From J.Lo to Jennifer Aniston, These '90s Hairstyles Need to Come Back
Ah, the '90s. An era defined by MTV, Lisa Frank notebooks, and more boy bands than we care to count. (For the record, we think 98 Degrees was super underrated.) Some of our absolute favorite pop culture moments were born out of this decade, and when we think back on it, we can't help but relish in the wonderfully wild '90s hairstyles.
From messy buns to a broad selection of bangs, and, of course, butterfly clips galore, there was something special about the hair trends from this time. The It girls of the era, such as Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, and Gwen Stefani, were serving up enough inspiration to carry us right into the following decade.
If you're as nostalgic as we are, then you'll love this roundup of the 20 most quintessentially '90s hairstyles we would low-key wear today. We might get some strange looks, but hey, we'll never shy away from an adventurous beauty look. Keep reading for our favorites.
20 Popular ’90s Hairstyles That Made an Epic Comeback
Your favorite decade has come back — just like you always knew it would. The cyclical side of fashion and hairstyles gives us a chance to relive some of our favorite trends from the past. Luckily, ’90s hairstyles have taken over yet again. Here are the top ’90s hair trends you should rock in a new, fresh way.
#1: Crimped Hair
Melissa Joan Hart would say: “If you didn’t rock crinkled hair in the ninetieth — then you weren’t living”. Crimping was popular because people wanted to look unique, making bold statements every day. And they liked new hair styling tools called crimping irons! While the trend was definitely overdone back in the day, crimping just a few pieces of your ‘do is subtle and playful. It’s also a perfect nod to the best decade.
#2: Half up Half Down With a Fringe
The half-up style was a big hit in the ’90s, and it was often made complete with wispy bangs in front. In 2021, with the major ’90s hairstyles comeback, it’s time to rock this simple and cute hairstyle again.
#3: Hair Scrunchie
One of the biggest ’90s fashion trends was undoubtedly the scrunchie. You could find TV stars like Stephanie Tanner Danielle Fishel and Phoebe on Friends sporting the style. Nineties babes had to pull up all of that big hair with something. The scrunchie may have embodied cute hairstyles then, but today it’s one of the major summer trends , sexy in a girl-next-door kind of way.
#4: Middle Part
The decade prior to the ’90s was all about side-swept and voluminous hair, which is why it was no surprise that a sleek middle part came to be trendy next. Even the guys chose to steer clear of crazy trends and stick with the sleek part. As you might have already spotted on the streets of your own city, a middle part with the matching curtain fringe is all the rage in 2021 and seems to be here to stay for the whole decade.
#5: Clip Hairstyles
Claw clip and banana clip hairstyles are definitely among those we remember wearing in ’90s or at least recall our mothers do so. The hairstyle is back in our back pockets to style every now and then for an easy and practical ’do.
#6: Short Messy Bangs
This decade wasn’t all about sweet styles and cute accessories. The ’90s was the era of grunge hair. It was a time when bands like Nirvana ruled the radio stations. Lip liner was dark, hair was spiky, and being a punk was cool. Grunge darlings were not afraid to take risks and their bangs were no exception. An ever-popular ’90s hairstyle was super short bangs, and trendy babes today know how to rock the look with the perfect touch of pretty and moodiness.
#7: Rave Buns
Today we refer to them as space buns but in the ’90s, women’s hairstyles revolved around rave buns, and they were all the rage! Popular beauties of the decade ranging from Mel B (Spice Girls) to Gwyneth Paltrow weren’t afraid to show off a playful side. The look is back now and in a big way, especially if you add funky neon or pastel colors to complete the look.
#8: Pixie Cut
You can thank Indie babe Winona Ryder for this choppy boyish look. Nothing looks sweeter on a feminine face than a contrasting chop. The pixie is the ultimate ’90s haircut, and it’s a trend modern women can easily rock fiercely!
#9: Flipped Out Bob Haircut
The bob is a timeless look that changes with each decade. In the roaring ’20s, it was a super short page boy style and in the ’90s, it was a layered, flipped-out look. The Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit with the stunning Beth Harmon’s ‘dos made the look desired again. The decade is all about spiky, funky and edgy and women are still jumping on the signature the ’90s bob with a modern twist.
#10: Big, Natural Curls
As much as this decade embraced the playfulness, natural looks were still very prevalent. Naturally curly hair beauties like Mariah Carey, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker embraced their voluminous curls in an age where intense and sleek styling just didn’t exist. Girls today are enjoying that breath of fresh air in their looks and keeping curls intact and voluptuous.
