The ’80s witnessed an explosion of hairstyles that were as outlandish as they were iconic. They were often gravity-defying feats of hairspray engineering that towered, twirled, and teased their way into our cultural memory.
Whether it was the voluminous perms, audacious mullets, or flamboyant mohawks, hair in the ’80s was less about subtle style and more about making a statement loud enough to rival the decade’s pop music.
And let’s not forget the celebrities who dictated these trends! Madonna, with her wild, layered locks, set a trend that rippled across the globe, resulting in many a teen girl wrestling with a crimping iron in front of the bathroom mirror.
And who could forget the diva-esque splendor of Whitney Houston’s regal curls? (Speaking of Whitney, check out some pictures from her early 80s modeling days here and below!)
So let’s return to the days of synth-pop and Rubik’s cubes, to a time when hairstyles were an adventure and each hairdo was a testament to the wearer’s audacious spirit.
The 80s were an era when we discovered that with a can of hairspray (or mousse) and a comb, the sky really was the limit. Read on to see how you can make these totally awesome 80s hairstyles your own!
Awesome front sweep 80s hairstyles (1983)
From Seventeen – March 1983
How to get this look: Center-part hair from nape to forehead, dividing it in half. Working on one side of head at a time and starting at nape, section off one fourth of the hair and coil it, leaving the last two inches free.
Repeat with the next fourth, then wrap these two coils around each other tightly, as shown below leff, leaving ends free. Pin this single coil at crown. Repeat with remaining hair on that side, to make a second coil, then repeat procedure on other side. Fluff ends with a wide-toothed comb.
Have fun with your hair! Trendy 80s hairstyles for teens (1984)
Some wild and crazy ways to style and color straight or curly hair
From Seventeen – January 1984
Beth’s hair sculpting with gel or mousse
Hair sculpting is one of the most up-to-the-minute — and fun — styling methods around. This simple technique is perfect for giving your hair more body and bounce or for changing styles at a moment’s notice.
A gel or mousse is the medium most often used in hair sculpting: You just work one through your hair (wet or dry)… then create whatever style and shape you like. Best of all — either can be washed out instantly, with no fuss at all!
If you weren’t born with curls, don’t fret. Beth’s up-swept style, created with the help of a styling mousse, is perfect for straight hair (“Before” pic) — and easy to do, too.
First, we wet Beth’s hair and combed it back. Next, we applied a styling mousse (we tried L’Oreal Free Hold Styling Mousse), which she combed through her hair (below right).
Then we used a blow dryer to sweep her hair up and over to one side, finger-styling it into shape at the same time. The final touch: a spritz of hair spray (the choice here: Vidal Sassoon on Non-Aerosol Hair Mist).
Cynthia’s 80s wave hairstyle before & after
It’s easy to add some wave — and color pizzazz — to straight hair like Cynthia’s. To start, we wet Cynthia’s hair and combed a styling gel through it (we tried Clinique Crystal Clear Gel). Using a small brush, we crimped her hair into soft waves and blew it dry.
For a dash of color, Cynthia brought a few strands of hair forward (below right) and sprayed them with Nestle Streaks ‘n Tips temporary color. (To avoid getting color on your skin, cover your forehead with a tissue, and secure it with bobby pins. Keep in place till hair is dry.) Hot pink streaks match Cynthia’s hot pink shirt for a playful new look!
Young Whitney Houston before & after 80s hairstyles
We decided to give Whitney’s very curly hair (“Before” pic, below) a sleeker shape and — for fun — a touch of color. We used a liquid styling glaze for light control (Dep, The Hair Manager), then combed her hair back and up on each side, securing it with bobby pins.
Next, Whitney pulled out some strands in the front — making three sections — and sprayed each one with a different shade of Nestle Streaks ‘n Tips color (center pic). The “rainbow” makes Whitney’s new style sensational!
An 80s style for Wendy’s blonde, curly hair
Wendy already has naturally blond, naturally curly hair, but we felt its shape and color needed to be evened out a bit.
The solution: a golden blond-colored gel (TiGi Hair Gel, from the salon La Coupe, New York), worked evenly through Wendy’s hair to control its shape and add a few warm highlights.
