Hairspray: The key to that ’80s big hair look

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

Beauty and fashion hairspray

Hairspray: Teens don’t leave home without it! (1988)

Nineteen-year-old Debbie Ziv of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was not even born during the heyday of the bubble, the beehive, the flip, the bouffant — and that masterful effort, the artichoke.

Yet, she regularly performs a grooming ritual that dates back to that other era, to the tremulous nostalgia of the Watusi and the funky chicken, to Luci Baines Johnson, Apollo 7, op art, Twiggy, “Rosemary’s Baby,” the original Mary Quant miniskirts and the aptly-named “Hair.”

Classic Aqua Net hairspray

Ziv, who is working this summer as a fashion merchandising intern, is a hair-spray fanatic. In the morning, spiiiiisss In the evening, spiiiiisss. On weekends, before a strenuous night at Club Nu, spiiiiiiiiiiiiisss, and Ziv’s long, blond-highlighted brown hair is calmed into submission and suspended in perfection.

“I started using hair spray many years ago,” Ziv says, “as far back as I first could. I think it started because I got sick of my hair flopping when I went out.

“Let’s put it this way: In the morning, I wouldn’t leave the house without it. I use it every chance I get. I usually carry some in the car. Everybody I know uses it.”

After more than a decade of devotion to the slicked-up, slicked-down affectations wrought by smeared-in, dabbed-on mousses and gels, style-conscious US consumers such as Ziv are getting their heads together with hairspray.

Hairspray Teens don't leave home without it (1988)

“Hairspray started to grow in double digits in 1984, and most of the increase is coming from teenagers who are just entering the market,” says Laurel Blair, spokesman for the Alberto Culver Co. of Melrose Park, Illinois, maker of Alberto VO5, Alberto European Styling Hair Spray and Consort hair spray for men.

“Up until about five years ago, hair sprays basically appealed to older women, but with the introduction of mousses and gels and the return to femininity in fashion, the younger women were shown more variations in what they could do with their hair.

“They got into styling it with the mousse and the gels, and then the styles got so complicated, they also needed the help of sprays.”

ALSO SEE  How to get awesome & authentic on-trend '80s eye makeup, like multicolored eyeshadow

Connie Sellecca You can do more with Flex (1989)

In the eighties, 80% of teen girls used hair products

Industry research indicates more than 80 percent of all teenage girls in the United States now use aerosol hair sprays or their updated cousins, pump-spray holding spritzes, such as Conair or Bold Hold.

Indeed, 1987’s combined sales for hair sprays and spritzes hovered between $600 million and $700 million, with the category’s hottest single product, Faberge’s Aqua Net, accounting for $100 million of that all by itself.

The standard $2.29 aerosol can of extra-hold Aqua Net, which was introduced in 1953, is now the top-selling toiletry item in drugstore chains throughout the country. Sales for all Aqua Net products have tripled during the past five years.

“People see hair as very important now,” says Daniel J. Manella, Faberge’s chairman. “They are very hair-involved.”

Hairspray Teens don't leave home without it (1988)

A national hairspray revival

Evidence of a national hairspray revival is everywhere, from such bizarre ’60s retrospectives as the John Waters flick “Hairspray” and the musical revue “Beehive,” to the almost subliminal nudge one gets from the Consort ballpark billboards in the movie “Bull Durham.”

The first commercial hair sprays were introduced after World War II as a relief from the constant fussing required by bobby pins. Before that, clever homemakers and salon stylists had to make do with such home-brewed concoctions as sugar water or the more odious combination of lacquer and rubbing alcohol.

Final Net hairspray pump and aerosol from 1982

During the height of the ’60s hair-spray fad, the ideal hairstyle was anything with a smooth, roundish silhouette and a texture one might describe as gunky.

“And the little beads of liquid running down your head after you sprayed,” says Laurel Blair. “Remember?”

Women routinely had their hair washed and set once or, at best, twice a week, applied daily additional coatings of spray and slept with their wretched, teased bouffants swathed in toilet paper and their bodies rigid as logs so as not to traumatize their coifs.

“Not tonight, dear,” went the litany in homes all across the land. “Antoine just did my hair.”

Vanessa Williams big hair

MORE: Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo & conditioner (’70s-’80s)

The 1970s’ growing preoccupation with fitness and convenience inspired a preference for shorter, wash-and-wear hairdos. That, along with the condemnation by environmentalists that fluorocarbon propellants in hairsprays junk up the atmosphere, was enough to flatten the market.

Today’s sprays and spritzes, minus the harmful substances of the past, tend to combine chemical resins with an alcohol base and additives such as animal proteins and fragrances.

