The Bad Hair Years: Retro Haircuts That We Can’t Believe Used To Be in Fashion

Mon Jan 25 2021

Hair can be a tough thing to get right. We’ve all had bad hair days or awful hair cuts, and it’s a rite of passage at this point. And nothing is a better reminder of that than looking at the haircuts of yesteryear. Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there were some truly shocking styles running around that we’ve all tried hard to forget.

It really makes us wonder – what hairstyles today are we rocking that will one day be considered a fashion disaster? Whatever it will be, we’re here to remind you that you can’t run from your past. Take a look at the most offensive mullets, perms, extensions, and bangs that we donned in our former years.

The Parting of the Platinum

Perhaps this unusual style is meant to bring to mind old biblical stories – particularly the parting of the red sea. This design must be allegorical because it’s certainly not flattering. But we respect the model for trying her best to divert attention away from her hair by staring intensely down the camera lens.

Let’s break down what’s happening here; the hair on top has been parted in a zig-zag pattern and ironed flat, with the ends curling inwards. The rest of her golden hair is tightly curled and gives the rest of the style structure. There’s no doubt about it, it’s an impressive feat… it just doesn’t belong on the head.

An Experimental Teen

Everyone knows the 80s as the decade of big, and we mean really big, hair. But they didn’t all look the same, as this highschooler shows. This young woman was obviously in the swing of an experimental phase when she decided to tease just one side of her hair.

While one side has been given the full 80s treatment, the other side of her hair has been slicked back. It’s possible that this young woman was a big Cyndi Lauper fan, as the singer-songwriter famously adopted a half short/half long style. Regardless, something tells us she looks back at this school photo and winces.

Business in the Front, Party in the Back

This poor young man hasn’t ever been able to live this style down. The mullet is distinguished by a short hairdo around the face or on top of the head and long hair at the back. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the most popular looks in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly about this particular mullet is so upsetting. Perhaps it’s the hair gel, perhaps it’s the moustache, but we think it’s all the factors combined. Keeping your hair combed through and brushed is meant to be a good thing, but it all went horribly wrong here.

Deep-Sea Creature Vibes

You’d be forgiven for mistaking this young woman as a background extra in some Tim Burton movie, but it’s unfortunately not the case. This 80s rebel actually chose to wear her hair like this, and on the school’s picture day no less.

Judging from her makeup, this young woman was probably more influenced by the New Romantic pop culture scene as opposed to George Michael or Madonna. She’s opted for a very out-there trio of pigtails that feature spiky strands, artful backcombing, and a lot of hair spray. The smokey eye shadow really ties it together.

Just Call Me Poodle

Who could forget the infamous hairstyles of the 70s that marked the rise of feathery locks and layering? But somewhere amongst that trendy time, this model slipped through the net. Her hair has been fashioned into the shape of a mushroom, and we’re confident she had no say in the matter.

Such a confusing shape, it almost looks as though it might make better sense upside down. She has long bangs that have been straightened flat against her forehead and gravity-defying curls. This editorial photoshoot definitely pushed hair-design to its limits.

Inspired by “That” Cameron Diaz Scene

This poor 90s freshman hadn’t learned a thing from the decades before her. She took inspiration from one of the biggest stars of the decade, Cameron Diaz. But she adopted the single worst style ever seen on the Hollywood beauty – the “hair gel” style.

For those who remember the 1998 Farrelly Brothers movie There’s Something About Mary, you know that it wasn’t hair gel that made Cameron’s bangs stand up on end. Let’s just say this is one college photo you might not want to show your parents.

New Romanticism Gone Very Wrong

This 80s wild child is rocking gothic hair and makeup and it’s giving us major Siouxsie Sioux vibes. She’s obviously spent a long time back-combing her hair to get that textured look, as well as pouring out the whole bottle of black hair dye. Isn’t it crazy how this was once considered fashion?

