Hair’s the thing. It’s featured in Greek myths, Biblical verse, fairy tales, and a Broadway musical. Framing the face, hair is a huge part of our appearance, an aspect to our look that we can adapt or shave off, but never truly eliminate. Changing our hair is one of the easiest ways to alter our image, but keeping it the same can cement a signature style.
Most of us have it, but few are satisfied with what we’ve got. We want it longer or shorter, straighter or curlier, and bouncier, shinier, and healthier! A barometer of good and bad days, hair misbehaves, is unmanageable, and must be tamed. Every year, American women spend billions ($30 billion on color, $22 billion on cut, $7 billion on product) trying to get it just so.
Here are 50 hairdos that got it done. Some of them made headlines while others made careers. Mohawks, mop tops, pixies, and shags, bald heads and redheads, and peek-a-boo bangs. Maybe your next look is on the list? Stick with it.
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Rapunzel — The Golden Stair (published 1812)
Proof that beautiful hair is a blessing and a curse, Rapunzel’s golden braid is her only connection to the outside world. It delivers her a Prince, but once their love is discovered, the Witch cuts Rapunzel’s locks and exiles her to the desert. Confronted by the Witch, the Prince jumps from the tower and goes blind. But since fairy tales guarantee happy endings, the pair is reunited, his sight is restored, and, presumably, her hair grows back.
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Medusa (ancient Greece)
Bad hair, on the other hand, is absolutely petrifying. Discovered coupling with Poseidon in Athena’s temple, the enraged goddess turns Medusa’s hair into snakes and gives her a monstrous face. She’s bereft of beauty but endowed with power. Perhaps it was Medusa’s transgressive stone-cold stare that made her the perfect emblem for Gianni Versace.
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Jennifer Aniston — The Rachel (1994)
He was stoned when he cut it; she’s called it “the ugliest cut I’ve ever seen.” But that didn’t stop legions of women from imitating Aniston’s kicky, layered look in the late nineties. Despite “that damn Rachel,” Jen’s stayed with stylist Chris McMillan. Now they’re promoting the MIT-developed product line Living Proof.
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Veronica Lake — Peek-a-boo Bangs (1940s)
The film noir femme fatale with the peek-a-boo bangs, Veronica Lake “just used [her] hair” to create an air of seductive mystery. Lake emoted more with one eye than most do with two, and satirized her trademark locks in "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peek-a-boo Bang" with Dorothy Lamour and Paulette Goddard in 1942.
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Shirley Temple —
Curly Top (1930s)
At age 6, Shirley Temple stopped believing in Santa, but also won a special Academy Award. With her 56 perfect curls, Temple became the biggest box-office draw from 1935–38 and saved Fox Studios from bankruptcy. Once, while visiting the Roosevelts at Hyde Park, Shirley refused the First Lady’s invitation to swim, citing her hair as an excuse.
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Angela Davis — The Afro (1970s)
With Angela Davis leading the charge, the Afro got political during the Black Power and Black is Beautiful movements of the sixties and seventies. But the earliest surviving Afro combs were found in ancient Sudan and Egypt, and date back to 3500 BCE. P.T. Barnum exhibited the (Caucasian) Circassian Beauties with their “moss hair” in the 1860s. Celebrated most recently by Oprah on the cover of O, the Afro remains a powerful and personal expression of racial identity.
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Gwyneth Paltrow (1990s–present)
When it comes to hair, Gwyneth Paltrow’s always kept it straight and narrow. Despite dalliances with a pixie and a bob in the late nineties, as well as a brunette detour in 1999, Paltrow’s long butter-blonde tresses are a signature of her look. If you want the GOOP guru’s center-parted slick, just make an appointment at the blow-dry bar Gwynie opened with stylist David Babaii and trainer Tracy Anderson.
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The Beatles — The Mop Top (early 1960s)
Long before Justin Bieber ever shook his bangs, four mop-topped lads from Liverpool had teens screaming worldwide. When the British Invasion swept the States, Time described the Fab Four as “shaggy Peter Pans with … mushroom haircuts” and Newsweek poked fun at their “sheep-dog bangs.” Beatlemania was just beginning, but authentic Beatle Wigs weren’t far behind.
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Dorothy Hamill — The Wedge (1976)
Just before the 1976 Winter Olympics, Dorothy Hamill had her hair cut into an aerodynamic “wedge” by stylist Yusuke Suga. Her gold-medal style swung back into place after every salchow, then earned her a Clairol contract as the face of their “Short & Sassy” product line.