#11: Tiny Braids
Pop stars like Brandy Norwood and Janet Jackson truly revolutionized the way girls wear braids today. Each braid was so tiny they really resembled a thick strand of hair and were worn very long for a sexy look. Choosing something pretty and complex like braiding hairstyles is a classic way to wear your hair, and it means one of our favorite trends will continue to live on! Fortunately, we have a lot of braided hairstyles to choose from.
Let’s face it: if you weren’t a little ‘out there’ with your fashion in the ’90s, then you were doing something wrong. This decade was all about creativity and experimenting with your locks. Pigtails were trendy and a simple style go-to during this decade and have come back in full force. Now, braided pigtails and pigtail French braids is a mighty trend with the nod to the ’90s.
#13: Layered Ringlets
It goes without saying Mariah Carey was a part of ’90s culture; in fact, we might not be stretching the truth when we say she was the heart and soul of most of our hairstyle inspiration. It’s only natural that Mariah’s ‘do was influential for layered ringlets. The look not only caught on but has persisted through the decades. Women have been rocking their natural, voluminous ringlets and they can think of a pop princess for making it all happen.
#14: “The Rachel” Haircut
The Rachel was perhaps the most iconic haircut of this entire generation, and it was all thanks to the popularity of Rachel portrayed by Jennifer Aniston on the television show Friends. The original version of this cut was a bit choppy with thick layers, but the modern approach has women blowing out their “Rachel” haircuts a little straighter for a fresher, more updated look.
#15: Butterfly Clips
Butterfly clips were one of the most important accessories of the ‘80s and early ’90s. Especially for parties and prom hair! Believe it or not, girls are wearing them today but in a fresher, less organized way. We’re excited to say that our butterfly clips held up over the years, and we can’t wait to dust them off and use them again!
#16: 90s Bandana Style
‘90s bandana styles was a rebirth of the trend introduced by hippies in 1970s. Today, it is back in fashion again, mainly due to TikTok trends. Tie the scarf under your hair and style long front pieces for ultimate ’90s vibes.
#17: Baby Ponytails
Emma Bunton rocked the stage with her cute personality and sweet looks, and we can’t say that we’re not happy to see her signature baby ponytails have made a major comeback this season.
#18: Bantu Knots
If you went to a rave in the ’90s, you would have seen the Bantu buns on a few girls. Although it’s similar to space buns, Bantu buns are all about having fun and revealing your wild side!
#19: Pins and Beads
The nineties were all about accessories as well as hair in a dark color as the perfect background to make them pop. Colorful bobby pins and beads are very hot right now and lining them up like you used to with your butterfly clips is the perfect update to this former trend.
#20: Tiny Braids for Front Pieces
A common element of many ’90s hairstyles are front pieces styled into tiny braids. Complement is with a bandana style, flicked out bob or a high ponytail with a scrunchie for a cute look from the 90s.
It’s nice to see pictures of our favorite ’90s hairstyles have made a comeback. It gives our current styles a hint of nostalgia while also adding the ability to reinvent some of our favorite trends in a modern way. Have you been rocking any of these styles lately?
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Whether you like it or not (and I definitely do), ’90s trends are back in a biggg way right now—and I'm not just talking about fashion trends (though I do love me a cute cropped cardigan, not gonna lie). Between all the sleek high ponytails, loose, face-framing tendrils, and statement hair clips, it’s pretty impossible to scroll through your Insta feed or TikTok without spotting a few of the beloved decade’s biggest beauty trends, too. If you are like me and have completely leaned into the throwback trends and bringing back all the nostalgic styles and, hi, claw clips, scope out these 23 most iconic ’90s hairstyles for a quick and v necessary history lesson.
1Aaliyah's '90s Bangs
When it came to swoop bangs, the more they covered your eyes and blocked your vision, the better. Honestly, you didn't even need to cut your bangs if you could fake Aaliyah's look with some longer strands in the front.
2Toni Braxton's Pixie Cut
Few hairstyles in the '90s were as iconic as Toni Braxton's pixie cuts and short hairstyles, like the cropped cut and baby bangs she wore for the Tony Braxton album cover, for instance. Straightened, curled, parted to the side, slicked down—Toni showed us there were plenty of ways to style a pixie.
