7 best and 7 worst hair trends in history

Each year, the best and worst hair trends come and go. As 2019 came to a close, we said goodbye to rainbow hair, messy buns, fades, and plenty of other hair trends that were once our favorites. Hairstylists told The List ahead of 2020 that they expected dramatic new trends — from blunt cuts to long extensions to curtain bangs — to replace them. While it’s fun to experiment with new ‘dos, not all of them will stand the test of time. Years from now, we may look back at pictures of our hair and cringe. 

Even as the “Rachel” haircut made a resurgence, Jennifer Aniston reflected on the iconic layered look as “not [her] best.” She admitted to Allure, “How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.” Despite the actress’ distain for the trendy ‘do, it’s not the worst hair trend we’ve seen over the years. And, although we may flock to our stylists to get a modernized version of the Rachel, it hasn’t exactly proven to be the best hair trend in history, either. So, what has? These are the best and worst hair trends in history.

Best: The lob is one of the top hair trends in history

If you were to consult Goldilocks, she would likely tell you that the long bob, aka lob, is “just right” as a hair trend in history. A lob isn’t too long, but it also isn’t too short, which makes it pretty much the perfect length.

“By getting a lob, you cut your hair at one of its fullest points, so your hair appears thicker from roots to ends,” Bryce Scarlett, celebrity hairstylist, explained to Cosmopolitan. Lobs can also hide split ends because they’re “usually cut in a choppy, layered way,” according to hairstylist Frankie Foy, which means your hair “will look good for the next three months as it grows out.”

The lob’s staying power further proves its greatness. “The lob is still going strong as one of our most requested haircuts, because it’s versatile and easy to maintain,” Kari Leon-Guerrero, owner of KaRu Salon in Texas, told Glamour in 2019. Andrea Battista, co-owner of Junior & Hatter salon in Miami, Fla., revealed that the lob is also the most-requested haircut at her salon. “It’s pretty, sophisticated, and customizable,” she stated. What’s not to like?

Worst: The perm has gone down as a terrible hair trend in history

According to a survey conducted by Great Clips salons (via Chattanooga Times Free Press), the perm is considered one of the worst hairstyles for women. If, decades ago, you dabbled in the perm trend, you likely agree with the poll results. “Since my hair is very fine and lacks much body, I had it permed and lightened, since color adds fullness,” one reader told the Tennessee newspaper. “If you get an image of a blonde Roseanne Roseannadanna from Saturday Night Live, you’re dead on.” She continued, saying, “I got the idea that this was probably not my best look when I went to visit my young nephew. As I came around the back of the house to say hello, he screamed and ran to hide behind his mother.” Yikes.

Although the perm was rated poorly as a hair trend in history, it was likely the old-fashioned, bubble-perm that participants had in mind. “Perms are currently thought of as older women’s style,” Great Clips local franchisee and hairstylist Hunter Hughes confirmed to the publication. 

Best: The Twiggy pixie made hair trend history

If there’s a haircut that will be around forever, it’s the pixie. Model Twiggy debuted the super-short style back in the 1960s, and it has remained a staple hairstyle ever since. “This look is one of my favorites,” Jordan Garrett, hairstylist at Hershesons, said of the classic cut when speaking to Byrdie. “Twiggy started it all off, and then Princess Diana and Demi Moore ruled this look in the 1990s. More recently, we’ve seen it come up with a few modern tweaks on celebrities such as Kristen Stewart and Katy Perry.” The hair guru continued, saying, “It’s a classic look and suits people with petite features.”

Decades after Twiggy, one of many supermodels who accidentally found fame, propelled one of the best hair trends in history into the mainstream, the ‘do is only becoming more popular. Cecelia Morales of StyleCraft US revealed to The List in late 2019 that the classic hairstyle, which was hugely popular in 2019, “will continue to gain popularity in 2020.”

Worst: The mullet is one of history's very worst hair trends

There are few words that will send you into a full-body cringe like “mullet.” Eek. In a survey of 3,000 people conducted by Grabitnow.com, participants voted the mullet hairstyle as the worst hair trend in history. And, uh, we’re going to have to agree. A spokesman for the site told The Telegraph, “The mullet became a massive craze in the [’80s] — but when you look at images of the style now, it does look ridiculous.”

The awkward ‘do, which calls for a cropped cut at the top of the head and long hair along the sides and back, may have somehow managed to gain popularity back then, but hairstylist Richard Ward told The Sun (via The Telegraph) that it’s “one look that will never come back into fashion.” He continued, saying, “It will go down in history as the world’s worst cut. Thank God it has gone for good.” Amen.

