Women's 80s hairstyles

Updated March 23, 2017

The big hair of the 1980s may be making a comeback. If you look at pictures from this time period, you see young women with wildly permed hair, big fringe and forelocks that overwhelmed their faces. Some hairstyles were big, but not as big as the permed Afro cuts some women opted for.

Big Hair

In the early part of the decade, women wore their hair short but very styled so the top of their hair was curled up and back using a curling iron. Once they had created a "casually wispy" look, they sprayed their hair so the style stayed fresh all day long. Later in this decade, women's hair began to get longer, with perms becoming the norm. The trend for women's hair in the later 1980s was BIG. Women permed their hair and then teased it to get that big look that was so popularised in the movies of that era. As the 80s progressed, women's hair became longer and longer. (See Reference) Girls in high school worked with their hair every morning, teasing it and putting the perfect sausage curls in, then spraying the entire hairstyle so that it would not flop or wilt until early in the afternoon. The higher the lock at the forehead went, the happier the girls were. If you look at pictures of women from the 1980s, you see permed hair that was long enough to hit the middle of their backs. (See Reference 1, pictures) The women of Dynasty could do no wrong stylistically. While it was not as permed as other styles, the hair was still big, with Linda Gray sporting a perfect blonde helmet and Joan Crawford walking around with perfectly styled short hair. Even though Joan's hair was short, it was still big with a pouf at the top of her head. Heather Locklear sported a teased style that wasn't parted, but still added a few inches to her natural height. (See Resource, pictures) Even Jennifer Gray got into the big hair act with teased fringe and a shoulder-length perm.

80s Hairstyle History

In the early 1980s, women wore their hair cut short around their ears and the napes of their necks with a backswept top. When you think of this short hairstyle, think of Ferris Bueller's mother in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." The big hairstyles of the 1980s were made popular by the movies and television shows of that day. Women in shows such as "Dynasty" and "Dallas," and movies, sported hairstyles that got progressively bigger. As teens watched these movies, they appropriated these big hairstyles for themselves, using hairdryers and curling irons, getting perms, and buying hairspray and mousse so they could achieve these looks.

Additional 80s Hair Influences

In women's hairstyles, the 80s was the decade of excess. Anything that could be done that was "different", such as unusual colours on a woman's hair, was done. Punk rock had its influence on women's hair, with short, spiked haircuts and vivid pink, green and purple streaks dyed in. Coloured highlights were "chunked" so they became very obvious. Women popularised banana clips, which allowed them to sweep all the hair into the long plastic clip and create an elongated ponytail. Other "hair inventions" included making fringe stand straight up by applying copious amounts of hair gel. Some women got their hair cut in the mullet cut (very short on the sides, top and front and long at the back.) The general effect was of short hair from the front and of longer hair from the back. Some famous women who had their own influence on women's hairstyles in the 80s include Jennifer Aniston (Rachel in "Friends"). Her haircut became known as "The Rachel". Madonna had her own influence on women's hair as well, popularising the big bow and ratted/messy hair, known as the "boy toy" look. (See Resource 2)

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About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.