Iconic 80s Hairstyles: Totally Rad Looks to Rock Today

The 80s were a time of big hair, bold fashion, and totally rad hairstyles that defined a generation. From the shaggy mullet to the sky-high perm, these iconic looks are etched into our collective memory. But guess what? They’re making a comeback, and it’s time to embrace your inner 80s icon.

I know what you’re thinking – “I can’t pull off those crazy 80s styles!” But trust me, with a few modern tweaks and a whole lot of attitude, you can rock these looks like a true 80s superstar. So, grab your hairspray and your favorite scrunchie, because we’re about to take a trip down memory lane and discover how to bring these iconic 80s hairstyles into the 21st century.

Table Of Contents:

Popular 80s Hairstyles for Women

The 80s were a time of big hair, bold colors, and daring styles. Women embraced their natural texture and volume, rocking everything from tight spiral curls to crimped waves. Perms were all the rage, giving straight hair a curly makeover that lasted for months. Stars like Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton made big, bouncy curls the ultimate glamour look. Short, shaggy cuts with tons of layers and choppy bangs channeled punk rock attitude.

The Shag

The shag was the ultimate cool-girl cut in the 80s. This style featured tons of choppy layers, full bangs, and plenty of texture. Farrah Fawcett’s famous feathered shag was copied by women everywhere, and remains an iconic look today. Modern shags are a bit softer and less severe, but still have that signature messy, lived-in vibe. They work great on both straight hair and naturally curly hair.

The High Ponytail

The 80s loved a high ponytail moment. This style was all about adding volume at the crown with backcombing and tons of hairspray. The ponytail itself was often crimped or curled for added texture. Madonna was the queen of the high pony, often accessorizing hers with a bow or bandana. Today, stars like Ariana Grande have made the high ponytail their signature look, albeit a sleeker, more polished version.

The Perm

In the 80s, if you had straight hair, you got a perm. This chemical treatment turned pin-straight strands into bouncy spirals or tight coils. Perms were a commitment, lasting around 6 months and requiring special care products and styling techniques. But for many women, it was worth it to have a head full of enviable curls. While perms have fallen out of fashion, modern curly hair trends are all about enhancing natural texture and definition.

The Mullet

Business in the front, party in the back: the mullet was an 80s staple for both men and women. This polarizing cut featured short, often spiky layers on top and long hair left in the back. It was edgy, gender-bending, and favored by rock stars and rebels. Modern mullets tend to be less severe, with a more blended, shaggy look. But make no mistake, this 80s style is making a major comeback.

The Crimped Look

Before beach waves were all over Instagram, there was the crimped look. Crimping irons created a tight zig-zag texture throughout the hair for a crinkled effect. This style added tons of volume and visual interest to hair, especially when paired with a high half-up style. Crimping made a brief resurgence in the 90s and early 2000s, and has recently popped up again on runways and red carpets. Modern crimping is often concentrated on just the ends or a few face-framing pieces for a subtler look.

Iconic 80s Men’s Hairstyles

In the 80s, men’s hair was all about volume, texture, and statement-making styles. Hair metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Poison made big, teased hair the ultimate rock star look. Rappers like Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J rocked the high top fade, shaved on the sides with length on top. Even preppy guys embraced their wild side with long, shaggy styles.

The Mullet

The mullet was as popular with men as it was with women in the 80s. This daring ‘do was short and neat on top, with a longer “tail” left in the back. Mullets ranged from a subtle longer back to dramatic, shoulder-length locks. Rockers like David Bowie and Paul McCartney made the look mainstream, and country stars like Billy Ray Cyrus kept it alive well into the 90s. Today, mullets have shed some of their negative connotations and become a trendy, gender-neutral style.

The Jheri Curl

The Jheri curl was a popular style for Black men in the 80s. This look featured tight, glossy curls that were achieved with a chemical treatment and activator spray. Michael Jackson, Eazy-E, and Samuel L. Jackson all rocked Jheri curls at the height of their popularity. The curls required a lot of maintenance and could be quite greasy, but for many men, the sleek, shiny look was worth it. While Jheri curls are no longer in style, modern men’s hair is all about embracing natural texture and curl patterns.

The High Top Fade

The high top fade, also known as the hi-top fade, was a staple of 80s hip hop culture. This style featured shaved sides with longer hair on top, often styled into a flat top or geometric designs. Will Smith made the high top fade famous on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and rappers like Kid ‘n Play and Big Daddy Kane also sported the look. The high top fade is still a popular choice for Black men today, albeit with more varied lengths and shapes.

The Punk Look

Punk culture had a huge influence on 80s fashion and music, and hair was no exception. Punk styles were all about rebellion and nonconformity, often featuring shaved sides, spiky mohawks, and brightly colored hair. Bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols popularized punk hair, which was often styled with copious amounts of hairspray and gel. Today, punk-inspired styles like the undercut and disconnected mohawk are popular choices for edgy, alternative looks.

The Bowie Cut

David Bowie was a true style icon, and his ever-changing hair was a big part of his signature look. In the early 80s, Bowie rocked a short, spiky style with long, asymmetrical bangs that became known as the “Bowie cut.” This androgynous look was a departure from the long, shaggy styles of the 70s and set the tone for a more gender-fluid approach to hair. Bowie’s influence can still be seen in modern styles that play with length, texture, and unconventional shapes. The 80s were a time of experimentation and self-expression, and hair was no exception. From gravity-defying mohawks to sleek Jheri curls, there was no shortage of iconic styles. While some of these looks may seem dated or over-the-top today, their influence can still be seen in modern hair trends that celebrate individuality and push boundaries. Whether you’re rocking a modern mullet or embracing your natural texture, there’s no denying the enduring impact of 80s hair.