3JLo's '90s Updo
With the amount of tendrils and pieces you left down around your face and the nape of your neck, formal updos in the late '90s were more like half-up, half-down hairstyles. Exhibit A: JLo's messy bun and comb barrettes that were all style and no function.
4Janet Jackson's Braids
Braided hairstyles never go out of style, but you can't talk about the '90s without bringing up Janet Jackson's braids in Poetic Justice. As loved as they are versatile, these chunky box braids look just as good worn under a slouchy newsboy cap or tied with a head wrap.
5Selena's Voluminous Strands
Selena Quintanilla's signature red lipstick and long, voluminous hairstyles solidified the late singer's place as a '90s beauty icon among many other titles. This big, tousled updo from the 1994 Grammy Awards is both quintessential '90s and quintessential Selena.
6Lisa Bonet's Locs
Name a better a duo than Lisa Bonet and the '90s. I'll wait. From top hats to tiny sunglasses, Lisa Bonet's style was everything back then, but it was her super-long locs that made her an icon in the natural hair community. Although the hairstyle existed long before the '90s and is still a popular choice today, there's no denying the influence of Lisa Bonet's look.
7Britney Spears’ ’90s Blunt Lob
Ugh, Britney Spears looked like a literal angel with her super-blunt lob circa 1999. And what’s more iconic than a ’90s hairstyle paired with frosty eyeshadow and shiny lip gloss? Nothing, that’s what.
8Jennifer Aniston’s ’90s Rachel Haircut
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about legendary ’90s hairstyles without mentioning Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” haircut (shout-out to hairstylist Chris McMillan for creating it). The cut—that’s still recreated to this day, BTW—featured face-framing layers, cascading volume, and carefully placed honey highlights.
9Naomi Campbell’s ’90s Flipped-Up Ends
TBH, flipped-up ends is my favorite hair trend from the ’90s. There’s something so soft and elegant about flippy ends and a middle part, as proven by Naomi Campbell’s cute long bob in 1990.
10Drew Barrymore’s ’90s Flower Accessories
If the fact that Drew Barrymore showed up to multiple red-carpet events wearing huge daisy hair clipsdoesn’t warm your cold ’90s heart, I don’t know what will. And can we just take a moment to appreciate her baby bangs? Thx.
11Halle Berry’s ’90s Sleek Pixie
Honestly, if you told me this picture was taken in 2019, I would probably believe you, considering I see a variation of Halle Berry’s cute, slicked pixie cut and hair pin on my Insta feed every day (and I’m not mad about it). Long live the ’90s.
12Gwen Stefani’s ’90s Pink Hair
Gwen Stefani tried out so many hair colors in the ’90s that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but her electric-pink waves with baby-blonde highlights ranks pretty damn high in my book.
13Alicia Silverstone’s ’90s Wispy Updo
Sure, all of Alicia Silverstone’s hairstyles in Clueless were pretty damn iconic, but the wispy updo with loose layers that she wore for a red carpet years later was just so freaking ’90s. And look at those itty-bitty hair clips!
14Tyra Banks’ ’90s High Ponytail
15Winona Ryder’s ’90s Choppy Pixie
There’s something so inherently cool about Winona Ryder’s choppy pixie cut. I kinda love the idea of going super short and adding plenty of edge with a texture paste, WBU?
16Mila Kunis’s ’90s Butterfly Clips
Can you even look at this photo of baby Mila Kunis without smiling?! I can’t, especially considering she’s wearing the end-all hair accessory of the ’90s: butterfly hair clips.
17Mariah Carey’s ’90s Crimped Updo
Is it just me, or does this Mariah Carey throwback kinda, sorta make you want to buy a crimping iron? I’d like to go on record with my prediction that crimped hair is going to be the next ’90s hairstyle revival.
18Emma Bunton’s ’90s Baby Spice Pigtails
If you haven’t recreated Baby Spice’s epic pigtails at least once for Halloween, what are you even doing? In all seriousness, though, you gotta hand it to Emma Bunton for pioneering the ’90s hairstyle staple.
19Brandy’s ’90s Clipped-Back Braids
Another ’90s hairstyle you’ve definitely saved to your Instagram collection: Brandy’s side-parted braids with face-framing hair clips. It’s too cute not to recreate.
20Kirsten Dunst’s ’90s Tendrils
I’ll admit that I’ve definitely worn a variation of Kirsten Dunst’s face-framing updo this month. It’s perfect for putting off wash day, alright?
