Hair Through History: 10 Popular Looks of the 1980s

Image credit: Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images

The 1980s can be categorized as a decade of excess. The new generation of young people placed a heavy emphasis on individuality, materialism and consumerism, all of which was reflected in the popular fashions and hairstyles of the time. As usual, the music, television and, for the first time, computer industries played a prominent role in determining what styles and trends took off across the country. While certain hair styles, such as androgyny, voluminous locks, long hair on men and the Jheri Curl were all born during the previous decade, the looks became more exaggerated and more extreme during the 1980s. When it came to hair, bigger was always better.

Click through to see 10 of the most popular hairstyles of the 1980s!

1. Big Hair

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No matter your style, volume was in. The 1980s saw the onset of huge, voluminous locks on men and women, often in the form of long, curly hair. Inspired by heavy metal and appropriately-named "Hair Bands," huge hair was everywhere.

2. The Mullet

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Stars like David Bowie and Paul McCartney wore the mullet as far back as the early 1970s, but the "business in the front, party in the back" hairstyle didn't truly take off until the mid-eighties. The mullet was another look worn by both men and women and could be seen in varying lengths on both curly and straight-haired heads.

3. Crimps, Curls and Perms

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The long, straight, sleek hair of the 1970s was replaced by an overwhelmingly curly majority during the 1980s. Those blessed with naturally curly hair teased it and hair sprayed it to incredible heights, while those born with straight hair did everything in their power to achieve a more curly look. Thus, the permanent wave—a process of chemically altering hair in order to make small, tight curls—was suddenly en vogue again. More commonly known as the "perm," the look became insanely popular among trendy teenagers and older adults alike.

4. Punk

Image credit: Ken LaszloImage credit: Ken Laszlo

Although it began in London in the late 1970s, the '80s really saw the rise of punk culture, with new genres of music and new waves of teens opting for tough-looking, leather, ripped and studded clothing and wildly colored and styled hair. Bleached hair became popular, along with spikes, mohawks and innovative uses of hair color. The look, though not entirely mainstream, became much more widely accepted as more young people sought to express their individuality through a unique sense of style.

5. Jheri Curls

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Invented in the 1970s by hairdresser Jheri Redding, the Jheri Curl (also spelled Jerry or Jeri Curl) grew in popularity when international superstar Michael Jackson donned the wet look in the 1980s. The style involved a two-part application process that first softened hair, and then set the curls, resulting in a glossy, loose look.

6. Ponytails with Scrunchies

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Though ponytails have been around for centuries, the look was given new life during the 1980s by the inclusion of the hair "scrunchie,"  a large fabric hair-tie, often in bright neon or "hot" colors. Ponytails were usually worn high on the back or side of the head and secured with scrunchies for an overall effect that was designed to look fun and carefree. Though the style was commonly seen on younger girls and teens, adult women could be seen sporting the look as well.

7. Aqua-net Bangs

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The big hair trend of the 1980s extended to bangs, with women styling their fringe to great heights. Also known as "mall bangs," the sky-high bangs trend involved plenty of teasing and copious amounts of extra-strength Aqua-Net hairspray for a fluffy, voluminous look that could be seen on everyone from teen girls at the mall to famous celebrities.

8. The Hi-Top Fade

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The hi-top fade was another Eighties hairstyle that capitalized on height. The look made popular by emerging rap artists and hip hop groups like Salt-N-Pepa, Doug E. Fresh and Kid 'N Play, involved short hair on the sides of the head while hair at the top of the head is kept very long. As the decade progressed, the style evolved into a more structured shape with even greater length, and soon became a symbol of the Golden Era of hip hop music.

9. The Princess Diana

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Cropped, voluminous and fluffed, the Princess of Wales' hair was a style all its own. Touching on the androgynous trend of the decade, the look was somewhat more demure than other styles but still managed to stand out. In fact, the look was so popular, that women across the world were rushing to their hairdressers in order to get their own version, and to this day, Princess Diana is still considered one of the biggest fashion and hair icons of all time.

10. Wild Hair

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The Eighties saw the rise of hairstyles unlike any other that had come before. Wild color, wacky shapes and whimsical styling resulted in looks that couldn't be categorized as anything other than "wild." Generally speaking, hair was big, fluffy, curly, crimped, colorful and accessorized. Parts were shunned, as were classic cuts and anything that could be considered "boring." Stars like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna changed their hair almost daily, inciting the masses to do the same. Wild Eighties hair was perhaps one of the most fun versions of self expression seen throughout the decade.

[Image credit: Ron Galella and Michael Putland, respectively, via Getty Images]

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