Big '80s Hairstyles

Updated March 29, 2017

The gravity-defying hairstyles of the 1980s were heavily processed using perms, colours and lashings of hairspray. Natural and subtle styles were out and big bold looks, inspired by pop stars of the decade such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, were in. The big hairstyles of the 1980s matched the bright clothing and make-up of the time that was worn by both men and women alike. From punk influenced spiked mullets to the bubblegum pop-inspired side ponytail, the hair of the '80s was all about making a statement.


Crimping was a fashionable way to create full-bodied hair without the need for a perm. A pair of hair crimpers was a must-have beauty tool of the '80s that was much like the hair straighteners used today, but with ridges on the plates rather than a smooth finish. Crimping plates were made of metal, which is much more damaging than the ceramic plates now used. Crimped hair was often left loose or secured into a tied ponytail.


Worn by men and women alike, the mullet was one of the most iconic hairstyles of the decade. With hair cut short on top and left long at the back, the mullet came in many variations. For the slightly more conservative individual, the back section would reach to the shoulders. For those who embraced the trend, the hair at the back was left much longer and heavily teased with hairspray. Although the mullet is often mocked today, at the time the style was fashionable.

Side Ponytail

The side ponytail was a quick and easy style for girls with longer hair. Ponytails were often worn high on top of the head and included several neon bright hair scrunches. The ponytail had to be big so curls, crimps, backcombing and lots of hairspray completed the look. A similar variation of the style included all of the hair being swept over to one side and heavily hair-sprayed to appear as though it has been caught in the wind.

Perms and Color

The classic perm was made famous in the 1980s. Perms meant that rollers were out as hair could be treated to remain curly until it grew out naturally. Home perming kits and home colours meant that even teens in a tight budget could adopt a style to match the famous singers of the decade. Bright streaks of colour such as pink, orange and red were also in fashion, made famous by stars such as Cyndi Lauper and Boy George.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Based in Manchester, U.K., Natalie Baker has been a freelance beauty and fashion writer since 2009. Her work appears in the beauty pages of "The Detour Magazine" and online at Just Makeup Artists. Baker is experienced in both television and print journalism, and holds a Bachelor of Arts broadcast journalism from Salford University.