Wendy seems to be enjoying her new blond-and-beautiful look — and it looks as if she’s not the only one who likes it!
Jodi’s 80s hairstyle before & after
Styling gels aren’t new — but they’re being used in great new ways. One example: Jodi’s airy new hairstyle.
Although Jodi’s hair is thick and naturally wavy (“Before” pic), it needed extra vol-ume for a more sophisticated look–and a styling gel did the trick. (Gels are especially good for wavy hair because they help shape and define its natural curve.)
To style Jodi’s new look, we began by wetting her hair (it can also be left dry) and combing it back off her face. Next, we applied a styling gel (here, Gelle by Aime d’Elle) and showed Jodi how to comb it evenly through her hair with her fingers.
After a few minutes of shaping and smoothing, the final result: a full, tousled style that delicately frames Jodi’s face — and accentuates her soft features. A terrific new look!
The big beauty news: 1980s hair
Start the season with a to-the-minute layer cut like the ones shown here for short, medium, and long hair.
The beauty of these flattering cuts: Unlike yesterday’s choppy layered styles, these are softly shaped with gradual layering that adds natural “built in” body and volume (take our hair-on-end silhouettes to your hairstylist!).
Another bonus — they work with hair that’s fine or thick, straight or curly. The latest technique in the new layering: snipping the end of each section in a “V” and not straight across, for feathery lift.
Medium-length hairstyle from the 80s (1982)
Great style for this length hair, layered shortest in front, gradually longer in back, finished with brow-skimming wisps.
We gave our model’s super-straight hair some curl by spritzing with setting lotion when almost dry, then setting in stand-up pin curls, all going back (simply form a regular pin curl, clip on underside only).
To style: With head forward, lightly brush, then back-comb for fullness. Because it’s out for volume, this style even looks great with no set at all.
80s short hairstyles
Sleek, easy-care cut that’s perfect for any type of hair, especially natural wave that needs some control. It’s layered all over, shortest at top, longer mid-back and at nape.
Here’s how to get the extra height, the smooth stylish shape — without a set! Mist damp hair with some setting lotion, then, as you blow-dry (use a diffuser), finger-comb and fluff hair in an up-and-back direction, lifting as you “comb.” Or let this cut air-dry — just “finger style” as above to help it take shape as it dries.
80s long hair style tips
Layer long hair around the face for softness, movement, and it instantly takes on the free-and-easy appeal of a shorter cut! If your hair is fine- textured, the new layer cuts give the illusion of thicker hair, too!
To get the wave, more volume: Mist damp hair with setting lotion, then place palm against your head, grasp a handful of hair, lift, then “scrunch” the hair in your hand as you blow-dry (use a diffuser attachment for gentle air flow); hold a few seconds, release. Repeat until all hair is dry.
Awesome 80s hairstyles – A how-to from ’86: Easiest new hairdos
Now cuts and styles — fast and simple to do. Which one’s for you?
Make wonderful waves for straight, layered-all-over hair
To create a stylish windswept look with lots of billowy volume, a quick set with flexible Styling Stix rollers does the trick.
Starting with dry hair, part on the side, and comb straight back. Begin at crown and randomly wind small (one- to two-inch) sections of hair on the rollers, turning toward back. Secure hair in place by simply bending the ends of the rollers inward — there’s no need to fuss with bobby pins.
Then set sides of hair, continuing to roll hair toward back. Blow- or air-dry. Remove rollers and lightly finger-fluff hair for even more volume; to finish, mist with hair spray.
How to do 2 dramatic 80s hairstyles
Sleek now style for chin-lengths
Fabulous roll-front look starts with a blunt-cut bob. Apply styling gel to roots of hair, all around your hairline. We used Avigal Henna Instant Highlighting Gel for a rich color boost that rinses out.
To get that front lift, comb crown hair an inch or two upward so it’s at a 90-degree angle to your scalp, shown above; blow-dry on low heat and gently comb back. Then direct sides of hair back from face and curve ends under with a brush and blow-dryer. Finish by blow-drying back hair under.
