The ’90s are making a resurgence in a major way.
We are never not loving the ’90s! Everyone’s favorite grungy/minimalist decade is back in full swing, and our inner pretty in punk girls couldn’t be happier. For those of us who were lucky enough to live through it in real-time (hollering at you, my fellow non-digital natives), we all know the era as a glorious hot mess of, well, mess, and that’s a good thing! From 90s hairstyles to clothes and makeup, it was a study in extremes: Fashion was either perplexingly simple or wildly over the top, faces either confidently bare or contoured beyond belief.
And the hair? Ahhh… All. Of. The. Hair! Faded, braided or, yes, left completely ignored—that refreshing audacious approach is the reason for the resurgence of this awesome style. This pre-social media decade featured hairstyles and fashion where everyone enjoyed dressing up for their own sake (gasp, what a concept) and followed their own rules.
This self-assuredness is what makes those years a current and forever obsession. If you’re still not convinced—and for those just enjoying this bodacious renaissance for the first time—do yourself a favor and check out our list below of the most popular hairstyles in the 1990s. We promise, there’s more to this decade than chokers and high fades:
1990s Hairstyles and Trends We’re (Still) In Love With
1. Wispy Bangs with Half-Updo
There’s nothing anyone can tell us to turn us off from the half-updo. The sheer practicality of this look, mixed with just the right amount of effort makes it one of our favorites. Seriously, what’s not to love? Whether worn college-coed-style, pinned back with a barrette or edged up with a proper bun on the crown, it’s versatility in its purest form.
“For me it was all about the half-updo. I would slick the top part of my hair back and then wrap my hair into a tight half-pony. I sometimes mixed it up with accessories like headbands and daisy chains.” —Serena Norr, Contributing Writer
2. Top Knot
Speaking of versatility, the top knot gets top marks as well. One of the original day-to-night hairdos of our generation, it was a clever way to upstyle your braids (or dreadlocks, or anything else you had going on) and still show off some killer jewelry and neck accessories. Yep, if you’ve ever lied awake at night wondering what hairstyle was “the most fly” with those hoops and velvet chokers, now you know.
“Top knots and crimps for me! Fun fact: I was a ballerina, and besides dancing, our photo shoots were my favorite activity. My mom used to comb my hair into the neatest ballerina bun. Today, my ballerina bun, a.k.a. top knot is my favorite lazy-day hairstyle.” —Alyssa François, Associate Beauty Editor
3. French Braids
Most probably an offshoot of the country-club prepster look that was big a decade earlier, French braids are the quintessential ’90s braid. It was the go-to style, first, because it showed off actual hairstyling skills (props!) and was a neat, dainty look for those who reverse-rebelled from the grunge subculture; and two, it kind of went with all your pastel outfits and scoop-necked tops. Especially when worn with bumpy bangs.
“French braids all the way. I used to practice French-braiding my hair all the time as a kid: while I was watching TV, during carpool on the way to school and spending way more than my allotted time in front of the bathroom mirror in the mornings. I love wearing them now because they keep my hair up and away from my face, and I’m left with easy small waves for my second-day hair.” —Miriam Herst, Assistant Editor
Baby bangs, the sleeper hit of 2017! Honestly, we were on the fence for a hot minute there when this trend reemerged on the scene, but we’re happily eating our words. We’ve kinda fallen hard for this, simply because it’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. A micro fringe is a confident style and is for those aren’t afraid to commit to bangs, full stop. No hacks, no side-sweeping, no cheating—just straight-up, unapologetic, forehead-baring bangs… with maybe some vampy or matte lipstick to match. Be sure to use some dry shampoo like Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo to keep the slick at bay.
5. Stringy Texture
For all intents and purposes, nothing is better or sexier than bedhead. On long hair, this translated back then to half-rumpled, half-stringy texture, in all its second-day/morning-after glory. It’s a look that’s so chic in its complete effortlessness, it reminded us of French girls (because everything sexy reminds us of French girls). Especially when rendered in its favorite iteration, with a middle part, this look makes us proud to be normcore. Be sure to apply Nexxus Oil Infinite Nourishing Hair Oil to help you achieve soft and frizz-free hair.
6. Space Buns
Some call them Bantu knots, we call them muses of the club scene. You couldn’t go to an underground party without running into a fiercely coiffed raver sporting two or more baby bulbs on her head. As far as 90s hairstyles went, space buns succinctly added just the right touch of alt to your going-out attire, and, perhaps most relevantly, kept your head and shoulders free to do all the dancing in the world. It was also a more kickass version of pigtails, another micro-trend of the era.
Daisy chains, glitter roll-ons, hair mascara, neon butterfly clips—if you were a maximalist back in the day, then you knew going out meant going all out. Hair accouterments were an extension of your personality and were proudly celebrated and not merely confined to the grounds of a music festival. Unapologetically frilly and the choice of mallrats everywhere, we can’t help but give snaps to the first-generation flower crowns.
