and men relied on bangs to frame the face while carefully hiding whatever mistakes were made in the rest of the head.
Bangs were crimped, curled, blown back, and hair sprayed to perfection. Usually cut into a blunt shape and then feathered out, those with hair textures of all kind can embrace the volumizing properties of the bang. From straight bangs to curly bangs, they will rarely betray you. Just expect a lot of trips to the salon or light night trimming sessions.
To say the 80s were quirky is an understatement, and one hairstyle that exemplified the time’s whimsical attitude is the side ponytail. A quintessential part of any 80s look, the side ponytail allowed girls to convey different moods just by altering the location of the hair: there’s the young and perhaps childish ‘right above the ear’ look, the perfectly 45 degree angled valley girl classic, and the top of the head and slightly slanted D.J. Tanner style.
Asymmetrical haircuts in general also owe some of their popularity to the 80s. This is a more grown-up take on the side ponytail and is easily achievable; just part your hair with a deep side part and enjoy the mystery your now asymmetrical hair gives.
Those who are hardcore fans of hip hop and rap will recognize this style. Emblematic of the Golden Age of hip hop music, the hi-top fade was a simple yet bold hairstyle where the hair on the sides of the head is kept very short while the hair at the top of the head was kept long. And while fades are a very common trend for men’s haircuts nowadays, going beyond a specifically Black and African American context, the 80s made the fade as dramatic as possible by adding the eponymous Hi-Top on top.
One classic example of the Hi-Top Fade comes from artist Grace Jones, and another from Salt-N-Pepa’s “Tramp” music video. By the end of the 80s, this hairstyle could be seen in nearly every hip hop music video at the time and was a symbol of rap culture.
Over the years the Hi-Top Fade has become simultaneously more and less bold, as artists like MC Def Jef and RnB group Jodeci added slits, geometric designs, and even braids to their hair while slowly deflating the height of the Hi-Top. A modern take on the Hi-Top Fade would involve bringing back that voluminous height to create a retro yet avant-garde look that will make a big splash at any 80s related party.
Now, this might be a controversial addition. The mullet has certainly garnered a bad rep over the years, as it grew to be associated with party boys of dubious intelligence. However, this hairstyle involving short hair on the front and sides and long hair down the back has gained new traction with punk subcultures, KPOP groups, sports players, and even the red carpet. Just look at Zendaya’s modern take on the mullet for the 2016 Grammy’s and it’s tough to say that the mullet can look pretty damn good.
While it’s perhaps the boldest 80s hair choice on this list, the mullet, if done wholeheartedly, can be the hair inspiration that changes your life. Just remember the classic adage: keep your business in the front and party all you want in the back.