Best: Bangs are clearly one of history's top hair trends

Bangs may be a pain to grow out, but they’re still considered one of the best hair trends in history, according to people surveyed by Great Clips (via Chattanooga Times Free Press). “Bangs are such a classic,” celebrity hairstylist Oscar Blandi told Harper’s Bazaar. “There’s so many ways that you can wear them, and change your look entirely from one tiny tweak.”

Other than the hell that is growing out bangs, bangs have the power to change your look — for better or worse. “When bangs aren’t precisely the right shape, it can alter the proportions of your face as well as be extremely difficult to style,” Blandi explained. “Keep track of how long after you got them cut that you truly loved the length, so that you can time a trim just right.” With bangs, you also don’t have “the luxury of just pulling all of your hair back” into a ponytail, the stylist added, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the commitment. 

Worst: No one wants the man bun to come back as a hair trend

The man bun had its moment, but that moment has long passed. According to a 2016 study of women’s preferences on the dating platforms Tinder, Bumble, and Happn (via Metro), man buns were found to be the least attractive hairstyle.

And, as it turns out, man buns are one of the worst hairstyles for another reason. They were found to be responsible for traction alopecia, a condition that causes baldness, Sabra Sullivan, a dermatologist in Jackson, Miss., told Mic in 2015, the height of the man bun trend. “It’s really, really common. I see it probably once or twice a week,” he explained. “They’re putting traction on the hair follicles that the hair is not really meant to take.” 

The man bun may have been a short-lived hair trend in history, but its side-effects were not. “Once you damage the hair follicle, it will not grow back,” Dennis Zuniga, a hairstylist at Donsuki Salon in New York, confirmed to the publication.

Best: The long, straight style is a favorite hair trend for a reason

Long, straight hair will always look great, so it’s no wonder men and women surveyed by Great Clips (via Chattanooga Times Free Press) consider the hairstyle to be one of the best hair trends in history. As Kate Middleton has proved, there are nearly endless ways to wear long, straight hair. You may not be able to splurge on an appointment with Rossano Ferretti, the Duchess of Cambridge’s former hairstylist, but you should still seek out a talented professional and get a good cut.

“If a good hairdresser is a good hairdresser, your haircut should be super manageable and easy for you,” Ferretti told magazine. “Every morning, it should facilitate your life.” If you’re unable to find a top-notch hairstylist in your area, Ferretti said it’s that much more important to have a good haircare routine, which should include shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, serums, and oils.

Worst: The "Skrillex" undercut should never make a comeback in hair trend history

Remember Rihanna’s half-shaved ‘do known as the “Skrillex?” The look was a play off of DJ Skrillex’s hairstyle, which came to be embraced by other celebrities, too, including Kesha and Jada Pinkett Smith.

It may have looked fun and edgy at the time, but the Skrillex hair trend would start to lose its cool factor over time. In a survey conducted by the haircare retailer Fabriah (via Yahoo! News) in 2013, the majority of the 1,000 participants rated Rihanna’s Skrillex ‘do as the worst hair trend in some 13 years. Oof

The bold trend is also among one of the hardest to grow out. “Typically, cuts that are made in the nape of your head are much easier to grow out than ones that are on either side of the head,” senior stylist at Mizu New York salon Judy McGuinness told StyleCaster. “It’s much easier to hide than a big panel right next to your face.” Instead of trying to grow out the shorn side to match the other side, experts advise cutting your hair into a pixie.

Best: The classic bob is a timeless hair trend

Although the long bob, or lob, is one of the best hair trends in history, the traditional-length bob also ranks high on the list of hairstyles with staying power. “This is arguably the most versatile cut of all time,” Sam Burnett, hairstylist and owner of Hare & Bone salon, explained to Byrdie. “Two people can have a bob exactly the same length, but if one has choppy layers and a fringe and the other has a blunt finish, they will look totally different.” Not to mention, they’ll look equally great.

“Any small changes to the shape can have a huge effect on the overall style, which means it’s easy for it to be updated with seasonal trends to give it a fresh edge,” Burnett further told the publication. With just a trim, you could pretty much completely change up your bob and, likewise, your look.”It can also be styled to suit all face shapes, ages, hair types and styles, which is why it will always be popular,” Burnett went on.