The same cut goes curly
If you have wavy hair, this frothy style with one side swinging onto the forehead, and the other swept behind an ear is wash-and-mousse simple. First, make a side part. Next, take a large dollop of mousse and scrunch it into hair. Continue scrunching all around your head until hair is completely waved.
To add gleamy, rinse-out highlights, go for a colored mousse such as Helene Curtis La Forme Mousse in Chardonnay Natural Color Foam Highlighter.
New two-way hairdos
A sculptured look for medium hair with gentle layering around the face
Dampen hair and smooth a little gel on crown, sides. Blow-dry hair away from face using a styling brush — we like Clairol 1500-Upstart dryer and a Goody brush. Pull down a few bangs to soften the look. Last, blow-dry ends under.
For a stunning, fast change of style
Hair is quickly tousled and swept forward to softly fringe the face, playing up the cheekbones, eyes. After shampooing, blow-dry hair with a diffuser; diffusers maximize fullness. As you blow-dry, finger-comb hair forward onto your face. Finally, make a low side part.
The shortest ‘do
Feathery 80s cut for straight, short hair
A neat way to tame a style that’s grown out of shape. The sides have been graduated, shown left, and ends of hair have been lightly feathered for a casual, spiky effect. A fringe of bangs puts the focus on eyes.
The result: an up-to-the-minute look that’s also carefree. Styling couldn’t be easier. For o body boost, hair spray is spritzed at the roots of bangs and crown, and hair is back-brushed. Back and sides are combed forward to make a flattering frame for the face.
2 classic hairstyles remade for the 80s
Glamorous 40s-style a la Lauren Bacall for all-one-length long hair
Top of hair is rolled smoothly back into a side cascade of waves. To do: Make a low side part in damp hair and slick one side behind ears with styling gel. Work a quarter-size dollop of gel into crown and free-falling side.
Create waves, shown above: Comb bang section back, push forward into a roll and clip at base. Clip two waves inside hair above ear, at chin. Let set for 15 minutes. Remove clips, lightly brush.
French-style tie-back for long and medium hair
The low-at-the-neck ponytail is now trés chic. To get the look, just brush alt hair back, secure at the nape of your neck with a coated rubber band, and cover the band with a beautiful bow. Then blow-dry ends of hair under with a round brush.
To enhance the style, comb a few wispy bangs onto your forehead. A light misting with hair spray will keep any stray ends in place.
How to use haircolor and highlights for ’80s hairstyles
Here’s the same woman showing off four different vintage hairstyles from 1986
Get a prescription for the perfect haircut for you (1988)
Choose the style that suits your hair type — we’ll tell you how to make it work for you
Short 80s hairstyle
A sure shot of chic and just right for you if… You have a pretty profile: show-off-quality ears and neck, a well-shaped head. — You’re willing to commit to frequent cuts, every four to six weeks, to maintain proper line and proportion. — You want an easy-to-care-for style that needs only a daily shampoo, not a lot of fuss.
Sleek 80s bob haircut
This style adds pizzazz to limp locks. It’s shorter in back for bounce, and tapered to frame the face.
Layered 80s hairstyle
This sassy look is one you can bank on
Sexy 80s curls
For this terrific tousled look (natural curls or permed) try the products below
Long 80s hairstyle
Luxurious tresses suit you to a tee if… Your hair is medium to thick and very healthy. Straight, curly and wavy are all okay. — You want a style that’s ultra-feminine, easy to work with. — You’re willing to commit to regular conditioning.
Endless 80s curls
An all-one-length, knock-’em-dead head of thick curls needs TLC.
Wispy 80s hairstyle
This is a cut above the rest if hair is fine-textured, straight to wavy. Hair is snipped closest at nape and graduates to a fuller crown with long side wisps.
Blunt 80s haircut
Is bold and the ultimate hairdo for you if… you like a cut that always looks cared for and polished, yet requires minimal styling. — You love the look and feel of a lot of hair, but want a controlled, office-going length. — You want a hairstyle that will last a long time – eight to ten weeks – between cuts.