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1980s hair returns with a twist

Mullet. Mohawk. Pompadour. They're back! And still big, bright and bold, but modified for a look that can change daily.

September 06, 2009|Whitney Friedlander

Poufed, permed or punctuated with pink and purple spikes, the hair styles of the 1980s exemplified the decade of excess.

"It was all about big and extreme," says Snooky Bellomo, who with her sister Tish owns the Manic Panic stores.

Now, with miniskirts, leggings and neon fabrics once again wardrobe staples, ready your Aqua Net: Teases, crimps and other stiff coifs are rising up like "Thriller" zombies.

You won't see reinterpretations of the decade's ubiquitous and unisex perms or Michael Jackson-esque Jheri curls -- today's style savants don't want anything so "rigid," says Redken creative consultant Guido, who styled Marc Jacobs' fall 2009 neon runway show.

But many other '80s 'dos are no longer don'ts. Here's a look at some of the vintage hair styles and modern interpretations.

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The mullet

Although this, um, business-casual style evolved from cuts of the previous decade, fans and members of groups like Guns N' Roses and Quiet Riot ensured the metal mullet's place as a sub-category of what Linda Wells, Allure magazine's editor in chief, calls "one of the more memorable and regrettable hairstyles" of the '80s.

Alli Denning, who owns LikeTotally80s.com, says the mullet was the boy-band look of the '80s. Zac Efron's hair, which is "long in the front but creeps down in the back" is a mix between the Beatles' '60s mop top and an '80s mullet, she maintains.

The mohawk

If you wanted the fun of volume and hair product but without a perm's priss, there was the side-shaved, spiked-on-top mohawk. You could make it interesting with some purple or red. Or maybe a nice leopard print. "Some people even did the faux hawk," says Manic Panic's Tish Bellomo. Slicked back and up, the style "looks cute, but it's not very daring," she says.

Allure's Wells says the modern Mohawk twists seen at runway shows previewing 2009 fall fashion were done with "high teased pieces in the middle and then tight on the sides. They give you that Mohawk look without any razors being involved."

'Closer to God' bangs

Denning, who gave these sculpted round bangs their nickname on her website, considers this "the defining '80s hairstyle," saying the goal was to get bangs as "big and as far away from your scalp as possible."

"It even transcended genders," Denning adds. "On the one hand, you had the Wilson sisters from Heart who had humongous hair, and then you have the 'hair bands' [Poison, Def Leppard] and you have men with that hairdo."

Today, Wells looks to Reese Witherspoon's bangs, where volume is focused on the side of her face.

The Debbie Gibson

The Bellomos say some considered the sprouting, high-side ponytail to be a punk rock look, but they insist that you'd have never found one at CBGB.

Socialite Savannah Miller tried it out last spring, but Denning says that in today's incarnation, you'll more often see a side pony closer to the neck and pulled near one ear.

The fade

Shorn around the sides and high on the head, the fade got its 1980s sensibility from black artists like Grace Jones. And the later in the decade, the higher the hair, says Erica Blevins, who owns the Oh! My Nappy Hair salon chain with her mother, Rosario Schuler. Shaved sides popped back up this summer, with Rihanna, Cassie and others showing a bit of scalp.

Asymmetrical new-wave bobs

Wells says this 'do featured hair "shaved close to the head on one side, and the other side was a traditional bob. It was a totally acceptable buttoned-up hair style on one side and then destroying it and being really punk on the other."

Look to Victoria Beckham or Mary J. Blige for today's version. Wells says you have to be daring for this cut because "they become cartoonish in a matter of seconds."

Pompadours

"It was much more a man's thing in the '80s than it was a woman's," Wells says of the front-end head fluff.

This season's runway shows for women's fall fashion had several sky-high pompadours. Wells says "if it's in a French twist or chignon or even a ponytail, then it can look good" in everyday life.

Crimped hair

Created by sleeping on wet braids or spending hours with a ridged iron, this look heated up in the '70s and made waves by the '80s. For nonbelievers who've traded crimpers for straightening irons, take a look at Prada's models sporting frizzy-crimped hair in fall advertisements.

Finger waves

They are a classic memorialized by black-and-white screen sirens. With '80s adaptations, "you might have a high top with finger waves in the front. You might even have the asymmetrical thing going on and the front being the finger wave. Prince even had finger waves," says salon owner Erica Blevins.

For today's softer, more relaxed versions, see the accidentally-on-purpose styles models wore at Proenza Schouler's spring 2009 runway show.

"The thing about finger waves is if you do them softly and loosely, they're staples," Guido says. "Jeans are never going to go away, the white shirt isn't going to go away." Neither, apparently, will finger waves.

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whitney.friedlander@latimes.com

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