Worst: The feathered 'do is one hair trend that should stay in the past

The ’80s were certainly an experimental time when it came to hairstyles. Alongside the infamous mullet, feathered hair was found to be one of the worst hair trends in history, according to a survey by Great Clips (via Chattanooga Times Free Press). We believe it.

This hairstyle is especially bad because it adds years — arguably many years — to the wearer. “A dated hairstyle can age a woman — like feathered bangs from the ’80s,” master hairstylist and national Living Proof educator Shreeda Tailor confirmed to Best Life. So, instead of going full ’80s, you might want to try a lightly feathered lob version of Farrah Fawcett’s ‘do. Or, if you want to keep your hair a little bit longer, Marie Claire recommends a style like Gabrielle Union’s, which calls for “[thinning] out the bulk with feathered layers that fall softly around your cheeks and shoulders.”

Best: The shag is a hair trend that looks good on just about everyone

Not unlike feathered hair, the shag is a retro style. But, unlike feathered hair, the shag has managed to keep its universal appeal through the decades as one of the best hair trends in history. “As a whole, a shag is cut by by pulling everything forward with more dramatic contrast of layering [rather] than the average long layers,” Andy Judd, a hairstylist in Austin, Texas, explained of the style when speaking to Allure. Holly Seidel, a hairstylist in Los Angeles, Calif., told the publication that the shag gives women the “freedom” to “wear their natural texture.” 

The shag has been around for a long time, yes, but it has recently attracted a new audience. “This cut is a classic for millennials due to the fact that it’s so low maintenance,” Neil Smith, a hairstylist for Barrie Stephen Hair, revealed to Byrdie. “It looks great straight, curly, in plaits [braids] and in a tight or loose updo. It’s got incredible versatility, which always helps make a style timeless.” Shag haircuts can also be worn with or without bangs, messy or polished, short or long — basically every way imaginable.

Worst: The asymmetrical cut has earned its reputation as one of the worst hair trends

Participants of the Great Clips survey (via Chattanooga Times Free Press) named asymmetrical cuts the third-worst style for women. Sure, Victoria Beckham, who has had a stunning transformation since her Spice Girls days, was able to pull it off, but that’s not the case for everyone. “In order to be able to pull off an asymmetrical hairstyle, you need to have the ‘hipness factor,'” hairstylist and owner of Warren-Tricomi salons Edward Tricomi told StyleCaster. “It’s about how you put together clothes, makeup and hair; it’s about the attitude and personality.”

Although this style of cut can work with a variety of hair textures, asymmetrical cuts are better-suited for “smooth straight hair,” according to Sam Brocato, hairstylist and owner of the Sam Brocato Salon in New York City. Asymmetrical cuts also require more frequent trims than other types of hairstyles, like blunt bobs. All of these factors combined lead to a high-maintenance hair trend that a whole bunch of people dislike.

Best: Natural curls are a favorite and ever-popular hair trend

Natural curls are both beautiful and timeless. And, despite not being a new trend by any means, naturally curly styles are expected to become even more prevalent in the future, as hairstylists confirmed when speaking to The List. So, how should you rock your spirals?

“I think the most effortless and always on-trend look for curls is seeing them in their natural shape and state,” Trinder Hair Studios’ Marc Trinder told Byrdie. However, there’s more to it than just getting a quick trim and deciding to wear your hair au naturel. “To do this, the hair cannot be cut in a methodically layered way,” Trinder explained when discussing one of the best hair trends in history. “It prevents curls from sitting in their natural shape. Instead, your stylist needs to slice out lengths to make them soft on the edges — this will allow the curls to retain their definition and enhance the natural shape.”

Worst: The bowl cut needs to disappear as a hair trend

In the ’70s, Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill introduced the world to a hairstyle known as the “wedge.” At the time, Hamill “had no idea that this wedge style would become so famous,” as she admitted in her memoir, A Skating Life: My Story. But that’s exactly what happened. Although this look was first known as the wedge, it was essentially what we now refer to as the bowl cut.

Despite the haircut’s early popularity, participants in the online survey commissioned by Great Clips (via WTKR) voted the unisex bowl cut one of the worst hairstyles for men. Since that survey, our relationship with the bowl cut has only become more complicated. In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League named this old-school haircut a hate symbol after white supremacist Dylann Roof wore his hair fashioned into a bowl cut when carrying out an attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. It’s true that hair trends from the past can be recycled and reclaimed, but, all things considered, it’s hard to see the bowl cut becoming a mainstream haircut once again.

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