Each decade tends to bring about its own iconic hair moments. From 1920s bobs and finger waves to the flipped-out ponytails of the 60s, you can basically tell which year a picture was taken by the hairstyles in it. The '90s are no exception, with more hair inspiration than ever before. Not only did this decade bring us high ponytails, messy buns, The Rachel, and supermodel layers, but it also brought the best hair accessories (butterfly clips, anyone?).
The '90s were so inspirational that we're borrowing those same trends today, with some minor updates. With the help of three hair experts—we rounded up 25 modern versions of the best '90s hair.
The Face-Framing Messy Bun
The only thing better than a messy bun in the '90s? A messy bun with long, detached tendrils. "The trick is to not be too precise," says celebrity stylist Phillip Downing. "If pieces fall out, use that to your advantage, this will add to the‘messy’ approach." To give hair an even and consistent texture, he recommends prepping with Bed HeadQueen For A Day Thickening Spray.
The higher on the head you put the bun, the more elongated your face shape will appear, says Downing. To create balance, those with rounder faces may want to place the bun atop their head while those with oblong faces might opt for a lower-placed bun.
Twists are a protective style that never goes out of fashion. Here, they're fashioned into a half-up, half-down bun to achieve total '90s perfection. To hydrate hair and make it easier to style, try a lightweight conditioner like Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Leave-In Conditioner.
Jennifer Aniston has since said she wasn't a fan of The Rachel, the '90s hairstyle made famous by her iconic character in Friends, but today, she rocks a modern, grown-out version. "We're seeing this look updated with a more'shaggy' feeling," says Downing. "The layers are shorter, working with a fringe to open upthe facial area are all great ways to bring this look into [the modern day]. Also, if there isnaturalmovement in the hair, this is great to encourage to give this iconic look a morebeachy feel."
Yara Shahidi brings the quintessential '90s prom hairstyle into the 21st century by allowing her natural curls to come out and play. "Adding a few twisted pieces going back makes it edgy and youthful," comments celebrity stylist Rita Lowery. To get the look:
- Begin by gathering the hair high up on the apex of the head, instructs stylist Sienree Du. "This will give you the most height and volume."
- Next, tie the pony up and backcomb the base for maximum volume.
- Touch up the curls with an iron so that they are more defined.
The Outward Flip
The only thing better than watching their movies, reading their books, and wearing their clothes? Channeling Mary-Kate and Ashley's signature '90s flip, as Keke Palmer does here. To modernize a vintage-inspired 'do: "Keep it undone and lived in," says Du. "Also adding modern accessories can help make things less dated."
Overgrown swooped fringes are so yesterday... and today. Not only are they practical and stylish, but they can also complement a bigger forehead. Go the clip-in bangs route like Kendall Jenner with this clever hairpiece. An updo like a ponytail or bun will help the faux fringe blend in more naturally.
An epic halo of butterfly clips is the ultimate '90s hair accessory. "Butterfly clips are such a cute accent to a casual look. Use it to hold back fringe, on the base of pigtails, or decorate an accent braid," suggests Du.
Headwraps are far from exclusive to the 1990s, but we can't forget how women like Erykah Badu brought them to the red carpet. Instead of braids, this contemporary take pairs a gold headwrap with locs piled up high and in typically '90s fashion, framing the face, as well.
Crimped hair was a must in the '90s and, if recent red carpet and runway styles are any indications, we might be starting to see this come back. According to Du, "Crimping can look a bit silly but if done right, it can look chic and editorial. Be strategic on where to crimp, like keeping the roots sleek and only crimping the ends." If you don't want to crimp your whole head, a few pieces in a ponytail like Ariana Grande's is a vibe, too. "For a modem look, work in bigger crimps versus tiny," advises Lowery. "This will create more of a beach wave look."
Our favorite Spice Girl may have changed every other day, but we remained faithful to Baby Spice's iconic high-pigtail-and-bangs combination.Here, Charli D'Amelio delivers a modern take with baby braids and purple streaks. "Once the pigtails are tied, you can play with texture, whether wearing it sleek and straight or putting a bend in it," says Du. "Try braiding the pigtails or random pieces for fun." Lowery adds, "I would recommend using clear small hair ties for a flat ponytail look. Nothing sticking up too high."
Align pigtails diagonally with the arch of your eyebrows to give your face a lifted effect, advises Du.
The 90s saw bedazzled jeans, hair bandanas, headbands, CD players, and of course hair. The look is back and better than ever as seen on Aimee Song, whose crimped waves heighten the '90s feel even further.