Household hint: If you pre-treat a piece of clothing stained by lipstick or ballpoint-pen ink with a heavy spritz of hair spray, the blemish will come clean in the wash.

Vintage hairspray punk style


Hold it with Final Net hairspray: Hot looks that last (1985)

Controls like a gel, styles like a mousse

Pssst. It sleeks. It sculpts. It shapes. Final Net pump. It controls like a gel. It styles like a mousse. And it gives you Final Net hold. Create any look you want. The pump lets you direct it, control it, and hold it for a look that lasts all day.

1985 Clairol Final Net hairspray


Final Net hairspray: A cool alternative

A straighter approach that can be as forward-looking as you like.

Final Net hairspray A cool alternative 1985 - Vintage


Ogilvie ’80s hairspray: Teach your old hair new tricks

Ogilvie hairspray - vintage ad


Dep Sculpt & Hold (1987)

Deprived? Something puncture your pretty balloon? Don’t leave without a parting shot!

But if you’d like a styling hairspray that won’t ever let you down… One that holds finished styles with amazing strength, yet sculpts and shapes dry hair beautifully

Try Dep Sculpt & Hold! It’s one thing in your life that will never leave you flat! Get Deputized!

Dep brand sculpt and hold hairspray 1987


Jhirmack, with Victoria Principal (1982)

Why take chances with your hair? I won’t. That’s why I go right to the shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays from the professionals at Jhirmack. Because each one is professionally formulated and salon-tested to meet your hair’s individual needs.

For total hair care, start with any one of the special shampoos and instant conditioners especially formulated for your particular type of hair. Once a week give your hair a special treatment with one of Jhirmack’s deep conditioners.

You’ll have clean, shiny, healthy looking hair — like mine. And always finish with just the right Jhirmack Professional Hair Spray for shakable hair with unshakable hold.

My hair’s never looked better, never been more manageable.

So give your hair special care from start to finish. With the professionally formulated shampoos, conditioners and hairsprays from Jhirmack.

Victoria Principal for Jhirmack 1982


Wella High Hair (1980s)

Style it, spray it, sculpt it, freeze it, spike it, slick it!

High Hair super hold hairspray. Control & style. Designed for performance. The styling and finishing spray that works with you. A light spray is enough to add lift and control.

Wella High Hair hairspray — for hair that always looks in style.

Vintage 1980s High Hair hairspray


Flex Net by Revlon (1982)

Revlon… only Revlon makes it happen.

See-Through hold with new Flex Net Clean Hold hair spray.

New Flex Net keeps every hair in place and it’s “clean”… no tackiness, no stiffness, no flaking. Just see-through hold. Flex Net lets your natural shampoo-shine come right through. Feeling fresh and looking beautiful.

Retro 80s Flex Net hairspray - 1982 (2)

Retro 80s Flex Net hairspray - 1982 (1)


Clairol Condition (1988)

Condition styling lets you electrify the crowd without shocking your hair!

“Condition Hairspray… the hold with great feel. Anything but dull, or drying. The finishing touch.”

Vintage Condition styling products from 1988


Style it — Hold it! (1985)

Psst. It sleeks. It sculpts. It shapes. It controls like a gel. It styles like a mousse. And it give you Final Net hold.

Create any look you want. The pump lets you direct it, control it, and hold it for a look that lasts all day.

A little Final Net goes a long, long way.

Vintage Final Net hairspray - August 1985


Elnett by L’Oreal

Elnett. The finest hairspray used by the finest hairdressers.

Perfect hold. Exceptional control. Elnett sprays micro-fine and brushes out at a stroke.

Vintage LOreal Elnett hairspray


Salon Selectives by Helene Curtis (1988)

Introducing stylemakers for salon-styled hair.

Developed in the salons of Helene Curtis, only Salon Selectives new stylemakers give you salon-proven formulas of Hold and Control. Now you have exactly what you need to make your hair salon-styled. Salon beautiful.

Feel salon beautiful every day.

80s Salon Selectives hair styling products 1988


Make a grand exit (1988)

Look as good leaving as you did walking in. Use a little Final net in the morning and your hair style will stay up even after the sun goes down.

1988 Final Net hairspray


Aqua Net (1988)

Aqua Net featuring Donna Mills — Beauty and fashion director of Faberge.

Aqua Net with Donna Mills

Big 80s-style hair and earrings from 1985

1988 Big hair

SEE MORE: Do you remember these 30 shampoos & conditioners from the ’80s?

If you liked this post, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, plus see exclusive retro-inspired products in our shop. Thanks for visiting!

More stories you might like

Check out our books!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Because the fun never ends:

Join the fun

Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest vintage stuff!

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.