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Princess Leia — Galactic Cinnamon Buns (1977)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a princess with twin cinnamon buns for hair. Princess Leia’s elaborate updo recalls both an Iberian sculpture known as the Lady of Elche (fourth century, B.C.E.), and the “squash blossom” whorls worn by marriageable Hopi women. George Lucas claims he wanted something that “wasn’t fashion,” and “went with a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look.”
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Geisha and Maiko (Edo period–present)
In the rarefied “flower and willow world” of the geisha, every gesture is stylized and refined. While senior geisha typically wear Shimada-style chignons, their apprentice maiko wear more elaborate hairstyles. A maiko’s hair is set weekly by a specialist (keppatsu-shi), who amplifies her tresses with yak hair and wax, and constructs it into one of the five styles (wareshinobu, ofuku, katsuyama, yakko-shimada, sakkou) that mark her stages of apprenticeship. A maiko’s coiffure is adorned with ornaments (kanzashi) reflecting the season and is preserved by a neck support while sleeping.
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Marie Antoinette —
Le Pouf (1774)
Marie Antoinette debuted her monumental new hairstyle — le pouf — at the coronation of Louis XVI in 1774. Built on wire scaffolding, with pads, pomade, and powder, poufs climbed to heights of three feet and grew increasingly intricate. Devised by the queen’s modiste Rose Bertin and her coiffeur Léonard Autié, poufs became narrative vignettes that reflected the wearer’s sentiments or current events. Marie’s pouf a l’inoculation (with the serpent of Asclepius) marked the King’s smallpox vaccination in 1774 and her pouf a la Belle Poule (with a miniature frigate) celebrated a naval victory in 1778.
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Dolly Parton — The Big Wig (1960s–present)
Smoky Mountain sparrow Dolly Parton has described her look as a cross between “Mother Goose, Cinderella, and the local hooker.” Whether wig or real, Dolly’s larger-than-life hair is the perfect foil to her pneumatic physique. Parton peddled her “Backwoods Barbie” beauty secrets when she launched a cosmetic collection and wig line with Revlon in the nineties.
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Albert Einstein (b. 1879)
The prototype of an absent-minded professor, Albert Einstein described himself as having a “pale face, long hair, and a tiny start of a paunch… an awkward gait, and a cigar in the mouth.” Whether he intended to keep people at bay or couldn’t be bothered with a comb, Einstein’s wild nimbus of white hair seems to manifest the frenzy of his active mind. And his endearingly unkempt mane has become as identifiable as his immortal formula, E=mc2 .
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Meg Ryan — The Sally Shag (1996)
A close second to Aniston’s Rachel, Meg Ryan’s mid-nineties piece-y, razored shag is one of the most recognizable celebrity hairstyles. Equal parts quirky and demure, Ryan’s look made stylist Sally Hershberger famous. And rich. The first hairdresser to charge $600 for a cut, Hershberger now commands $800 for an appointment.
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Jean Harlow —
Platinum Blonde (1931)
The original platinum blonde, Jean Harlow starred in a film of the same name in 1931. The white-hot sexpot claimed her shade was natural, but in reality, she subjected herself to weekly bleachings with a concoction of peroxide, ammonia, Clorox, and soap flakes. Howard Hughes offered a prize of $10,000 to anyone able to duplicate Harlow’s hair color. And it’s suspected that her chemical dependence — ammonia and bleach create hydrochloric acid and emit noxious fumes when combined — may have contributed to her fatal kidney failure at age 26.
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Farrah Fawcett — The Feathered Flip (1970s)
In 1976, Farrah Fawcett posed for a swimsuit poster that would sell a record-breaking 12 million copies. With her red one-piece and lustrous feathered waves, she embodied the quintessential California girl. That image launched the career of her hairstylist Allen Edwards, and led to Fawcett’s role on Charlie’s Angels — as well as a line of Farrah Fawcett shampoo. Now her Norma Kamali one-piece is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
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Elvis Presley — The Pompadour (1950s)
King of Rock ’n’ Roll Elvis Presley’s pomade-slicked pompadour was his crowning glory. But not everyone was a fan. In 1956, a Michigan child psychiatrist cautioned parents that Elvis-style hair was a mark of delinquency; in 1957, fifteen Penn freshmen plotted to kidnap the King and shave him bald. When Elvis surrendered his scalp to Army barbers in 1958, it made international news. A clump of hair from that fateful clip sold for $15,000 in 2009.
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Lady Godiva — Pony Tale (eleventh century, legend thirteenth century)
An Anglo-Saxon noblewoman in the eleventh century, Lady Godiva was known for her charity and piety. Establishing a monastery with her husband in 1043, she reputedly donated all of her gold and silver to the church. Her legendary ride through Coventry is first recorded in the thirteenth century. Protesting her husband’s excessive taxation on the townspeople, she agreed to ride through town nude if he lowered taxes. Commanding the locals to shutter themselves indoors and cloaking herself with her hair, she completed the task. The grateful citizens complied with her request, save Peeping Tom, whose voyeurism costs him his sight.