Her innocent smile is almost distracting enough from the nest on her head, but not quite. After all, it would take a lot to divert your attention from this woman’s beehive. With the tall tuft of hair and the dramatic black eyeliner, she might have been Amy Winehouse’s inspiration.

Much To Be Desired

Cruella de Vil called and she wants her hair back! This 80s chick looks like she’s seen better days than this 80s moment. But we have to applaud her for the creativity that went it this – we wonder where she drew her inspiration. It’s definitely a really out-there look that would catch everyone’s eye.

Not only has she styled her left side of her hair differently from her right, but she’s dyed them different colors – just like Cruella de Vil. Either way, it’s fair to say she might have been having an identity crisis. That, or she did something to insult the local hairdresser.

Offensive Helmet Hair

This woman has the worst case of helmet hair we’ve possibly ever seen. Except this hairstyle was no accident, this was a popular trend back in the 60s! It was so popular it’s even been nicknamed “mom hair,” due to how many mothers across America opted for this voluminous look. And it took a lot of effort to get it.

Pictured in the photo is CNN reporter Denise Ramirez, who relayed the process of creating the bouffant. “The main thing was getting the Aquanet [hairspray] buildup,” she revealed. “I would wash my hair on Sunday, roll it and start the process. By the (next) weekend, it was just the way I wanted it. I ratted it, sprayed it, and then combed, then sprayed again.” Oh, how things have changed…

A Serious Misjudgment

We have no idea how this young man was allowed to go to school with this hairstyle. He had dyed his long hair bright blonde, let the roots grow out, and then fashioned them into spikes for his school photo. And doesn’t he look pleased with himself?

This guy posted his image on Reddit in 2019, writing that: “I knew I was cool and that is all that matters.” We love his confidence. But lots of people online didn’t quite see it the same way. One commenter asked him: “Was Derek from Sum 41 your inspiration?” The answer, of course, is yes.

A Delusional Duo

We almost want to skip this one altogether. How on earth can we help understand what decisions were made to create these looks. We think these 80s kids were trying to make a glorious fashion statement to stay ahead of the times, but obviously, it hasn’t aged well.

These two have done a lot of hair teasing to achieve such gravity-defying volume, which has then been held in place with – you guessed it – hair spray. It’s kind of like a mullet on steroids, that’s paired perfectly with some statement earrings and purple eyeshadow. C’est Magnifique.

Unfriend, Block, Report

Here’s one dude with a terrifying look. It’s more than just a mullet; it’s a mullet with bangs. We must admit, he’s scrubbed up nicely from the neck down and shows huge potential. If he only did away with that rat tail and fringe.

Pictured in the 80s, this guy was in the swing of the mullet movement. It had been popularized by rockstars like David Bowie and Keith Richards in the 70s, but by the following decade, it had swept all across America and Europe. And while it’s not as popular today, it never went away.

A Hair Nightmare That Never Ends

This poor misguided soul has had to live her whole life knowing that she once sported this hairstyle. At least we think it’s a hairstyle; she could have just as easily been electrocuted right before picture day at college. We would totally believe it.

It’s hard to know just how she managed to achieve such incredible volume. But we can only suspect it’s was a secret, as we’ve never seen anyone take up so much space with such long and thick hair. Then again, it’s possible that no one has ever wanted to try and achieve it, in case it should look exactly like this.

Carole Baskin Vibes

Is that tiger queen Carole Baskin we spot underneath those crimped strands? Probably not, but you can understand why we’d think that. This 60s hairstyle looks like it takes impressive craftsmanship to create, but that’s about as far as goes in impressing us.

The stylist appears to have imitated a waterfall with the crimped detailing at the front. They’ve pulled the back of her hair forward to let the ends fall over her face, creating a bizarre and unique veil. Who knows, maybe this is the future of bridal hair!

How To Add Inches To Your Height

80s hairstyling can get way out of hand. This man has managed to increase his height by a whole head size! His thick, black strands have been backcombed beyond recognition, and it’s making for an unforgettable sight.

