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Timeline Tuesday: 90s Hairstyles to Emulate (or Update)

It’s been said that everything old becomes new again, and that couldn’t be more true today. All over the world, from the streets of New York to LA to Oklahoma, and every place in between, women are following the lead of celebrities like Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae, and going retro. With that in mind, we here at Perfect Locks thought we’d give you some style food for thought, with regular looks back at iconic hairstyles of the past, along with ideas for updating old looks for the new millennium. Enjoy!

The Rachel

This wouldn’t be a proper 90s rewind without mentioning “The Rachel”, Jennifer Aniston’s much-copied haircut from her time as Rachel on the hit sitcom “Friends.” From the time this cut emerged on the small screen, women everywhere were demanding layered bob hairstyles, with a little fringe in the front and killer highlights. And honestly, this look is pretty classic; it’s versatile enough for work or play, longer or shorter hair, and any texture. What could be done to update it? Let us know in the comments.

Shorter and Shorter Cuts

With the advancements of the feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s just starting to truly kick in for many women—resulting in more high-powered jobs in male-dominated industries—lots of 90s women started going in for short haircuts. The no-nonsense profile helped many women feel an extra air of toughness and credibility, while the reduced length also saved on prep time in the morning. Inspired by celebrity hair cuts like those of Halle Berry and Neve Campbell, women ditched their ultra-long 80s coifs and snipped lengths into layered, tapered, or bumped short bob hairstyles. To update these looks, try going shorter, with a boyish, spiky cut, or try one of the many fringed, curly, or shattered looks Halle has added to her repertoire.

The Sleek Look

Without a doubt, the 90s was an era of hard hair. Slicked-down French rolls, finger waves, and updos were popular styles that, today, probably look more headache-inducing than pretty. But we can learn from them, loosening up and pulling French rolls less tightly, adding body and wave to hair, and using far, far less gel.

The Return of the Natural

The 1990s marked the first time since the 70s that natural hair styles for African American women became popular. And while the styles of the 70s were largely limited to the Afro and Afro puffs, 90s hairstyles were a veritable cornucopia of natural hair. Starting out slow, with the big braids of the early 90s, then building into the Afro puffs popularized by artists like Lady of Rage and Snoop Dogg, the natural finally came into its own when Lauryn Hill rocked her locks every way imaginable--including locs, twists, knots, and just short and curly!

For a new take on the “jump rope” braids look, go for twists, just a bit smaller, and set on plastic rods for just as much body and big hair oomph.

Sky High Ponytails

No one rocked a high ponytail quite like a 90s girl. Whether in a partial updo, completely swept up, made of braids or loose hair, ponytails crept higher and higher throughout the decade. And, sadly, while the unicorn look can’t be revived, other high ponytail styles can ride again. Try long extensions and eye-catching clips or holders, or go daring with a two-toned partial upsweep, lighter up top or on bottom.

Inspired yet? Let us know your favorite 90s hair moments, or ideas for updating them, in the comments below, and look out for Thursday’s Timeless Tip for re-creating one of these retro hairstyles!

Take care of yourselves,


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