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Marge Simpson — The Blue Beehive (1987)
Marge Simpson has the bangingest blue beehive on TV. The perfect complement to her pistachio shift and coral choker, Marge has been teasing her ’do since senior prom, and keeping it blue with “blue dye no. 56” since she was 17. Doubt Marge’s fashion cred? Check out Harper’s Bazaar’s August 2007 editorial “The Simpsons Go to Paris.” Madame Simpson traipses through town with Linda Evangelista, sits front row at Louis Vuitton, and models Chanel couture.
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Grace Jones — The Flattop (1950s and 1980s)
In the eighties, Grace Jones proved it’s hip to be square with her androgynous album cover for Nightclubbing, while Christopher Reid of Kid ‘n’ Play took the flattop to new heights with his hi-top fade. But the style was actually invented during WWII (named for its resemblance to an aircraft carrier) before becoming one of the most popular men’s haircuts of the fifties. With its geometric symmetry, it was the antithesis of Elvis’s slick pompadour and became an emblem of social conservatism. Until, of course, Jones reclaimed it.
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Hillary Clinton (1990s–present)
In a 2001 commencement address at Yale, Hillary Clinton warned graduates: “Pay attention to your hair. Because everyone else will.” Through the years, Hillary’s hair has been long and short, sleek and voluminous. And her no-nonsense headbands, hair clips, and scrunchies have shown she’s got more on her mind than the hair on her head. Maybe with her freshly cropped bob, Clinton’s signaling she’s ready for the next chapter?
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Jacqueline Kennedy — The First Lady Bouffant (1960s)
In her nationally syndicated “Campaign Wife” column, Jacqueline Kennedy asked: “What does my hairdo have to do with my husband’s ability to be President?” Nothing and everything as it turns out. While her hair had little to do with JFK’s political acumen, Jackie’s style visually reinforced the administration’s youthful vitality and forward-thinking agenda. Tended by Kenneth Battelle, Jackie’s bouffant was set on Lucite rollers to achieve a lifted “Italian Cut” look. And while she abhorred hats, she bowed to formal protocol and the milliner’s union by wearing pillboxes by Halston. Tambourin styles had been in vogue since the thirties, but eager to preserve her coif and bare her face, Jackie took to tilting hers at the crown.
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Marilyn Monroe — Blonde Bombshell (1940s–1960s)
If the First Lady’s hair was perfectly coiffed, mistress Marilyn’s was deliciously disheveled. The gentlemen-preferred blonde once quipped: “In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hairdo.” Confirming that her boudoir allure is timeless, Marilyn became the face of Sexy Hair products in 2013, 61 years after her death.
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Bettie Page (1950s)
Playboy’s Miss January 1955, Bettie Page was the “Queen of Pinups.” Her mix of wholesomeness and brazenness garnered her a cult following and paved the way for the sexual revolution. Taking a page from Bettie, her trademark raven locks and blunt bangs are mimicked by modern-day rockabilly girls, burlesque revivalists, and Katy Perry and Dita Von Teese.
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Jean Seberg — The Pixie (1950s–present)
Short and sweet, a pixie can make a career. Jean Seberg got cropped for her film debut in Saint Joan (1957); Mia Farrow cut her own with fingernail scissors in 1965; and Twiggy’s clip by Mr. Leonard made her the “Face of 1966.” Pixies provide a radical transformation and an unflinching focus on the face. Just ask recent converts Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, and Charlize Theron.
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Julius Caesar — The Caesar (ancient Rome/1990s)
Hail Caesar. More of a saucer-cut than a bowl, the Caesar is a close crop with a short forehead-skimming fringe. Roland Barthes decoded these “insistent fringes” as the very sign of “Roman-ness” in his “capillary” analysis of “The Romans in Films” (1957). And Justin Timberlake and Eminem (peroxide optional) revitalized the Roman look with their neo-classical Caesars in the nineties. Et tu, Clooney?
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Sinead O’Connor (1990s–present)
In the nineties, nothing compared to Sinead O’Connor’s bold bald head. Politically outspoken and a magnet for controversy, Sinead’s buzz cut was a defiant challenge to conventional beauty — and a fitting complement to her soul-baring lyrics. Making light of her tumultuous past, O’Connor launched her Crazy Baldhead tour in 2012.