Teeny tiny braids like the ones that make up Amandla Stenberg's cool side-parted bob are totally '90s, but the fun colors help bring the look into modern day. Tuck braids behind your ear to show off your statement earrings or maybe, just to keep hair out of your face.
A '90shair roundup would never be complete without some great feathered bangs—a hairstyle practically synonymous with the decade. A layered cut and the chic beige blonde color prevent this style from appearing dated.
The Spiked Pixie
The spiked pixie cut, first popularized by Halle Berry, is still going strong—just look at Ruby Rose as proof. "This look is particularly bold and confident," says Downing. However, "I would say the individual's total look and confidence needs to be there to carry this look off," he adds To sculpt your pixie, he recommends using Tigi Bed Head Matte Separation Wax.
Whether you were inspired by valley girl Cher or grunge princess Kelly Bundy, one thing's for certain: the voluminous side flip was the epitome of '90s it-girl hair. Not only would it complete your cool-girl aesthetic, but it would also add an instant boost of volume to your mane.
If you're anything like us, dark hair with light, chunky highlights might be a trend you were glad to leave behind in the '90s. But this look is back, with a softer, more rooted vibe. "You can try chunky highlights thrown in throughout the hair, which looks gorgeous and natural," suggests Lowery.
A sleek half-up, half-down high ponytail is one of Lowery's go-to's for a '90s style that doesn't look dated. "To modernize a vintage look I love to add an updated twist like pairing the hairstyle with modern earrings or downplaying the severity of the hairstyle," she says. "Bed Head Headrush Superfine Shine Sprayon dry hair helps toachieve this high gloss sporty look within the hair," comments Downing.
The Angela Chase middle part is back and better than ever. Du loves a "polished middle part lob, like Posh Spice. She says it'll be chic forever thanks to its classy-meets-edgy vibe. "For short hair, I wouldrecommend staying away from too much volume, this can quite often date a look," says Downing. "The finishing is also key, bringing in a sporty wet look to the hair can also bring the look into today," he adds. Try a polishing serum like IGK Crybaby Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum to add shine and cut down on frizz.
Rowan Blanchard channels The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Ashley Banks with her claw-like bangs. While the '90s version was a bit wispier, Blanchard opts for thicker pieces to give it a modern-day makeover. The headband accessory adds a nice touch, too.
Who could forget Spice Girl Mel B's iconic double buns? Surely not us. Also known as space buns, this version has loads of texture thanks to the wearer's natural curls, plus two face-framing twists. According to Downing, "Space buns will naturally have more texture and in some cases, more volume than straighthair. So, on straight hair, some backcombing and teasing will help support the shape and structure."
We have '90s supermodels to thank for big, voluminous bouncy waves. Zendaya echoes Cindy Crawford's famous mane, but a shoulder-length version keeps it fresh and updated.
When Jennie Garth's Kelly Taylor from 90210 appeared on screen with a layered bob, it immediately portrayed her as a mature young woman who had gone through a lot in her short life. The bob (and its longer cousin, the lob) maintain their popularity as one of the top shorter-length cuts today. Here, Michelle Williams dons a blonde chin-length bob with modern baby bangs.
Topanga Lawrence's blowout was hair goals on Boy Meets World, and not much has changed as far as enviable styles go today. You can't go wrong with a classic blowout. So, meet the latest take: the undone blowout. This trendy version features less bounce and more subdued ends than you get with a fluffy blowout, but it still brings the volume, just more so at the top of the head. Apply John Frieda Volume Lift Air Whipped Foam to damp hair before blowing out with a round brush to maintain volume.
Thinking about the severely tight high ponytail of the '90s makes our heads hurt. Still, the style reigns supreme today. Everyone from Paris Hilton to Jennifer Lopez to Hailey Bieber has been sporting super-high ponytails lately. We love Halle Bailey's take on the style, with her mid-length locs swept up into a high pony. Looking for a similar look but more retro? Try the Barbie ponytail.
While we can credit The Princess of Wales for bringing back the velvet and padded headband, we have flashbacks of Cher and Dionne sporting headbands that color-coordinated nearly every outfit from Clueless. Knotted headbands may be all the rage now, but who could forget comb headbands and the plastic ones with a bandana attached? As if!
Were bangs popular in the '90s?
Wispy bangs with feathering on the ends were a popular '90s look.
How do I get '90s fluffy hair?
Hair in the '90s was a toned-down version of big '80s hair. Natural volume and fullness were key to achieving this look. You could try blow-drying hair upside down, adding layers to your cut, flipping hair to the side, and choosing volume-inducing hair products.
What was the biggest '90s hair trend?
From butterfly clips to scrunchies to barrettes, the '90s were all about hair accessories.
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