Iconic 90s Hairstyles: Ones We Loved and Some We'd Love to Forget

Strike a pose: vogue! It isn't a challenge when you're sporting these 90s hairstyles.

Published September 11, 2023

The 90s. The decade of jelly sandals, Polly Pockets, the rise and fall of grunge, TRL, bucket hats, Beanie Babies, and The Rachel. As iconic as the music and movies of the 90s, there's something both classic and mystifying about 90s hairstyles.

Who can deny the signature look of crimped hair or the bowl cuts that plagued everyone from kids to misfortunate teens? Take a walk through haircuts of the past with these unforgettable 90s looks. 

Zig Zag Hairband


There were two ways to put on these headbands that were also the number one threat to eye safety in the 90s. You could carefully hook the hairband around your neck and then sweep over your face and use it to pull your hair back.

Or, if you it was one that couldn't be unclipped, you had to pull it over your head, avoiding your eyes, and then pull it back up to pull your hair back — again praying to the Spice Girls and Hanson Brothers that your eyes made it through these hair accessories unscathed. 

Feathery Bangs


Those sweeping, airy, feathery bangs were for everyone: man, woman, child, teen, sports superstar. All it takes to achieve the look is a can of Aqua Net hairspray, a round brush with bristles, a hairdryer, and the ability to hold your arms over your head while styling for a minimum of thirty to forty-five minutes.

After drying the hair by curling the bangs up, down, and with maximum volume by wrapping it around the brush, only the most liberal amount of hairspray will do to preserve all that work. 

Of course, to complete the look, you could leave the rest of the hair straight, air dry it, or grab a curling iron to craft some Shirley Temple curls at the ends of the hair. 

90s Formal Updos


The more defined the curl, the better in the 90s. Achieved with a curling iron and a heavy hand with more Aqua Net hairspray, the curls were then carefully pinned up and into a bun, with no less than two dozen bobby pins keeping the look in place. But, the ponytail must first start with sleek pulled-back hair — gel is useful to make sure the hold stays strong. 

Of course, two loose pieces of hair to frame the face, not unlike antennae, should be kept out and left uncurled. 

Micro Braids


You can thank Brandy and her time playing the title role on Moesha for the micro braid trend that held strong in the 90s. Of course, Brandy styled those braids because in the 90s, hair was as much a part of an outfit as the shoes. 

@yinniethepoohh 3 styles for micro braids with looks from the OG braid queen @brandy  (braids by me haha) #moesha #brandy #blackgirl #90sfashion #targethalloween #fyp  original sound - Jaylin Nicole Mira E

Crimped Hair


You'd be hard pressed to find a household without a hair crimper in the 90s, especially if a woman lived there between the ages of 10 to 30.

Crimping hair was easy. You skipped any sort of heat protector, turned the heat up all the way (or just on — as most didn't have settings). Then move the hot plates down your hair and all around until every piece was kinked. 

The Rachel


Few, if any, hair styles from the 90s are more iconic than The Rachel. A style for all face shapes, it was a long bob with a clean-cut face frame. Unlike some 90s 'dos, The Rachel is a classic and timeless cut. 

Box Braids


At the top of the charts and the top of the hair game, Janet Jackson's inspired braids were everywhere in the 1990s. A signature look for her, it's one that continues to have a solid hold in fashion today. 

@nnennannaji 90’s inspired box braid styles  #fyp  #foryoupage  I like - Lee

The Bowl Cut


Before everyone was personally victimized by Regina George, kids, tweens, and teens were personally victimized by the bowl cut. Because nothing more than a bowl was used as a guideline to cut the hair on the head.

The bowl cut didn't care who you were or how old you were. The bowl cut was as much a part of growing up in the 90s as Pogs, Barney, and All That

The Wet Look


No, Gen Z, you didn't come up with that slicked-back wet look. And while the 90s certainly didn't originate it, they sure perfected it.

Applying copious amounts of gel to still very wet hair is the key to achieving that wet look when it's dry. And then styling before it set. A hair dryer certainly sped up the drying process and ensures the look you want is the look you get. 

The Hilary Banks


The perfectly coiffed curls of Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the epitome of the perfect hair day we all dreamed of, day in and day out. A look achieved with quality time spent with a curling iron, curlers, and hair spray, patience is key. And a tasteful statement hat, of course.

Perfect for weekdays, date nights, or trips to the mall, it's one of the few styles from the 90s that isn't met with at least some regret. 

Butterfly Hair Clips and Sunflower Accessories


Hair accessories were as much a part of the 90s hair styles as the actual hair itself. Braids finished with an overly large sunflower hair clip or hair tie with a matching hat was peak 90s flower child.

But more famous than those sunflowers: butterfly hair clips. Butterfly hair clips had a choke hold on the 90s like no other accessory. Half up hairdo? It was held back with a swarm of butterfly hair clips. Bangs: clipped back with a butterfly hair clip. An updo? Butterfly hair clips were settled in all around the hair, purely for decoration and not for structure. 

The hair decoration of the 90s was all about the vibes. 

The Middle Part


A 90s hairstyle that needs no introduction. A carefully aligned middle part, with individual hairs pulled to the side for the ultimate crisp part, was a labor of love. The middle part wasn't just for women, either: 90s men's hairstyles with those longer ear-length locks were just as stylish with middle parts. 

Space Buns


When heads weren't sporting short and low pigtails, you could find them piled high upon the head in the form of space buns. The style is easy enough to make happen. Pull the hair back into two pig tails, just about on top of the head. Then twist each bun into a messy bun, ballerina bun, or any other wild style to make the perfect space bun. 

90s Spiked Hair


Gel and hair spray were a staple to all 90s hairstyles, including those for men. With a hearty dollop of gel in hand, men's hair was styled by running it through the hair and pulling those pieces up. And, of course, bleached and frosted tips were close to follow. And those frosted tips looked best when spiked, naturally. 

Men's Curtain Hair


The curtain hair, heartthrob hair, the bedhead hair of the 90s. Some men just had it easier than others when pulling off the iconic hairdo sported by Jonathan Taylor Thomas or Leonardo DiCaprio. This men's hairstyle of the 90s was a curated, messy look. 

@louiburke How to style the 90s curtain bang hairstyle for men. Use some sea salt spray for added texture, heat protectant and a brush/blowdryer to set it into that ‘s’ or ‘c’ wave shape. Styling like this gives you extra volume and a style that will last 3-4 days. #menshairstyle#menshair#90scurtainbangs#mensbowlcut  original sound - Loui Burke

Be Kind, Rewind Back to These 90s Hairstyles


The 411 on 90s hairstyles? Some are still the bomb while others, well, if we could tell them to talk to the hand we would. But as with all fashion, everything eventually returns. And there are certainly a few styles that you can hope will stay forever in the 90s. But just like Leonardo DiCaprio, a few are still in style. 

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Iconic 90s Hairstyles: Ones We Loved and Some We'd Love to Forget