Few things have the transformative, almost mystical, power of hair. From Samson being shorn by Delilah, to Marie Antoinette’s extravagantly adorned wigs, to The Beatles mop tops or Lady Gaga’s oversize hair-bow—our obsession with tresses spans gender, culture, and time.
These 10 iconic hairstyles—and the magnetic women who knew just how to take full advantage of the power of the coif—have inspired generations of women to tousle it, tease it to new heights, or chop it off and reinvent themselves.
The Feathered Flip • Farrah Fawcett
Charlie’s Angel, Farrah Fawcett was the ultimate sporty, blonde all-American girl. Her feathered flip embodied the effortlessly sexy, un-done 70s. (Of course, like so many things beauty related, achieving this style was far from effortless and required considerable curling and blow drying skill.) Her legendary red swimsuit poster was a fixture in many an adolescent boy’s bedroom. Sun-kissed, beachy layers are here to stay from Kristen Cavalarri’s California blonde to Gisele Bündchen’s flowing mane.
The Blunt Bob • Cleopatra
Today, Elizabeth Taylor’s 1963 portrayal of the ancient Egyptian queen is almost as iconic as the stunning ruler herself. The classic Cleopatra ‘do—a blunt, shoulder-grazing, jet black bob with super-straight bangs—is the ultimate image of seductive, slightly dangerous, female force. And according to Diana Kleiner, author of Cleopatra and Rome, the young queen was decidedly calculating about creating her buzz-worthy styles.
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The Braided Crown • Frida Kahlo
Frida’s amazing ability to simultaneously project strength and vulnerability continues to fascinate us. Her crown of ribbon and flower adorned braids is a timeless and evocatively romantic style. Versions of this versatile coif make an appearance on runways and red carpets season after season because it’s a look that any woman can make her own.
The Sleek Low Bun • Eva Peron
A true fashionista with flawless taste and a love of Paris couture (Christian Dior was her favorite designer), Eva Peron embodied elegant sophistication. Her perfectly tailored ensembles and signature sleek, low bun commanded respect without a touch of stodginess. Over sixty years later, this is still the perfect office-to-cocktails ‘do for the modern career woman.
Ribbons & Ringlets • Shirley Temple
1930s America fell in love with Shirley Temple’s sassy characters, jaunty musical numbers, and bouncy curls. At the tender age of 6 she earned a special Academy Award for Outstanding Personality of 1934 for her rendition of On the Good Ship Lollipop in Bright Eyes. President Roosevelt even dubbed her “Little Miss Miracle” for boosting the country’s morale during the Great Depression. And today we have…Honey Boo Boo. Over the years, perfectly rolled ringlets have come to symbolize precociously cute show-biz kids from Cindy Brady’s pigtails to the mountainous hairpieces on Toddlers & Tiaras.
The Beehive • The Ronettes
Sixties girl-group The Ronettes didn’t invent the beehive but they made it sexy. Their blend of street and sweet had scores of women running out to buy teasing combs and cases of hairspray. Surprisingly, this high-maintenance hairstyle has stood the test of time gracing the heads of lovely ladies like the B-52s, Marge Simpson, and Amy Winehouse.
The Pixie • Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow caused a sensation in 1968 when she went from girly, angelic blond locks to a boyish pixie cut for Rosemary’s Baby. Her daring new look helped launch Vidal Sassoon’s career and it was rumored that Frank Sinatra divorced her over the (at that time) gender-bending coif. Mia Farrow recently stated that she cut her own hair and Vidal Sassoon only gave her a trim after the fact, and that Frank Sinatra actually loved it. Either way, the pixie remains a liberating, fresh hairstyle for women who want to shed the past and reinvent themselves.
The Afro • Pam Grier
The civil rights movement encouraged black women (and men) to put away their flat irons and embrace their curls—the bigger the better. Pam Grier’s gorgeous Afro showed us the true power of embracing your natural beauty. Today, Esperanza Spalding and Solange Knowles are keeping the the Fro love alive.
The Rachel • Jennifer Aniston
In the early 90s, The Rachel helped propel Jennifer Aniston into the tabloid fixture she is today. In the first two seasons of the sitcom Friends, her character Rachel Green sported a choppy, face-framing, layered bob that took the country by storm. Despite its popularity, Ms. Aniston later told Allure magazine that she considers it one of her worst cuts. While it’s no longer referred to as The Rachel, the choppy bob is a go-to for women seeking a flattering, fuss-free ‘do.
The Poof • Snooki
Whatever you may think of Snooki and the Jersey Shore gang, they have been pretty savvy about extending their 15 minutes—it’s four years and counting! And while Snooki’s Poof hairstyle was widely mocked, it was just as widely copied. The style is rather genius—teasing and poofing the middle section of hair while leaving the bangs, sides and back loose gives you the height and volume of a beehive without going full-on formal.