Key Takeaway: 

Dive into the 80s vibe with big hair, bold perms, and edgy mullets. Rock your natural texture or go for a high ponytail à la Madonna. Whether it’s embracing modern shags or bringing back crimped styles, there’s an 80s look waiting to make its comeback on you.

How to Achieve 80s Hairstyles with Modern Techniques

The 80s were all about big, bold hair. But let’s be real, the techniques and products used back then were a far cry from what we have today. As someone who’s been in the hair game for a while, I’ve seen firsthand how much things have evolved. Modern hair products are way less damaging and give you way more control over your style.

Prep Your Hair

First things first, you gotta prep your hair right. I always tell my clients to start with a good volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Trust me, it makes a world of difference. If you’ve got straight hair like me, using a curling wand or hot rollers can add some serious body and texture. The key is to use the right products and techniques to protect your hair from heat damage.

Create Volume

Now, let’s talk volume. Back in the 80s, it was all about teasing and backcombing. But there’s a fine line between voluminous and “I stuck my finger in an electrical socket”. The secret is to use a teasing comb or brush to gently backcomb the hair at the crown and sides. Use a light hand to avoid breakage. Remember, the goal is to create volume, not a tangled mess.

Use Heat Tools

Heat tools are your best friend when it comes to achieving 80s hairstyles. But with great power comes great responsibility. Always, and I mean always, use a heat protectant spray before applying any heat to your hair. Curling irons, crimping irons, and blow dryers can all be used to create those iconic 80s looks. Just be sure to use them sparingly and on the lowest heat setting possible.

Apply Hairspray

Ah, hairspray. The cornerstone of any good 80s hairstyle. But put down that Aqua Net, because we’ve come a long way since then. Look for a hairspray that provides strong hold without leaving your hair feeling crunchy or weighed down. I’m a big fan of L’Oréal Elnett Satin Hairspray. It’s a classic for a reason.

Finish the Look

The key to nailing an 80s hairstyle with a modern twist is all in the finishing touches. “Hairstyling has evolved with modern tools and products,” says New York City-based hairstylist Devin Toth. “Even our most undone hairstyles today have more purposeful definition. They aren’t quite as fuzzy or rough in texture as they were in the ’80s.” So, there you have it. With the right products, techniques, and a little bit of patience, you can rock an 80s hairstyle that looks fresh and modern. Just remember, less is often more. Don’t go overboard with the teasing or the hairspray. Trust me, your hair will thank you.

80s Hair Accessories and Products to Complete the Look

No 80s hairstyle is complete without the right accessories and products. And while we may have traded in our banana clips and scrunchies for more modern options, the sentiment remains the same.


Scrunchies are back and better than ever. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. They’re the perfect way to add a pop of color or pattern to your hairstyle without going overboard. Plus, they’re way gentler on your hair than traditional hair ties. No more worrying about breakage or creases. Just make sure to choose a scrunchie that’s the right size for your hair thickness and style.


Headbands were a staple accessory in the 80s, and they’re making a comeback in a big way. From thin and dainty to thick and bold, there’s a headband out there for everyone. I love using headbands to add a little something extra to a simple hairstyle. They’re also great for keeping your hair out of your face on those hot summer days.


I know I already mentioned hairspray, but it bears repeating. A good hairspray is essential for achieving any 80s hairstyle. But not all hairsprays are created equal. Look for a formula that provides strong hold without leaving your hair feeling sticky or crunchy. And if you’re worried about damage, opt for a hairspray that’s infused with nourishing ingredients like argan oil or keratin.


Mousse is another 80s hair product that’s making a comeback. But unlike the mousses of yesteryear, today’s formulas are way more lightweight and non-sticky. I like to use mousse to add volume and texture to my hair before styling. Just be sure to apply it to damp hair and blow dry thoroughly for best results.


Last but not least, let’s talk about gel. I know, I know. Gel gets a bad rap. But when used correctly, it can be a total game-changer. The key is to use a small amount and apply it evenly throughout your hair. Avoid using too much, or you’ll end up with that dreaded “wet look” that was so popular in the 80s. So, there you have it. The ultimate guide to achieving 80s hairstyles with modern techniques and products. With a little bit of practice and the right tools, you’ll be rocking those iconic looks in no time. Just remember to have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, that’s what the 80s were all about.

Key Takeaway: 

Rock 80s hairstyles with a modern twist by prepping with volumizing products, using heat tools wisely, and finishing with the right hairspray. Don’t forget to add fun accessories like scrunchies and headbands for that authentic touch.


From the edgy mullet to the voluminous perm, 80s hairstyles are all about embracing your unique style and letting your personality shine through. These iconic looks may seem a bit out there, but with the right attitude and a few modern tweaks, you can totally rock them today.

Remember, the key to pulling off any 80s hairstyle is confidence. Own your look, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re channeling your inner Madonna with a high ponytail or embracing your inner rock star with a shaggy mullet, these hairstyles are all about expressing yourself and having fun.

So go ahead, break out the hairspray and the neon scrunchies, and let your 80s-inspired style shine. Because in a world of cookie-cutter fashion and boring hairstyles, being a little bit rad never goes out of style.

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