It looks like we’re never getting over grunge hair. But you can’t really blame us: For a lot of people, the ’90s trend is a safe haven to run to whenever reality-glam fatigue strikes; for even more people, particularly for those who came of age in the era, maybe it’s just good ol’ nostalgia. Maybe because it’s the easiest “look” whenever we’re in a rush, or perhaps we’re still not over our Seattle garage band phase. Or, hey, cough, not naming names, but maybe a girl just doesn’t want to wash her hair for three days straight, and this finally makes it legit for her to do so!
Whatever it is, we’ll always have a special place on the mantel for the ’90s grunge hair trend, and looks like we’re not alone in this. If the runways and streets are any indications, this love affair ain’t going nowhere—just see the massive level of inspiration we were able to cull below! Try not to get teary-eyed:
Casual-Chic and Always Cool: The Best ’90s Grunge Hair Trends
Ah, the golden days of bedhead. Rumpled, tousled hair came to the fore during the 1990s, an offshoot of the era’s pervading minimalistic, less-is-more aesthetic. Lightly layered haircuts allowed us to give our blowdryers a much-needed break (if they hadn’t conked out from overuse the decade before, that is), resulting in styles that were as innocent as they were natural. And what was cooler than looking like you literally couldn’t care less?
1. Staticky Lob
Literally the definition of rolled-out-of-bed hair, complete with blanket creases and halo frizz—and It girl center part!—for good measure.
2. Beachy Kinks
Another big grunge-era trend: homemade salt spray, which was a Pinteresty blend of simple kitchen table salt and tap water. Spritzed onto locks, and ta-da, instant beachy texture.
3. Haphazard Bends
Longer lengths showcase a matte, beachy wave the best.
4. Lob with Beanie
Greasy Hair 101: Always keep a beanie on hand, in case someone needs to make a bodega run.
5. Matte Layers
A dull finish was a prized look back in the day, giving rise to the popularity of paste and wax in addition to salt spray. Texturizing sprays, like Nexxus Between Washes Beach Waves Sea Salt Spray, easily recreate this grungy tousle, no problem.
6. Tousled Bob
Urge in this texture on straight to wavy hair by running some texturizing wax into a damp bob.
7. Diffused Part
Before the over-styled Early Aughts, everyone was a bit chill with their hair partings, resulting in fuller, more natural looks.
8. Messy Waves
Another member of the (Late) Breakfast Club included messy, finger-combed waves.
9. Natural Waves
We don’t know what we love more: the clean, single-process brown, or the air-dried crumples.
10. Natural Waves, Pt. 2
The ’90s was definitely peak ash brown years. Love how the shade gives this otherwise basic look a sweeter, more homespun appeal.
11. Crunchy Platinum
Bleached blondes have a natural stiffness to it which air-drying maximized, giving this look more edge.
12. Center-Parted Lob
Or what we all really looked like before going to town with a flat iron (kinda love it though!).
13. Rich-Girl Hair
Named for the texture party girls get the morning after a bender, but totes egalitarian in its easy-to-wear appeal.
WET or GELLED
Taking things to a higher plane was the wet/stringy look, which may or may not be completely artificial, depending on your commitment level. Those who chose to the manufactured route took to high-shine gels (try TRESemmé TRES Two Extra Firm Control Gel for a glossy yet non-crunchy finish) to get that telltale wet look. If you were of the more, shall we say, chill persuasion, you simply let Mother Nature—and your natural oils—take their course. Grunge hair at its most OG!
13. Raked Pony
Ditch the fine-toothed comb and simply use your fingers to pull back your ponytail after gelling for a raked look.
14. Gelled Low Knot
Who doesn’t remember this ’90s trademark? A severely gelled base together with a “punytail” or baby knot (not to mention hoop earrings!) was almost iconic.
15. Wet Bob
A gelled base and loose, stringy ends imparts that popular surfer-slash-truant-slash-burnout look that’s (surprise!) earning top marks in high fashion today.
16. Brush Back
A longer version of the gelled bob, this style opens up the forehead and is a pretty sexy evening option.
17. Brush Back on Natural Hair
Those with African American or natural-textured hair can also get in on the wet look trend without relaxing their locks.
18. Post-College Bob
The hairstyle of choice of angsty fresh grads at the time, this full yet super-short crop gained even more street cred with a bit of grit.
19. Stringy Layers
Not to be outdone are these second (?…third?)-day layers, which artfully helm to your facial structure, giving you a more “natural” appeal.
20. Stringy Lob
Lobs can rock a matte, no-greasy texture too, with the help of a texturizing cream, such as Bed Head by TIGI Manipulator.
If you never had a bob back then, were you really a ’90s baby though? Such was the widespread popularity of this low-maintenance unisex haircut, which was the decade’s valentine to the whole androgyny wave. Unlike its ends—which were satisfyingly blunt af—short grunge hair, particularly the soft bob, made quite the pointed statement: Traditional gender roles were on their way out the door, and one’s identity went far beyond a simple (often cute, tousled, cowlick-riddled) hairstyle.
21. Bob with Beanie
Universal savior of no-wash days, the beanie looks just as cool on a fringed bob as it does on longer lengths.
