The 1980s saw many different subsets of fashion and style, from punk-rock to aerobic-chic. One thing each style had in common was an abundance of creativity and statement-making looks. The 1980s was also a wild time when it comes to hair, characterized by big, frizzy, permed styles backcombed sky-high and adorned with multiple accessories.
We’ve picked our favorite throwback hairstyle ideas from the 1980s, from the runway, music videos, and the “it girls” of the decade. Get your pins, combs, headbands, and hairspray ready! Don’t fret, we’re bypassing mullets and super-frizzy feathered styles, and opting for the cute, sexy, and memorable styles we can easily recreate at home, with no need for a costly trip to the salon.
The look: big, voluminous waves and side part and raised roots
Celebrity inspiration: our favorite 1980s look is by far the big, voluminous waves worn most famously by Brooke Shields. Her glossy brown locks were hot-rollered into soft, thick waves, with a side-swept fringe and lifted roots. It was “big hair” for sure, but it was natural and flattering, too. If you have long, abundant hair, this is a perfect look for you to try.
You need: large velcro rollers, a hairdryer, hairspray
- Start with dry or damp hair and add a curl-boosting treatment or serum if you have one
- Roll large sections of your hair into the rollers and make sure they’re secured at the scalp
- Give your rolled hair a blast with the hairdryer and leave to completely cool down for at least an hour, or overnight if possible
- Take the rollers out of your hair and tip your head upside down
- Spray your hair and roots with a volumizing spray and use your fingers to “fluff up” the hair
- Swish your hair to one side of the parting
- Take a comb and very gently tease (backcomb) the hair at the roots to create lift and volume
- Set with a final spritz of hairspray or defrizzing serum for a healthy gloss
- Brush your brows and fill them in with a pomade, pencil, or coloured brow gel for that iconic Brooke-in-the-80s look
The look: the high ponytail (whale spout!) with a scrunchy and fluffy fringe
Celebrity inspiration: the ponytail will never go out of style, but it does change style through the decades. In the 1980s it was all about the high ponytail also known as the “whale spout” sitting on the top of the head and splitting off into two jaunty directions. It was sometimes worn as a half-up-half-down look, or with a few fluffy strands falling at the neck. 80s gals used a scrunchy (that’s a given!) to tie the pony and fluffed their fringe to the heavens.
Cyndi Lauper and Demi Moore rocked this look back in the day, while modern superstars Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Zendaya have worn the trend in recent years. This is a hot look as it’s youthful and cute, but it’s also super simple to do in a flash. Plus, it gives you a “facelift” of sorts, by directing the eye upward and gently pulling the face northward.
You need: brush, scrunchy
- Use your fingers and a brush to gather the hair and sweep it upward onto the top of the head, and tie with a scrunchy
- Use your fingers to gently loosen the hair at the roots to create a messy, full look
- If you have layered hair, release the shorter layers so they hang free and frame the face
- To make it extra-modern, keep the roots sleek and shiny, and the ponytail poker straight
- Use your makeup choices to “up the 80s” by wearing blue or purple eyeshadow, bright blush, and a shimmery pink lipstick (or pick just one to avoid overkill)
The look: the curly “half-up-half-down” with teased roots
Celebrity inspiration: the half-up-half-down look with corkscrew curls and a bouncy fringe was a staple of the decade. Enduring beauty Sarah Jessica Parker often wore this look, with her signature curls framing her face.
Alyssa Milano also perfected this style, with sumptuous chestnut waves “poufed” at the hairline. Anyone with hair long enough to pull into a half pony can try this look!
You need: scrunchy, curlers or hair straightener (optional), comb
- Use a hair straighter, curling iron or heat-free curlers to curl or wave your hair if you want extra volume (and if you don’t already have luscious curls)
- Gather the top quarter of the hair and loosely tie with a scrunchy near the top of the head
- Use your fingers to release the hair at the front of your head and create raised roots
- Use a comb to gently back-comb the roots and set with hair spray
The look: back-combed and crimped, with a front headband and neon chunks
Celebrity inspiration: this look combines many totally iconic 80s hairstyles all rolled into one. We’ve got crimped locks rocked by Alyssa Milano, workout-style headbands made famous by Olivia Newton-John, and neon strands favored by Cyndi Lauper. This is a perfect way to make a splash at a retro-themed party, or simply for a fun change from the everyday norm if you’re in the mood to turn heads in your isolation bubble.
You need: crimping iron, comb, headband, scrunchy, neon temporary hair dye or coloured hair spray
- Pick large chunks of hair and crimp them. You can crimp the whole lot, or take a mismatched approach (an easier and quicker route)
- Use a comb to gently tease and back-comb the roots to create volume
- Use a scrunchy to tie half of your hair in a messy bundle at the side of your head
- Take your neon spray and colour chunks of hair wherever you like
- Wear leggings, leg warmers, layered tutus, and an off-the-shoulder tee for Halloween or costume parties
- Throw on a best-of-the-80s soundtrack and dance the night away