8. Accent Braids
If accessorizing wasn’t your thing, you probably tried your hand at some baby braids instead. Worn en masse as box braids or as a hidden accent here and there, these thin plaits were a fast way to upgrade a regular, everyday look and didn’t require much thought or skill, apart from a general boredness in Chemistry, or life in general. Very grunge.
9. Blunt Bob
The angled, flattering bob of today took its sweet time evolving, but we love its ancestor just the same. The complete absence of layers gives the blunt bob a slight pageboy feel, especially when the ends are curled under, and the wearer a preppier, more collegiate aesthetic, like it was born to adorn all the Type A trust fund babies of the decade (It had to be perfect!). It evoked freshness and also a certain innocence, a pretty unique characteristic not found in most looks of today.
10. Grunge Hair
And what would hairstyles of the 1990s be without awesome grunge hair? An ode to the iconic music of the era, which was an angst-laden, quietly rebellious call to action for Gen Xers everywhere, the look was all about could-care-less texture (mostly air-dried) and a natural fringe. Ringer tee optional.
11. The ’90s Lob
In the ’90s, lob haircuts all did one thing in common: the mini-flip. Some bobs flipped more than others, but they all had a semblance of a super flirty flip out, probably thanks to the bluntness of most cuts. To try out the ’90s flip on your modern lob, all you need to do is use your blowdryer and a roller brush (we like Ibiza EX3 Round Hair Brush) to curl up the last inch or so of hair.
12. Crimped Hair
Crimped hair is one of those ’90s vintage hair looks that’s becoming extremely popular again. As spotted on the recent runways, hair that’s styled in tiny bends is back and stronger than ever. We even have a tutorial for faking crimped hair without the hot tools, for all those still on the fence.
13. Spiky Pixie
Super short hair wasn’t a huge ’90s trend, but for those who did go for the pixie, it was always spiky. The spiky look is easy to attain!
14. Center-Parted Straight Hair
Super-duper straight hair done with a center part was one of the top looks of the era. Fans of the hairstyle loved how it was versatile and fashionable/minimalistic at the same time. Pin-straight hair hasn’t really gone out of style since and has seen a few nuances over the years, like changes in part lines.
15. Sleek Half-Up Ponytail
If you look back through ’90s red carpet events, you’ll likely see many a young celeb with the slicked back, half-up ponytail. The half pony took a bit of a rest during the early 2000s, but now they’re back and better than ever! We love doing half updo hairstyles, but now with a little more curl and texture.
16. Wet Grunge Hair
The ’90s wet grunge look was so popular in the alt community. All you need to do to get the grungy wet look today is to rake a little bit of gel, like Nexxus Exxtra Hold Sculpting Gel, through wet hair. Make sure to let your hair dry in a messy style for the ultimate grunge appeal.
17. Face-Framing Tendrils
Get the ultimate ’90s look by wearing skinny face-framing tendrils with center-parted hair. This trick softened up the severity of super straight hair, giving it a more romantic appeal. Just remember to spray locks with a frizz-fighting hairspray, such as TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Frizz-Control Hairspray, to keep away flyaways.
18. The Layered Lob
Adding tons of layers to a lob haircut was favored by so many in the later ’90s. This cut was swishy and fun (remember “the Rachel?”) and loved by all for its super-flattering dimensions.
19. Bandana Headband
Nothing fills us with childhood nostalgia quite like a bandana headband. You could add a bandana to every ’90s hairstyle to instantly make it more casual and street-savvy. We still like bandanas today, worn with fun styles like the pineapple hairdo, or a simple top knot.
20. Tight Twists
Nothing quite says vintage hair looks from the ’90s quite like tight twists. These styles were often worn with spiky half updos with lots of butterfly hair clips. Alternatively, for more formal flair, twists were paired up with a chic bun. This is one of those styles that have seen a major resurgence today.
22. Crimp Hairstyles
Back then this style was worn super defined and sometimes with a bit of a stiff crunch to it. Today, with the advent of new hair technology and new products, you can achieve this look day with a softer finish. To recreate, prep hair with a heat protectant that also adds shine like Dove Style+Care Smooth and Shine Heat Protection Spray. Use a crimping tool to create your crimps and pull sections apart to spread them out to create a fuller and less defined look.
23. 90s Box Braids
From jumbo blonde braids, to jumbo braids with accessories, we are seeing many iterations of the look these days. As braided styles continue to reemerge, we can thank Black culture for introducing many to this look.
In a world full of balayage and ombré looks, the 90s streak look is trying to have its moment…again! If you’re aiming to try this look out on your hair, we recommend not going for high contrast looks. Opt for highlights that are just a two shades lighter than your natural hair color. Keep your color from fading by washing your hair with a color-safe wash and care system like Love Beauty and Planet Blooming Color Murumuru Butter & Rose Shampoo and Conditioner.