Aug 14, 2019 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Seems like what’s old is new again and ’80s style is definitely basking in the glow of a renaissance. Thanks to shows like Stranger Things and The Goldbergs, a whole new generation is developing an appreciation for neon, shoulder pads, and jelly sandals. There are many things that define a decade, but fashion typically holds one of the top spots. During the 1980s hairstyles were a key part of your personal fashion statement. In many ways it was a time of excess – everything was bold, big, and bright. Today we’ll look at a couple iconic 1980s hairstyles and discover that our opening phrase holds true…
While some credit the Beastie Boys with making the mullet popular (thanks to their 1994 hit “Mullet Head”), in truth the mullet has been a symbol of rebellion long before its zenith in the ’80s. Historians note that many ancient warrior cultures rocked the look (Homer even made mention of it in the Iliad!). Roman soldiers and athletes appreciated that the length in the back kept them warm and the short front never clouded their field of vision. While the mullet was a craze with the 1980s celebrity class, a mullet during the time of Babylon was a symbol of power. The look was meant to inspire fear in the hearts of enemies and, given that the hairstyle was embraced by many a conquering imperial guard, its reputation grew.
Some Native American warriors wore their hair long and braided in the back, with short bangs. This look was much more than just a stylistic choice – it spoke to their spirituality.
If we fast-forward to the American revolution, we get a chance to meet the less-popular, but equally iconic, child of the mullet: the skullet. As you may suspect, the skullet was something only a bald man with a long section of hair growing in the back could lay claim to. (Perhaps this is the origin story of the comb-over.. ha!) While this look doesn’t sound particularly dashing, much like the mullet, it was seen as a symbol of influence. Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most popular proponent of the look. His flowing locks and shiny dome stood in stark contrast to the refined, powdered wigs. With one look, Franklin showed the old guard that a new game was in town – democracy!
The Side Ponytail
Much like the mullet, the ponytail has a storied past. However, unlike the mullet, it’s a hairstyle traditionally worn by both genders. While Homer didn’t discuss the ponytail in his literary work, academics feel we can trace the ponytail’s story back to Greece’s stunning peninsula. The earliest, best documented references to a ponytail was in 1600s China, when men wore their hair long, braided, and gathered. While the meaning of the ponytail during this time may reference a subservient stance, by the time Europeans donned the look it was all about dominance.
Their version of the ponytail was a highly-regulated look, known as a queue. It was seen as very macho and elite. While today’s military look is defined by the precise buzz cut, the 18th century soldier was identified by his tightly-controlled queue. There were rules about length, greasing the strands (sometimes even applying powder), and the tieback ribbons. It’s interesting to consider how many generations and cultures embraced the ponytail as a male look, when modern ponytails are seen more as a feminine/innocent look.
Young women privately wore ponytails in their dressing rooms during the 1700s, but by the next century it was common to see young girls on the promenade with their hair tied back. Fast-forwarding to the 1960s and the ponytail was seen as cute, informal, and bubbly (probably thanks to Gidget!). A mere twenty years later and the daughters of these Gidget fans embraced and enhanced the look. A side ponytail told the world you were spirited and fearless. In modern time it’s transitioned to a red carpet staple – so I wonder what the future holds for this 1980s hairstyle? Do you think the mullet will make a comeback? Tell us about your favorite 1980s hairstyles in the comments…