21. Blunt Bob
The sheath of power! One of the era’s most definitive haircuts beloved by teenage and corporate women alike was a chin-length, fringeless bob cut with no layers.
22. Under the Ear
Surprisingly low-maintenance given its short length, the lip-level bob epitomized the relaxed, casual aesthetic of the decade.
23. No Part
Floppy hair worked with bobs as well, where one’s parting would usually depend on which hand they used to tousle-dry.
If confidence in your true face shape (without any smoke and mirrors via waves or layers) was a hallmark of success, then the hair-tucking ’90s kids had it all figured out.
25. Soft Wedge
First-generation layered bobs featured subtle layering at the bottom, mostly just to encourage a flipped-under look. Simple times!
In a time when glamazon supermodels and shellacked makeup owned the mainstream outlets, a counterculture of grungy waifs and neo-gothic looks, featuring quirky, somewhat subversive touches, came about. These offered a reprieve from high-gloss magazine beauty standards—hence the term “alternative”—and gave “unpretty” options such as muddy browns, grays, blues, and greens an unofficial seal of approval.
26. Blue Wedge Bob
A basic bob gets edged up with a shot of a bright blue hair color.
27. Blue and Green
A faded combo of blue and green remains on point when paired with a trendy half-up top knot.
28. Inky Pigtails
Grunge hair during the late ’90s also took on a witchy, new age vibe, thanks to pop culture references and teen movies. Navy and teal hair colors, together with neo-boho details such as chupalla hats, crisscross detailing and crystals, made its way into mainstream fashion.
29. Dutch Braids
While the natural hair community had been embracing cornrows for years, it was during the underground club scene in the late ’80s and ’90s that inverted braids and punky styles hit a fever pitch with other hair types.
30. Ashy Gray
This rooty, smoky shade is quiet, but still cutting edge.
Dull gray-violet in a matte, slightly porous finish (with that exaggerated side flip!) remains a popular look.
32. Silver Space Buns
Hit two trends in one with this on-point shade of silvery gray and a pair of club-kid space buns.
33. Gray Ombré
Who says ombré and balayage were reserved for blondes and brunettes?
34. Matte Lob
Chunky strips give this otherwise simple white lob even more personality.
35. Green Crop
That brush-up style was another favorite way to wear a short boy’s cut ’do.
36. Mint Highlights
Modern mermaids never go for basic highlights; that we can assure you.
Perpetuating the against-the-grain aesthetic rebellion of ’90s grunge hair was the sudden rise of the baby bang. Part candy-raver, part Gen X ingénue, it was—and remains—the style detail of choice for the anti-heroine who had no time whatsoever to spare for your conventional, “flattering” beauty ideals. Movies of the decade presented countless versions of this famous cinematic trope, whether via the Manic Pixie Dream Girl-slash-quirky-BFF in 1990s romcoms, or the sultry femme fatale that led film noir leads to their demise.
37. Baby Bang with Beanie
Between the blue, the bang and the beanie, there’s so much to unpack here. We’ll let that adorable overall look speak for itself.
38. Blunt Bob with Fringe
As feature-flattering as a baby bang can get, and paired with a sleek, on-trend long bob to boot.
Angle those scissors sideways if you want to recreate this natural, wispy version.
Those super-short bangs on a choppy pixie cut, teamed with pencil-thin brows, are serving major throwback vibes.
41. Fringed Shag
This runaway hairstyle hit gets infused with a bit of grungy flavor with a baby bang.
42. Quirky Pony
See-through schoolgirl bangs are also enjoying a strong renaissance this year.
43. Model-Off-Duty Bangs
This wavy, tousled version works perfectly with a curly bob.
Equally as popular as leaving hair gritty? Rolling it up in an unkempt wash-and-go bun. Topknots, space buns and twisted half-updos were relied on to keep our second-day locks from crudding up our foreheads, all the while making a stylish, somewhat anti-establishment statement. For some, it was also an extension from clubwear and sportswear to streetwear, a natural progression still relevant to this day as seen via the athleisure movement.
44. Braids and Buns
This in-your-face rendition has the camp of the era written all over it, from the space buns to fishtail pigtails to even a skinny accent braid.
45. Easy Half-Up Topknot
A chic, more understated way to pay homage to the grunge hair era includes a high topknot and airy silver waves.
46. Dip-Dye Buns
Make ombré (or grown-out) pink work even harder by wearing it in space buns, a style that gives it an instant two-tone feel.
47. Spiky Half-Up Buns
Chinoiserie was another well-received ’90s fashion trend, and somehow a bunch of messy twisted buns provided the ideal foil to the high cheongsam necklines and elaborate embroidery.
48. Figure Eights
For those with bangs too short for a full bun, the figure-eight twist became the next best thing. Just secure in the center with a bobby pin, and leave the rest of your lengths to free-fall.
49. Braided Top Knot
A half-up top knot that had “feeder braids” at the base was another play on the Dutch/cornrow aesthetic.
50. Rope Twisted Bantu Knots
A clubbier version of popular box braid hairstyles worn by African-American women, two-toned rope twists provided a graphic punctuation mark to streetwear.