21Reese Witherspoon’s ’90s Bob
Did you know Reese Witherspoon had the tiniest little bob haircut in the ’90s? I, for one, did not, but I definitely plan on copying her style with a blunt middle part and flipped-under ends.
22Liv Tyler’s ’90s Headband
For proof that you definitely don’t need a fancy-schmancy hair accessory when you’re going out, look toward Liv Tyler and her classic black headband circa 1992.
23Gwyneth Paltrow’s ’90s Ponytail
A low-key alternative to the sleek high ponytails of the ’90s? Gwyneth Paltrow’s piece-y updo, complete with sideswept bangs (because why the hell not?).
Ruby BuddemeyerRuby was the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covered beauty across print and digital.
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20 '90s Hairstyles We're Kind of Still in Love With
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, celebrity stylist and TIGI US Creative & Education Director; Rita Lowery, celebrity stylist and owner of Rita Lowery Hair; and Mane Addicts' celebrity stylist Sienree Du—we rounded up 20 modern versions of iconic '90s hairstyles.
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. Hailey Bieber demonstrates and somehow manages to make the style cool, while never looking like she's trying too hard:
- "Prep is massively important, and putting clean hair up away from the face without products is always going to be difficult," says Downing.
- "I recommend spraying the hair with Queen For A Day Thickening Spray ($20) to give an even and consistent texture."
- "Then, place the ‘messy bun’ proportionately to the bone structure, the higher on the head, the more this will elongate face shapes."
- "The trick is to not be too precise, if pieces fall out, use that to your advantage, this will add to the ‘messy’ approach."
Twists are a protective style that never goes out of fashion. This shorter, bob-length look flecked with blonde highlights has a total '90s vibe.
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. To get the look:
- "Make sure the pigtails align diagonally with the arch of the eyebrows to give the face a lifted effect," says Du.
- "I would recommend using clear small hair ties for a flat ponytail look, I love flat pigtails. Nothing sticking up too high," adds Lowery.
- "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."
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 out to play. Follow these tips for a similar look:
- "Make sure you gather the hair high up on the apex of the head, this will give you the most height and volume," says Du.
- "With this particular look, I like to tie the pony up first, backcomb the base for maximum volume, and then touch up the curls with an iron last, so the curls are more defined."
- "Adding a few twisted pieces going back makes it edgy and youthful," adds Lowery.
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." (See Palmer's studded hair clip).
Overlong swooped bangs are so yesterday... and today. Go the clip-in bangs route like Kendall Jenner with this clever hairpiece. An up 'do like a ponytail or bun will help the fake hair blend in more naturally.
An epic halo of butterfly clips is the ultimate '90s hair accessory. They look modern paired with 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," says Du.
Headwraps are far from exclusive to the '90s, but we can't forget how women like Erykah Badu brought them to the red carpet. This modern take pairs a gold headwrap with locs.
We're obsessed with these piled-high braids, similar to the locs pictured above but a little smaller. They can be paired with a headwrap or worn alone.
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. "Crimping can look a bit silly but if done right, it can look chic and editorial," says Du.
- "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," says Lowery. "This will create more of a beach wave look."
- "Also you can try putting the hair up and having only the ponytail crimped to add extra volume," like Ariana Grande above.
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.
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. We love Ruby Rose's version.
- "This look is particularly bold and confident, I don’t look at Halle’s iconic look and think it looks dated. I personally still think it looks great," says Downing.
- "I would say the individual's total look and confidence needs to be there to carry this look off."
- Downing recommends using Bed Head Matte Separation Wax ($13) to sculpt your pixie.
The Messy Bun
"I think we’re seeing a big resurgence into 90’s hair trends, particularly from a ‘grunge’ aspect," says Downing. Shay Mitchell's artfully messy topknot is a great example.
- "That ’sporty’ finish in the hair works well on most lengths and textures. It’s not quite wet-look, but it’s not matte either— somewhere in between."
- "Bed Head Headrush Superfine Shine Spray ($18) on dry hair helps to achieve this high gloss sporty look within the hair."
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 like the one pictured above. "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.
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.
- "As above, the finishing is also key, bringing in a sporty wet look to the hair can also bring the look into today."
- Finish off with a polishing serum like IGK Crybaby Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum ($28) to add shine and cut down on frizz.
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.
- "Space buns will naturally have more texture and in some cases, more volume than straight hair," says Downing.
- "So, on straight hair, some backcombing and teasing will help support the shape and structure."
Hairstyles 90s medium
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I carefully removed my dress.
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