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Britney Spears — Bald Brit-Brit (2007)
Hair today, none tomorrow. Returning from a one-day stint in rehab, breakdown Britney stopped by Esther’s Haircutting Studio in Tarzana and shaved her head bald. Spears’s onetime manager Sam Lufti has testified that the incident was the pop star’s attempt to hide her drug abuse. But Britney maintains it was an act of rebellion, an effort to shed the past after her contentious divorce.
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Rihanna — The Undercut (1920s–30s, 1980s, 2010s)
Not to be confused with a mullet, an undercut features shorter sides with length through the top. Popular with men in the Jazz Age, the look was revived by eighties skaters as the “McSqueeb.” Contemporary acolytes — Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Kate Lanphear, and Skrillex to name a few — have updated the undercut with shaved sides and asymmetry, making it edgier than ever.
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Louise Brooks — The Bob (1920s)
Louise Brooks’s bob wasn’t the first but it was the best. With its eyebrow-skimming bangs and cheek-caressing contours, Brooks’s lacquered locks were perfectly suited to the silver screen. The graphic contrast between her blue-black hair and porcelain skin made her look like an Aubrey Beardsley drawing come to life. And the racy connotations of her tomboyish look helped Brooks epitomize the modern liberated woman.
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Victoria Beckham — The Pob (2007)
After sporting a polished shoulder-length bob as a Spice Girl and extra-long extensions in the early aughts, Victoria Beckham gave her hair (and the world) the pob in 2007. Putting a Posh spin on the graduated bob, the “shattered” style was created by Ben Cooke, who also showed Beckham the light by taking her blonde.
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Jon Bon Jovi — Hair Mettle (1984)
Forget Sebastian Bach’s goldilocks, Jon Bon Jovi’s frosted frizz was the best hair in hair metal. Bon Jovi began growing it to spite his father, a barber who used haircuts as punishment. And while some critics have dismissed hair metal as hair pop, rock-and-roll hair is still kicking. It only got grittier and greasier with the arrival of grunge in the nineties.
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The Punk — Mohawk
/ Faux-Hawk (Iron-Age/1970s-1980s/2000s)
When you think of mohawks, you might recall the punk who appeared on the classic 80s postcard. But the style is much older than that: With its shaved sides and central crest, the Mohawk bears more resemblance to the traditional hairstyle of the Pawnee tribe than those of the Mohawk or Mohicans. The name originates with the 1939 film Drums Along the Mohawk, but the style is significantly older. An Iron Age body found in a peat bog has a “Mohawk” styled with plant oil and pine resin. And sixteenth-century Ukrainian Cossacks wore similar hairstyles. In the seventies, Mohawks got anarchic and aggressive with punk rock, before being tamed as faux-hawks in the aughts.
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Karl Lagerfeld — The Powdered Ponytail (1976/1995)
Karl Lagerfeld may have ditched his fan, but his powdered ponytail is perennially chic. Lagerfeld loathes having hair in his face while sketching, and started snatching it back in 1976. When he began going gray in 1995, fashion’s éminence grise took to the white stuff (Klorane dry shampoo) and has been hooked ever since. Now it’s one of a dozen things — Chrome Hearts jewelry, museums, and Moynat luggage also make the list — that the Kaiser “can’t live without.”
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Queen Elizabeth I — Virgin Hair (sixteenth century)
Royal redhead Queen Elizabeth I inherited her reddish-gold hue from King Henry VIII. A striking contrast to her alabaster skin, the queen wears her hair down in the Coronation portrait (a circa 1600 copy of the 1558 original). In most other images, Gloriana’s hair is elaborately coiffed and offset by her ruff and her crown. Known to wear wigs in her later years, Elizabeth concealed her gray and her age, although she was not balding as some have suggested.
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Deeda Blair — Skunk-Stripe Chic (1960s–present)
Described by the New York Times as “a lovely cobra’s hood,” Deeda Blair’s inimitable bouffant has gone virtually unchanged since her wedding day at Frederiksborg Castle. Her groom, William McCormick Blair Jr., was JFK’s ambassador to Denmark, and LBJ’s ambassador to the Philippines. But as a social stalwart and medical philanthropist, Mrs. Blair has made history of her own. Now threaded with silver, her signature style is as enviable and elegant as her couture wardrobe.
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Audrey Hepburn —
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
The ultimate updo for the ultimate uptown girl. What goes better with an early-morning evening gown than a Danish and a diamond-sparked French twist? Holly Golightly’s urbane pretense might attract Paul Varjak, but it’s her undying innocence — strumming “Moon River” in a towel turban and sweatshirt — that wins his heart.
