Big hair

Big hair is a term that can refer to hairstyles that emphasize large volume or largely styled hair. Big hair was popular in the late 1970s, as popularized by Dolly Parton and Diana Ross, a development from earlier bouffant styles. The term is also used in the punk, glam, goth and alternative cultures and is particularly associated with alternative fashion of the 1980s, or inspired by the period. In either usage, "big hair" in modern times generally suggests an eye-catching, untidy, tangled, voluminous hairstyle, worn by conformist women in the 1970s and non-conformists of all sexes into the early and mid-1990s.

Less commonly, "big hair" can refer to any style that incorporates a great deal of height and/or volume.

History of big hair

Big hair has been a cultural trend and fashion icon throughout the span of centuries. Big hair can be achieved by the use of wigs, hair tools or hair products.

17th and 18th centuries

Wigs were popular in high society from the mid-17th to the late-18th centuries. Royalty, judges and high level officials wore wigs. Aristocrats were also known for wearing wigs as wigs were expensive during those times and needed maintenance. Powdered wigs were also worn, starting from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the first half of the 17th century, especially in France, men of all classes wore their hair long and preferably curled. When Louis XIV of France started compensating for his receding hairline with long, curly wigs around the mid-1600s, they became fashionable amongst the aristocracy and further developed in colour and style over the next 150 years. Women started to embrace elaborate powdered wigs in the 18th century as well, and the excesses of these hairstyles, sometimes even carrying miniature constructions (such as boats, and castles, executed in expensive materials such as gems, precious metals and silks), were a favourite subject among caricaturists at the time.

20th century

Big hair became popular in Western culture during the 1950s and 1960s with bouffant hairstyles. The beehive hairstyle's popularity spanned the 1950s and 1960s. There are many iconic examples from popular culture, among them the 1961 movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's", the Star Trek character Janice Rand and, to a lesser extent, the I Dream of Jeannie television show.

During the 1960s and '70s, big hair became a synonymous with the stage persona of a number of female country music performers, with such artists as Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson and Dottie West becoming known for their teased, sprayed mountainous hairstyles.

The afro hairstyle became widely popular not long after the beehive's decline. Seen by many as a repudiation of the use of hair straighteners to mimic the straightness of Caucasian hair, the afro became culturally symbolic during the 1960s and 1970s in connection to the growth of the Black Pride and Black Power political movements and the emergence of blaxploitation films and disco music.

During the 1980s and early 90s, big hair became a trend with styles such as the mullet, mohawk and "glam metal hair" (large hairstyle worn by Metal music groups). Large hairstyles were achieved with the use of hair spray, hair gel and hair mousse. Teased and permed hairstyles were not uncommon. Some music groups that promoted the big hair 1980s hairstyles included Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Poison, Guns N' Roses, and Twisted Sister. Alternative music groups also sported big hairstyles including the mohawk. Alternative musicians that wore big hair hairstyles include Robert Smith of The Cure, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & the Banshees, Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins and Johnny Slut of Specimen. The characters in the 80s television show Dynasty also displayed large hairstyles. Many characters in the 1988 film "Hairspray" exhibit such coiffure.

The 1990s were not defined by big hair hairstyles, but a short-lived interest in afro hairstyles resurfaced. Instead, the early 1990s had some influence of volumious hairstyles of the '80s but the later portion of the decade reflected decidedly smoother hairstyles. Moving towards the twenty-first century perms became significantly less popular as mainstream culture began to favor straight hair.Fact|date=March 2008


Depending on the specific style, hairstyles in the big hair categories may require a number of styling, cutting, or treatment techniques. Styling of punk and alternative big hair styles often requires backcombing (teasing) and the liberal application of styling aids such as hair spray and hair gel, often in combination with the use of hair dryers. Crimping irons, perms, hair rollers, or other techniques may also be required.

External links

* [ 1960s bouffant hairstyles]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • big hair — /bɪg ˈhɛə/ (say big hair) noun Colloquial hair styled to add volume …   Australian English dictionary

  • big hair — big′ hair′ n. clo long hair worn teased and sprayed • Etymology: 1985–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • big hair — noun : hair that is styled and teased to occupy an unusually large amount of space above and around the head * * * long hair worn teased and sprayed. * * * big hair noun Hair in a bouffant style • • • Main Entry: ↑big * * * n. informal a bouffant …   Useful english dictionary

  • Big hair — hair styled to add volume …   Dictionary of Australian slang

  • big hair — noun Date: 1978 hair that is styled and teased to occupy an unusually large amount of space above and around the head …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • big hair — long hair worn teased and sprayed. * * * …   Universalium

  • big hair — Australian Slang hair styled to add volume …   English dialects glossary

  • big hair — n American a spectacular teased or bouffant female hairstyle. This Americanism, dating from the 1950s, began to be used in other English speaking areas in the 1990s, usually sarcastically …   Contemporary slang

  • big hair house — (BIG.hayr hows) n. A house that has a garish style and that is overly large compared to its lot size and to the surrounding houses. Example Citation: Yet the newest residential rage in Dallas is the antithesis of the traditional neighborhood: the …   New words

  • hair band — I. /ˈhɛə bænd/ (say hair band) noun → headband. Also, hairband. {hair + band2} II. /ˈhɛə bænd/ (say hair band) noun Colloquial a music band of which members typically have b …   Australian English dictionary

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