Though sometimes questionable, most '90s hairstyles hold a near and still very dear place in our hearts. Yes, every decade has its fair share of monumental hair moments—'60s beehives, flapper-esque bobs, and well-coiffed finger waves are just a few to come to mind—but we'd be remiss to forget the many '90s hairstyles made iconic throughout the decade.
From plush, sparkly, and all-around-whimsical hair accessories to braids, twists, and even some spikes, the '90s provided plenty of inspirational fodder we can apply to our strands today. Plus, it's safe to say each of our editors dabbled in at least a few of these styles at one point or another (some worked out better than others), and we know we weren't alone. With the help of three hair experts—Phillip Downing, Rita Lowery, and Sienree Du—we rounded up 20 modern versions of iconic '90s hair.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to check out the best '90s hairstyles that still rock to this day.
The Face-Framing Messy Bun
The only thing better than a messy bun in the '90s? A messy bun with long, detached tendrils. "The trick is to not be too precise," Downing tells us. "If pieces fall out, use that to your advantage, this will add to the ‘messy’ approach." To give hair an even and consistent texture, he recommends prepping with Queen For A Day Thickening Spray ($20). "Then, place the ‘messy bun’ proportionately to the bone structure," Downing instructs.
The higher on the head you put the bun, the more elongated your face shape will appear, comments Downing. To create balance, those with rounder faces may want to place the bun atop their head while those with oblong faces would find a lower-placed bun more flattering.
Twists are a protective style that never goes out of fashion. Here, they're flecked with blonde highlights à la bob to achieve total '90s perfection. To hydrate hair and make it easier to style, try a lightweight conditioner like Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Moisturizing & Detangling Leave-In Conditioner ($13).
Jennifer Aniston has since said she wasn't a fan of The Rachel, the '90s hairstyle made famous by her iconic character in Friends, but today, she rocks a modern, grown-out version. "We're seeing this look updated with a more 'shaggy' feeling," says Downing. "The layers are shorter, working with a fringe to open up the facial area are all great ways to bring this look into [the modern day]. Also, if there is natural movement in the hair, this is great to encourage to give this iconic look a more beachy feel."
Yara Shahidi brings the quintessential '90s prom hairstyle into the 21st century by allowing her natural curls to come out and play. "Adding a few twisted pieces going back makes it edgy and youthful," comments Lowery. To get the look:
- Begin by gathering the hair high up on the apex of the head, instructs Du. "This will give you the most height and volume."
- Next, tie the pony up first, backcomb the base for maximum volume.
- Touch up the curls with an iron so that they are more defined.
The Outward Flip
The only thing better than watching their movies, reading their books, and wearing their clothes? Channeling Mary-Kate and Ashley's signature '90s flip, as Keke Palmer does here. To modernize a vintage-inspired 'do: "Keep it undone and lived in," says Du. "Also adding modern accessories can help make things less dated."
Overgrown swooped fringes are so yesterday... and today. Not only are they practical and stylish, but they can also complement a bigger forehead. Go the clip-in bangs route like Kendall Jenner with this clever hairpiece. An updo like a ponytail or bun will help the faux fringe blend in more naturally.
An epic halo of butterfly clips is the ultimate '90s hair accessory. They look modern paired with this gorgeous, full afro style. "Butterfly clips are such a cute accent to a casual look. Use it to hold back fringe, on the base of pigtails, or decorate an accent braid," suggests Du.
Crimped hair was a must in the '90s and, if recent red carpet and runway styles are any indications, we might be starting to see this come back. According to Du, "Crimping can look a bit silly but if done right, it can look chic and editorial. Be strategic on where to crimp, like keeping the roots sleek and only crimping the ends can look super cool, or a slick crimped ponytail can be such a vibe, too." "For a modem look, work in bigger crimps versus tiny," advises Lowery. "This will create more of a beach wave look."
Our favorite Spice Girl may have changed every other day, but we remained faithful to Baby Spice's iconic high-pigtail-and-bangs combination. Here, Charli D'Amelio delivers a modern take with baby braids and purple streaks. "Once the pigtails are tied, you can play with texture, whether wearing it sleek and straight or putting a bend in it," says Du. "Try braiding the pigtails or random pieces for fun." Lowery adds, "I would recommend using clear small hair ties for a flat ponytail look. Nothing sticking up too high."
Align pigtails diagonally with the arch of your eyebrows to give your face a lifted effect, advises Du.
Just as we bedazzled the back pockets of our jeans, hair bandanas, headbands, and our CD players, naturally, we loved bedazzling our strands, as well. Iron-waved crimps heighten the '90s feel of this Aimee Song hairstyle even further.
Teeny tiny braids like the ones that make up Amandla Stenberg's cool side-parted bob are totally '90s, but the fun colors help bring the look into modern day. Tuck braids behind your ear to show off your statement earrings or maybe, just to keep hair out of your face.
A '90s hair roundup would never be complete without some great feathered bangs—a hairstyle practically synonymous with the decade. A layered cut and chic beige blonde color prevent this style from appearing dated.
The Spiked Pixie
The spiked pixie cut, first popularized by Halle Barry, is still going strong—just look at Ruby Rose as proof. "This look is particularly bold and confident," says Downing. However, he adds: "I would say the individual's total look and confidence needs to be there to carry this look off." To sculpt your pixie, he recommends using Tigi Bed Head Matte Separation Wax ($11).
Whether you were inspired by valley girl Cher or grunge princess Kelly Bundy, one thing's for certain: the voluminous side flip was the epitome of '90s it-girl hair. Not only would it complete your cool-girl aesthetic, but it would also add an instant boost of volume to your mane.
If you're anything like us, dark hair with light, chunky highlights might be a trend you were glad to leave behind in the '90s. But this look is back, with a softer, more rooted vibe. "You can try chunky highlights thrown in throughout the hair, which looks gorgeous and natural," suggests Lowery.
A sleek half-up, half-down high ponytail is one of Lowery's go-tos for a '90s style that doesn't look dated. "To modernize a vintage look I love to add an updated twist like pairing the hairstyle with modern earrings, or downplaying the severity of the hairstyle," she says. "Bed Head Headrush Superfine Shine Spray ($18) on dry hair helps to achieve this high gloss sporty look within the hair," comments Downing.
The Angela Chase middle part is back and better than ever. Du loves a "polished middle part lob, like Posh Spice. It’s forever chic and classy but still edgy." "For short hair, I would recommend staying away from too much volume, this can quite often date a look," says Downing. "The finishing is also key, bringing in a sporty wet look to the hair can also bring the look into today," he adds. Try polishing serum like IGK Crybaby Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum ($28) to add shine and cut down on frizz.
Rowan Blanchard channels The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Ashley Banks with her claw-like bangs. While the '90s version was a bit wispier, Blanchard opts for thicker pieces to give it a modern-day makeover. The headband accessory adds a nice touch, too.
Last but certainly not least: double buns, also known as space buns. This version has loads of texture thanks to the wearer's natural curls, plus two face-framing twists. According to Downing, "Space buns will naturally have more texture and in some cases, more volume than straight hair. So, on straight hair, some backcombing and teasing will help support the shape and structure."
Were bangs popular in the '90s?
Wispy bangs with feathering on the ends was a popular '90s look.
How do I get '90s fluffy hair?
'90s hair was a toned-down version of big '80s hair. Natural volume and fullness were key to achieving this look. You could try blowdrying hair upside down, adding layers to your cut, flipping hair to the side, and choosing volume-inducing hair products.
What was the biggest '90s hair trend?
From butterfly clips to scrunchies to barrettes, the '90s were all about hair accessories.