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Cher — Long Hair Cher (1970s)
There’s Moonstruck’s cascading curls, the aquarium tube fascinator of “Believe;” and the spiky rocker mullet, but there’s no Cher hair like seventies Cher hair. Waist-grazing and jet-black — and casually tossed with a flick of the wrist — Cher’s locks helped land her five Vogue covers between 1972–1975. If we could turn back time….
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My Little Pony — The Pastel Mane (1983/2010s)
Recently, pretty girls like model Chloe Nørgaard have gone back to their roots with pastel manes worthy of My Little Pony (see also: Jem and the Holograms). The truly outrageous shades have graced the runways of Thakoon, Peter Som, and Chanel, and been worn by stars from Kelly Osbourne to Helen Mirren. There’s not a Misfit in the bunch.
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Linda Evangelista— Chroma-Chameleon (1990s)
One of the Holy Trinity of supermodels (Linda, Christy, Naomi), Evangelista got a career-making crop from Julien d’Ys in 1988. That “bowl with sideburns” garnered her the grand slam — covers of American, Italian, British, and French Vogue within two months — and quadrupled her rate. In the early nineties, Linda became a chroma-chameleon changing her hair color at the drop of a hat. A Clairol spokesmodel, she clocked seventeen shade swaps between 1991 and 1996 alone.
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The Cast of
HAIR — Hippie Hair
“Gimme head with hair, long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, gimme down to there hair.” James Rado and Jerome Ragni brought the “Age of Aquarius” to Broadway with their multiracial tribe of long-haired hippies in 1968. An emblem of the counterculture’s anti-Establishment views, a hippie’s hair was the most personal of protests, even when placed on a musical’s stage.
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Jane Fonda —
Big and bold in Barbarella, Jane Fonda’s hair is short and shaggy in Klute. She has the same cut — heavy bangs, face-framing layers — in her 1970 mug shot. Arrested on trumped-up drug-smuggling charges while on an anti-war speaking tour, the case was later dropped. Raising her fist in protest, Fonda’s pose is self-possessed and resolute, not unlike her call-girl character in the film.
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Madame C.J. Walker (c. 1905)
A daughter of slaves, Madame C.J. Walker developed a range of African-American hair-care products and became the first self-made female millionaire in America. Eventually opening a factory and a beauty school, the self-styled “hair culturalist” wanted “the great masses of my people to take a greater pride in their personal appearance and to give their hair proper attention.” An early civil-rights advocate, Madame Walker gave generously to historically black colleges and universities, the YMCA, and the NAACP.
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Diana Ross (1960s–present)
From her mountain-high beehive as a Supreme to her untamed mane of natural curls, Diana Ross’s hair isn’t big, it’s epic. A DIY diva, Ross has always done her own hair and makeup, and she knows you can’t hurry perfection. With her glorious tresses, Miss Ross has earned our endless love.
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Madonna — Blonde Ambition (1990)
Of her myriad looks, Madonna’s Blonde Ambition is the most memorable. She’s the Madonna you’d draw in Pictionary or mime in charades. Striking a pose—in a Gaultier cone bra, with her scraped back, braid-wrapped high ponytail, and headset mike — she taught us how to vogue, and joined the blonde pantheon of Grace Kelly and Harlow, Jean.
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Bo Derek —
Bo Derek scored a perfect 10 with her beaded braids and flesh-toned one-piece. Succeeding Farrah Fawcett as the swimsuit sex symbol du jour, Derek mastered the slow-mo beach run years before Pamela Anderson ever watched the bay. Plaited at home by a department-store cosmetics manager, Bo’s cross-cultural cornrows took twelve hours to create.
Developed by coiffeur Francois Marcel Grateau in 1872, the “ondulation Marcel” replicated the look of labor-intensive finger waves with reverse-curling tongs. Marcel’s deeply set corrugated curls defined Hollywood glamour in the twenties and thirties, before being displaced by the permanent wave.
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Vidal Sassoon — The Five-Point Cut (1965)
Vidal Sassoon revitalized the bob in 1963, liberating women from salon set styles. In 1965, he created his famous five-point cut — a close crop with a notch at each ear and a W at the nape of the neck — on Grace Coddington. The Vogue creative director remembers modeling for Vidal at hair shows; “shak[ing] our heads like little wet puppies” to show how his revolutionary shapes snapped back into place.
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Anna Wintour — The Power Bob (1960s–present)
Like her signature shades, cross-strap Manolo sling-backs, and Georgian collet necklaces, Anna Wintour’s trademark bob is part of her unwavering uniform. First snipped at Leonard of Mayfair in her teenaged Youthquake days, Wintour’s been faithful to the style ever since. Daily 6:45 a.m. blowouts ensure that the Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director always looks impeccable.