It’s almost impossible to separate the musicians we love from their clothes and hairstyles. KISS seems more notable for its makeup than for its music. Can you really think about Michael Jackson without thinking about his white rhinestone glove first? And is any discussion about the ‘90s grunge scene complete without a mention of Kurt Cobain’s grunge-defining fashion choices? Rockstars have been setting style trends for decades, creating iconic looks that will forever be remembered along with their music. To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of the most iconic rock-and-roll haircuts from the last 60+ years. These are the dos that defined their decades and the artists who inspired them.
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1950s – Elvis Presley
Believe it or not, the King of Rock ‘n Roll was born a natural blond. He started dying his hair black to achieve an edgier look. (That’s right; in the 1950s, black hair was considered edgy.) The dye job worked perfectly as a small part of Presley’s overall bad boy persona. Elvis constantly brushed up against the societal standards of straight-laced ‘50s America. He was almost arrested on several occasions just for the way he moved his hips. But his act may have seemed a bit more wholesome if it had been coming from a pretty-boy blond instead of a dark-haired rebel. Before his insane success, Presley would color his hair with boot polish. Of course, once he became the King, he graduated to two of the more expensive dyes on the market: Miss Clairol 51D and Black Velvet & Mink Brown by Paramount. Those dyes must have been in high demand by the end of the decade, when it seemed like every rocker from Little Richard to Buddy Holly were mimicking his pitch-black coif, along with every single teenage boy in the country.
1960s – The Beatles
It’s quite possible that no haircuts in history have been talked about as much as the Beatles’. Their long locks were often referenced as a point of ridicule by nearsighted journalists who saw the band as nothing more than a flash in the pan. “The Four Moptops” became their unofficial nickname in the British press, and Time Magazine referred to the style as “mushroom cuts” when the band first touched down in the States in 1964. But those silly “mushroom cuts” soon became so iconic that Beatles hair care products emerged as a cottage industry in the mid-’60s. Beatles combs, hairspray, brushes and wigs were all available for kids who wanted to look like John, Paul, George or Ringo. It’s been longer than half a century now since The Beatles debuted, and their relevance in popular culture hasn’t really diminished. But even after all that time, those four matching mop tops are still their most enduring image.
1970s – David Bowie
Picking out a single Bowie haircut to define the ‘70s is almost an impossible task. If anything, Bowie seems most defined by the way he would constantly shift from persona to persona. He looked as good in thrift store dresses as he did in full-on glam makeup. Plenty of other ‘70s rockers flaunted their sexuality and toyed with gender norms the way Bowie did, but none of them seemed to do it quite so effortlessly. However, if you have to pick, then it seems like his “Aladdin Sane” cut is the one to single out as definitive Bowie. While the name may not be as memorable as Ziggy Stardust, the look is instantly recognizable. The “Aladdin Sane” album was released in 1973, and its cover featured a gaunt, pale, red-haired Bowie with a giant lightning bolt streaked across his face. It’s the Bowie you’re most likely to see imitated at Halloween parties or plastered across posters on dorm room walls.
1980s – Cyndi Lauper
With the advent of MTV and music videos in the 1980s, fashion really came to the forefront in popular music. Suddenly every artist was performing on a nationwide platform, and looking good was just as important as sounding good. With dozens of different music genres ruling the airwaves, it seems kind of silly to pick out just one as “era defining.” The new wave dos of bands like “Flock of Seagulls” are just as ‘80s as the neon pink, heavy-metal-dye jobs of bands like “Twisted Sister.” That’s why the only logical choice to pick is an artist whose hair looked like a dozen other hairstyles thrown into a blender. Cyndi Lauper seemed to take inspiration all the way from Madonna to Def Leppard and everyone in between when she was crafting her look. It was part pop, part punk, part new wave but always uniquely her.
1990s – Britney Spears
As much as we adore boy bands like N’Sync or The Backstreet Boys, the Girl Power Movement was the ‘90s musical force that truly changed the landscape of pop music. Acts like The Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera were rising to the top of the charts on a regular basis in a way they never were before. And there’s no better poster girl for this moment in time than Britney Spears. Her schoolgirl pigtails in the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video were like a declaration of intent; just because she was girly didn’t mean she couldn’t kick butt.
2000s – Beyonce
If Britney Spears was the start of the Girl Power Movement, then Beyonce was like the complete realization of it. Queen Bey is a full-fledged music mogul just as powerful and just as impactful as any man to come before or after her. We love all her iconic hairstyles, but if we have to pick one that will last through the ages, we gotta go with dreads from the opening of “Lemonade.” Her magnum opus album-length music video may be young, but it’s already reached legendary status. It’s a piece of musical art that’s sure to live on for a long time, and that image of Beyonce will live on with it.