The Evolution of Hairstyles Over the Last 100 Years
1920s: The Dramatic Chop
These days, any cut within the chin-to-collarbone zone might be referred to as a bob, but in the 1920s, bob meant only one thing: short. Up until that time, women had worn their hair long, often sweeping it into poufy updos. But along with the changes of the Jazz Age came new, chin-length styles. Some were sleek, with a shingle cut (angled so it was shorter in the back); others showed off waves created by hand (aka finger waves) or with a device that would be the precursor to the curling iron (known as Marcel waves). Perhaps the most boundary-pushing style of the time was one of entertainer Josephine Baker's signature looks: slicked down with curls framing her face.
1930s: A Softer Look
King Kong was one of the biggest movies of this decade, and while many theatergoers' eyes were on the giant ape, we know who the real star was: Fay Wray. She rocked the somewhat undone hairstyle that became a hallmark of the '30s: looser, more tumbling waves. As Americans weathered the Great Depression, the polished bobs of the 1920s morphed into a less sleek, yet still above the shoulders hairstyle, seen not just on Wray but on plenty of other stars of the time, from Bette Davis to Jean Harlow.
1940s: Rolls and Volume
Shoulder-length, sculpted waves with height: that was the look in the 1940s. Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth may have made these styles famous, but working-class women sported them too, even tucking their pin curls under a snood if they were working in a factory (which many did; the female work force grew by 6.5 million during World War II). In fact, a style patriotically named the Victory Roll was one of the most popular; it involved curling sections of hair up, away from the face and securing them with pins to create a tube-like effect.
1950s: Post-War Bouffants and Fringe
Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page may seem like polar opposites, but as popular icons of the 1950s they showcased the diverse styles of the post-war years. On one hand, you had Monroe's platinum blond, short, layered cut, which she most famously wore with big, teased curls and a side-swept bang. On the other, there was pin-up girl Page, whose long, dark cut also boasted her now trademark short fringe—a style that hadn't been widely embraced until this time.
1960s: Statement Hair
No other decade in American history may have seen as much change from beginning to end as the 1960s—and that goes for hair too. The early years were still mostly buttoned-up, as music groups like the Ronettes showed off heavily coiffed styles such as the beehive. But with the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement came looks inspired by the counterculture that ranged from long and flowing (whether glossy and done-up à la Jane Fonda or free-spirited and natural like Janis Joplin's), to cropped (hair icon alert: Twiggy and her experimental pixie cut).
1970s: Au Naturel—or at Least Making It Look That Way
While '70s lengths varied wildly from short to super-long, the styles themselves had one thing in common: they didn't look quite as "done" as many earlier trends did. You could almost see the breeze rippling through Farrah Fawcett's feathered hair, and Ali MacGraw's long, bohemian style always looked so effortless (she's kept that "who cares" attitude even today). And then there's the afro, a style whose prominence surged in the '70s—and which might just be the most empoweringly undone hairstyle ever.
1980s: The Definition of "More Is More"
With oversized blazers and up-to-your-ears shoulder pads dominating the fashion scene, it's no wonder that hair went big too. Whether permed, sprayed, scrunched or crimped (or even all of the above), hair moved far past the natural-looking vibe of the previous decade—which was probably the point, considering 1980-something pop culture's material obsession. And it's probably not surprising that the tools to achieve such looks were many, ranging from aerosol cans of Aqua Net to neon-colored scrunchies.
1990s: A TV-Inspired Cut Known by Its First Name
Who would have thought that a sitcom could inspire a nationwide hair trend? Probably not Jennifer Aniston—and yet, the hairstyle she sported on the first season of Friends in 1994 practically defines '90s hair. "The Rachel," as it became known (from Aniston's character Rachel Green) was a layered and bouncy shag, adaptable to many different hair textures and lengths; Meg Ryan's shag was a somewhat shorter version of the cut. Janet Jackson's box braids were also a hallmark of '90s hairstyling, where four strands of hair were woven together to create a box-like, square shape.
2000s: Combination Looks
Early-aughts hairstyles were more tame, with less volume than the springy, sculpted and geometric '90s. Many had rogue undercurrents: Kelly Clarkson experimented with chunky highlights, while other stars tried on a mixture of curly and straight (Beyoncé combined braids and curls; Gwyneth Paltrow's long bob—aka lob—was straight on top with wavy ends). Cropped cuts with fringe were big too, seen on Sienna Miller and Victoria Beckham.
2010s: The Long and Short of Easy, Breezy
So far, this decade has seen a resurgence of low-maintenance looks, but no one length has ruled. On the short, above-the-shoulder end, we saw The Karlie, named for model Karlie Kloss, a one-length style with a slight layer in the front and an airy and casual feel. Rapunzel-length hair is having a moment too—all the better to show off another right-now trend: braids.