Whether you wear your locks long or short, straight or curly, or business in the front and party in the back, chances are good that you’ve fallen victim to at least one short-lived hairstyle trend. And it may happen again, because whatever coiffure is totally on-trend today could be completely unfortunate tomorrow. Just ask these 15 hairdos that became hair-don’ts.
1. THE BEDFORD CROP
Englishmen’s hair got political in 1795, when a newly imposed hair powder tax—coupled with a flour shortage—resulted in men rejecting the typical trend toward powdered wigs. With the Duke of Bedford as their leader, men opted to go the au naturale route when it came to their roots, keeping their hair cropped short with a bit of wax used to create a side part. No powder required.
2. TITUS CUT
Portrait of a Young Girl by Baron Narcisse Guerin
Men weren’t the only ones making a statement with their hairstyles in 1795. The Titus cut arrived that year and made history as the first popular female short cut. But the super-cropped style, which was brushed upward to leave the neck exposed, was about more than just looking good - the trend was a response to the French Revolution practice of an executioner cutting off one’s hair before sending him or her to the guillotine.
3. THE MARCEL WAVE
A precursor to the perm, the Marcel wave is named for French hairstylist François Marcel, who invented the process for this crimped style in 1872. Created with the help of heated curling irons, the wave remained popular for more than five decades.
4. THE VICTORIAN UPDO
Women in the mid- to late-1800s grew their hair long but opted to wear it swept up—typically with a little pouf and some curls to cover the forehead—so that it didn’t interfere with their ever-important daily chores around the house.
5. SAUSAGE CURLS
Portrait of Marie-Louise, the first Queen of the Belgians, via Wikimedia Commons
“The tighter the curl the more stylish the girl” seemed to be the motto in the late 1830s, when sausage curls became all the rage. But their reign didn’t end with the Early Victorian period (at least not permanently). Actress Mary Pickford—the first “America’s Sweetheart,” a.k.a. “The girl with the curls”—brought a slightly softer style back in the early 1900s.
6. THE GIBSON GIRL
In the earliest part of the 20th century, the feminine ideal became more independent and strong, and the hairstyles changed with it. Piled on top of the head with some tendrils hanging down, the Gibson girl’s effect was much looser than that of the Victorian era’s dominant styles, perhaps as a metaphor that the times were changing.
7. THE MERRY WIDOW
The Merry Widow in question was an enormous, plumed hat that replaced the need for much in the way of hairstyling (and made for one heck of a big-haired look). Prevalent during the Edwardian days, the look came into fashion in 1907 following the immense popularity of a London staging of the operetta of the same name.
8. THE POMPADOUR
Pop stars may have rocked the style back into popularity in the late 1950s, but the pompadour has been around since the 18th century, when it was named for Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress. In the early 1900s, women resorted to all sorts of drastic measures to enhance the height of this vertically-aspirational style, from ratting their hair to inserting rolls of padding.
9. THE LOW POMPADOUR
While the true pompadour was often reserved for more formal occasions, the low pompadour—in which hair was rolled over a crescent-shaped pad in order to create a serious front pouf—was easier to maintain and, therefore, suitable for daily wear.
10. THE BOUFFANT
Big hair was a big thing for women of the 1960s and 1970s when the bouffant—a style intent on achieving both height and volume, which had previously been popular in the 18th century—was resurrected. Though this teased hair trend could be taken to dizzying heights, the 20th century version was usually restrained and tasteful.
11. THE BEEHIVE
An offshoot of the bouffant, the beehive remains an enduring symbol of the swinging sixties, when the sky was truly the limit for women’s hair. A stylist created the piled look—which rises in a rounded fashion at the back of the head—in response to a request from a beauty magazine to create a do that would define the decade. Mission accomplished.
If you wanted to be a bad boy in the 1950s, a black leather jacket and a ducktail was all that was needed. The style required that one’s hair be left long enough around the neck that its wearer could continually comb it inward with lots of hair grease, the end result resembling a duck’s backside. (That was a good thing.)
Marie Antoinette was all about excess, so it’s not surprising that she kicked off several of history’s wildest hairdos. After she wore a towering look to her husband’s coronation, France’s women found themselves in an arms race to see who could create the tallest mountain of hair. Some looks stretched three feet above the women’s heads and were further adorned with everything from feathers to birdcages.
14. THE VICTORY ROLL
During the 1940s, many of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars sported the victory roll, a look in which their hair was fashioned into large hollow rolls that were pinned to the top of their heads. The look faded in popularity after World War II, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a little retro style.
During the mid-19th century, many fashionable men wore “aggravators,” small, tightly-wound curls that were swept from their foreheads over to the corners of their eyes. This look was also known by the funnier (but probably less accurate) name “the love lock.”