The art of hair

By Kevin Terrell

From the powered wigs of the 1700s aristocrat to the foot-high mohawk of the 1980s punker, hairstyles have always identified our cultural era. Forget economic conditions and technological advances ­­— what defines the times is the way we wear our hair. While the 1940s thru ’90s all had their distinct hairdo’s, it seems our own double-zeroes (’00s) are still up for grabs. What defines us? On girls, is it short and spunky or long and elegant? On guys, the laid-back shag or gelled-up spikes?
Perhaps what defines us is what we choose NOT to wear. Our generation may not have a signature style yet, but we have plenty of mistakes to learn from. Here’s a list of some of the haircuts once worn, the ones people wished they hadn’t, and the ones that — God knows why — have survived.


The Bowl Cut
Anyone who was in grade school between ’92 and ’96 at some point had a bowl cut. Also known as the mushroom cut (think Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber), it often came with sweet center part and a heinous undercut that was supposedly for keepin’ cool. The only good thing about this travesty of a haircut is that it looked great with Airwalk shoes.

The Rattail
There isn’t one person reading this article who didn’t go to school with a kid who had a rattail. And there isn’t one person who didn’t want to sneak up on the poor bastard with a pair of Fiskars safety scissors and snip that thing out of its misery. I blame the parents.

The Mullet
The trashiest cut to date, “Business in the front, party in the back” has had a renaissance in our recent society (think David Spade in Joe Dirt). It’s almost too easy to mock the mullet on an aesthetic level, but author Mark Larson makes a case for it’s athletic functionality: “It allows you to have that powerful Visigoth, Viking look and still sweat. There’s really no downside.” Yeah, until you try to talk to a girl.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Highlights hit a high point at the turn of the century, when usage ranged from subtle to streaky. Women’s highlights have remained popular, but the frosted tips for guys have moved to decidedly metro.


    The Rapunzel
    Like the rattail, everyone knew one girl in grade school that decided to grow her hair way too long (we’re talking to the butt or longer). Surely a maintenance nightmare, this style made even pretty girls resemble the dead girl from The Ring. And given the inherent hazard around fans, lawn mowers, and pool filters, it’s no surprise I haven’t seen this hairdo in several years.

    Starting in 1972 by Barbara Streisand, the crimping craze flared in 1999. Also called the bed-head look, crimping was intended to be a once-in-a-while style. But most wearers just baked the crap out of their hair every morning with crimping irons anyway. Lucky for our follicles this practice didn’t last long.

    Hair Wraps
    For about eight months in the mid ’90s, little carts in the mall were raking in $50 a pop doing hair wraps — wrapping a small chunk of hair in brightly colored thread and beads. Not only was this suburbian dreadlock constantly falling in your face, but it instantly killed the hair inside: when my sister’s finally fell out, she had a bald spot for months.