But look on the bright side – when winter rolls around, this man doesn’t need a hat or a scarf. If he keeps letting his locks grow out he might not even need a coat one day. Either way, he took Slash’s signature look and made it more extreme.

Gravity Defying

This young lady looks like she resented school picture day, and did everything within her power to rebel against it. That would explain, to some extent, why she chose to wear this sculptural hairstyle that day. It’s somewhat like a mullet, but somehow so much more unusual looking.

Not only has she crimped all around her head, but the hair on top of her head is standing up to attention. She has bangs, and they’ve been flattened down against her forehead. But we can’t forget the rat tail at the back that’s leaving much to be desired. Ah, teenage spirit.

Forehead, Coming Through!

You might not believe it, but back in the day, some people wanted to bring more attention to their forehead. Case in point: this young lady. She could have sported your average bangs or cut them extra short for that edgy touch. But no, she chose to give her fringe a full-on blow-out.

It created the most bizarre-looking bobble on the front of her head. It gives her height, sure, but probably not in the way she’d have wanted. This is definitely one for the books, and we’re sure those who knew her then have never let her live it down.

Frightening Frizz

Having big hair in the 80s was the ultimate glamor symbol. Men and women alike wanted to be seen with the biggest styles, but it definitely didn’t come naturally to a lot of people. The American Beauty Industry Encyclopedia wrote about how folks “often permed to achieve the desired volume.”

But I think we can all agree that looking back, this lady has taken it a bit too far. The frizz has gotten way out of control and could definitely do with toning down But something tells us that all the hairbrushes and detangling-products in the world would struggle to tame this monster.

Assymetry at Its Worst

Hairspray was invented way before the 80s rolled around – it had been on the American market since the 40s. But it definitely reigned supreme in the decade of flashy fashion. Just take a look at this bizarre style in all its pink-tipped glory.

The dodgy dip-dye job is one thing, but the style is on a planet of its own. What was a rather sleek and sophisticated bob was complicated with poof bangs and a strange asymmetric side ponytail. But you can’t say she hasn’t made an effort – the hair, the eyeshadow, and the lipstick all match!

The Bouffant of Secrets

When we think back to 60s hairstyles, the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda probably spring to mind first. But the truth is, all across the world women sported haircuts similar to the one below; the 60s bouffant. It was neat, structured, big, and totally unprecedented.

It may look neat and put together, but it was a whole other story underneath. This woman will have backcombed most of her hair into a frizz-ball, before “lightly combing” a pile of hair over top. It would make the whole structure look silky smooth, but that was all a part of the deception.

Carole Brady’s Signature ‘Do

Actress Florence Henderson played the part of Carole Brady in the hit show The Brady Bunch throughout the 70s. She was the family matriarch who was famous for changing up her hairstyle all the time. But this particular style has left a lasting impression on us… for all the wrong reasons.

In an interview with ABC News, Carole revealed, “I created all those hairdos.” She admitted: “When I look back at what we wore – I apologize,” but she was only talking about the clothes. The truth is, she’s proud to have rocked this short-yet-long hairdo that flicks up at the ends. “I was the mother with the mullet… Don’t forget that.”

A Mullet With a Middle Parting

There’s only one thing worse than a mullet, and that’s a mullet with a middle parting. Unfortunately this former radio show host Pat Sharp went all-in on the latter, and now has photos like this one to face. As we can see, he shaved his beard not too long before this was taken – couldn’t he have gone a step further?

This photo was taken in the late 80s when it might have seemed like the mullet was on its way out. But history showed it was going to hang around throughout the 90s too. Pat, in particular, would continue to sport the rat tail style right up until the turn of the century.

Farrah Fawcett Gone Wrong

Actress Farrah Fawcett became a style icon in the 70s after her picture in a bathing suit was put on a poster. Her style became iconic, with people all over the world trying their best to emulate it. The girl pictured below appears to have done her best impression of the famous style, but it’s gone horribly wrong.

