’90s Hair Is Back in Just About Every Iteration—Here’s How To Nail It for Yourself

Photo: Getty/Ron Davis and Getty/Victor Malafronte | Graphic: W+G Creative
Could the ‘90s be the coolest decade? That’s likely why the fashion and beauty literati keep on dialing back the clock to revisit the era of grunge, 2Pac and Biggie, Kate Moss, Gwyneth, Janet Jackson and so many others. But why the '90s now you might ask? Like the jovial, no-worries-in-the-world perfection of Friends, the decade offers more comfort than a bowl of mac and cheese. There's something soothing in our anxiety-ridden world about replicating the decade's emo mood, hairstylist Jessica Gillin tells me. "Considering the current climate and state of the world, people are nostalgic for it."

The references are so ripe and inspiring, we’ve rounded up four looks that will give you life in the middle of a neverending pandemic winter (or really any season).

"Spice" girl hues

Photo: Getty/Steve Eichner | Graphic: W+G Creative

The original “girl power” crew is full of inspo and for a variety of hair textures and lengths. Manhattan-based hair colorist Jenna Perry is particularly serving up red, a la Ginger Spice. Just see how she gave Bella Hadid spicy red skunk-stripes recently.

Bold skunk stripes are not for everyone though. “My thoughts are if you’ve done it before when it was happening, you shouldn’t relive it again unless you’re giving it a modern twist,” Perry suggests. So if you've been there, done that in regards to chunky highlights, this time around, work to blend in the bold highlights or go for a rich, smooth tone. “I’m loving a deep red like Claire Danes in My So-Called Life,” Perry says. “It’s so underrated and really cool.”

Versatile micro braids

Photo: Getty/ Donaldson Collection | Graphic: W+G Creative

Brandy and Janet Jackson locked the look down in the ‘90s and Miko Branch, founder of Miss Jessie’s Natural Hair Care is loving how micro braids are back. “In addition to being relatively low maintenance, the styles of this time period not only celebrate natural hair textures, but they also infuse some protective styles that can help to reduce breakage,” says Branch.

The update? “A great way to bring '90s-inspired braids into 2021 is to pair the look with a blunt cut, like a long bob, to really let the braids take center stage,” she says, adding that you can clean up edges with Miss Jessie’s Hold Me Down ($10). “This style permits a lot of fun style play, such as half-up, half-down, a centered braid down the middle of part, and pulled back into a pony or low bun.” Versatile too? Win-win.

Short cuts

Photo: Getty/Victor Malafronte | Graphic: W+G Creative

In 2021, it's time to cue a dramatic new short cut. Hairstylist Jessica Gillin has been scoping old Delia’s and Alloy catalogs for short looks like the mushroom cut. “It’s androgynous and cool,” she says. “I’m seeing both women and men embrace grungier looks versus glam.” For inspiration, Gillin references Kaia Gerber’s current boyish cut where “the sides are shorter than the back,” she says. “People are ready to make adventurous transformations.” Gillin, who grew up in the ‘90s, has plenty of cool girl references such as Joey Lauren Adams’ cut from Chasing Amy, Drew Barrymore in Mad Love, and Chloe Sevigny in Kids.

Photo: Getty/Ron Davis | Graphic: W+G Creative

You could also go for a pixie, says hairstylist Larry Sims, who works with Gabrielle Union on the Flawless hair-care line. Think Halle Berry and Toni Braxton. Styling tip: Sims uses a touch of Flawless By Gabrielle Union Exotic Oil Drops ($10) to muss things up just a touch “which brings a modern vibe to the finished look,” he says.

Friendly Hair

Photo: Getty/Rose Hartman | Graphic: W+G Creative Rose Hartman

When all else fails look no further than the Friends hair queen, Perry says. “The caramel color that Jennifer Aniston had with those bright money pieces around her face is equally sexy and cool for a brunette who wants a little touch of sun.” Perry often teams with Gillin to complete the Aniston transformation, such as on Bella Hadid.

The details matter: Gillin notes there are different eras of “Rachel” hair. On Hadid, Gillin referenced a later '90s Jen rather than the early '90s when Aniston’s cut had chunkier layers. But even the "Rachel" has stiff competition now and not from Ross's ex girlfriends. "Girls are rediscovering their flatirons and wearing their hair more like Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler," Gillin says. "Or I could see Jennifer Love Hewitt’s bouncy blowout in Can't Hardly Wait start to replace the long lived beach wave."

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