Rather than curling out and away from the face like Farrah Fawcett, this girl’s hair is curling inwards. And whoever cut her hair didn’t quite manage the layered look, as it really looks more like an overgrown Kentucky waterfall. To be fair to her, the thick bifocals and braces aren’t really helping.

Mom’s Least Favorite

If you feel bad about the haircuts your parents made you have, don’t complain to this guy about it. He was the most unfortunate kid of all, having to walk around with this bouffant-style bowl-cut with extra bangs. We can’t think of a worse start to puberty than this.

If we look at what’s really going on here, we can see that an attempt was made to make this haircut stylish. His hair has layers cut into it, but they aren’t doing him any favors. The hairdresser who actually cut this hair wrote how she “could never really tell if the overall look was actually Ricky’s idea or his mother’s.” But, she revealed, “let’s just say that given the shape of his skull, I did the best I could.”

Sisters Oversight

The 80s are famous for all sorts of things – new wave music, prime time television shows, leg warmers, and the Cold War. And while all that was happening, these sisters were in the bathroom, helping style each other hair. We only wish they’d gotten a second opinion at the time.

For some reason, men and women all across the states wanted the layers in the hair to stand up on end. And that’s exactly what these young women have done using a few too many cans of hairspray. They may be having their glamor shots taken, but they’re far from glamorous.

Women Wore Mullets Too

If you thought men were the only ones walking around with mullets, think again. Women were also known to take up the fashion, even in the 80s. It became a highly popular style in lesbian culture in particular. Women wore their mullets proudly as a statement of their sexuality or association with the culture.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t look back and joke about how strange of a style it really is. We must say, this woman is pulling off the look better than any of us can. She’s gone for straight hair rather than permed curls while slicking back the hair on the side.

Children Were Victims, Too

In case you were wondering, children were also victims of the weird 80’s style. This young girl might have even had her hair permed, but it hasn’t totally worked out. Her hair is bigger than life itself. let alone school. To us, this is the ultimate example of a moptop.

Aside from curls, 80s hair was all about height. The taller the better, and if your mom also had a pair of hair crimpers, then you’d hit the jackpot. Kids today will never know what it was like to try and add 300% more volume to your hair in the mornings before the school bus came.

A Lapse of Good Judgement

This haircut proves you don’t have to do put a lot of effort in to end up with a pretty disastrous style. This young woman has gorgeous red hair and a silky smooth texture, but the shape of the cut is all wrong. At least this time the layers fan away from the face, which is more than we can say for others in this list.

This hairstyle looks as though it had previously been cut using a salad bowl as a guide, and the person sporting it has just let it grow out a little. But think of the positives – if every day is a bad hair day, then you never need to worry about having hat-hair. It’s already a lost cause!

Love Is Blind

There’s someone out there for everyone. Even these two, who both sport such frightful styles it’s surprising they found each other. The guy on the right has a mullet and accompanying side fringe, while the woman on the left looks as though she stuck her finger in a plug socket.

It’s shouldn’t really be that surprising that lots of young couples were daring to wear these styles. They were influenced by the popstars and music bands of the 80s, where this kind of fashion was welcomed with open arms. All we can say is thank goodness times have changed.

Honey, I Permed the Kids

Wow. This is especially unsettling. Now, we don’t want to put the blame where it’s not deserved – this young girl’s parents are completely to blame. At least, whichever parent took her to the hairdresser one fateful day. We don’t even know where to start with describing what happened here.

This kid has undergone a professional perm job, but only on the hair that sits directly on top of her head. Everywhere else has been left natural, and the length has been kept long. Perhaps it’s for those who wanted to experiment rocking a mullet but were too afraid to have the big chop.

Delete My Number

This photo is making us realize how happy we are that times have changed. Once a very popular hairstyle among men during the 60s, the moptop became a staple once the British pop band The Beatles exploded in America. Naturally, some women followed suit and adopted the style themselves.

In this case, this young woman has gone for a peroxide blonde moptop style that curls inwards around the sides. But where the bangs meet her eyes the curls out and upwards, proving just how creative you could get. It’s not the worst style we’ve ever seen, but there are definitely more flattering cuts that would have suited her way more.

Krusty the Clown

Oh dear… this 80s kid might have served as an inspiration to The Simpsons‘ producers Matt Groening and James L. Brooks. Her hair bears an uncanny resemblance to one particular fan favorite, the character Krusty the Clown.

Krusty’s meant to have standard curly clown hair, but it takes on more of a triangular shape. That’s exactly what’s happening here, so much so that we think it might be on purpose. But say what you want about retro hair, there aren’t many styles that are as understated and bad as this.

Crimped Confusion

The crimped hair look achieved the volume that people wanted so badly in the 80s. A hot crimping tool made sharp indentations in your hair that would require you to go section by section. Depending on how long your hair was, it could take a very long time until you’d end up out of the door.

To make sure the look stayed in place, people used tons of hairspray to hold the look throughout the day. We appreciate the effort here, but something just doesn’t look right. Maybe it the bangs, or maybe it’s the 80s obsession with dry-looking strands. Whatever it is, we’ll pass up on it.

The Over-Grown Bowl Cut

It may surprise you to learn that bowl cuts have been making a comeback. It’s been spotted on Rita Ora, Charlize Theron, and even Zendaya in recent years. But we doubt this is the photo they were drawing inspiration from. This 70s throwback shows us just how wrong we used to get the bowl cut.

These days, you can make this style look pretty good. With the right haircut and the right styling products, the bowl cut can come off pretty sleek and sophisticated. But in this instance, it looks like an unfortunate accident. We think this guy’s mom really did just put a bowl on his head, close her eyes, and hope for the best.

A Strawberry-Blonde Slip Up

Have you ever wanted both lightly crimped hair and straight hair, at the same time? Well, then this style is for you. Check out this 70s oddity that features long and glossy bangs, partially wavey sections, and a strong curl at the ends. All neatly packaged in a strawberry blonde up-do.

We think this model’s face says it all really. It’s the kind of thing you did to your dolls as a kid, not as an adult on your actual hair. The only good thing about this style is that it’s reversible, unlike the mullet. This style provides you with the ability to immediately undo the regrettable look.

Fluffy Only up Top

An otherwise beautiful school photo was ruined by one thing, and one thing only – the bangs. Bangs are hard to get right at the best of times, but she’s really not helping herself here. But we suspect the parents are to blame for this poofy style, and it didn’t have to be like this.

But let’s not forget that this was considered fashionable back in the 80s. It’s amazing to see how much things have changed. A hairstyle that was once worn proudly by one schoolchild 40 or 50 years ago would now be a horrifying embarrassment.

Fleetwood Mop

Recognize who this is? It’s singer-songwriter, Stevie Nicks, back in the 80s, when she was still performing with Fleetwood Mac. She’s wearing her iconic permed mullet, which influenced women everywhere to get one themselves. She actually does pull it off, especially after some of the styles we’ve seen on this list.

And Stevie was well aware of the effect she was having on other people. She once said: “I think if people like to dress like [me] and they get a little inspiration from me to do it, then it’s great.” She added, “It’s definitely something everyone should try at least once in their lives.”

Editorial Accident

To be fair to this hairstyle, it was made for the model to wear during an editorial photoshoot. But even given the context, we think this is quite an abomination. It features a very stiff side ponytail with the hair edges ruthlessly backcombed. On top of that, her micro-bangs have been hair-gelled up.

It’s unlike any of the other styles we’ve seen, and there might be a good reason for that. Even back in the 80s, when this photo was taken, it wasn’t a popular look. And considering what styles were walking around at the time, that’s really saying something.