Hair on The Silver Screen— The Iconic Looks

It’s an age old question— does the entertainment world create the trend, or simply magnify trends already in existence? Trend forecasters, marketing experts, and beauty columnists all have their own thoughts on the phenomenon of what makes pop culture so popular in the first place.

This week, we’re covering a lot of ground. While the past few weeks have been focused on how-tos on damage reduction, healthy hair habits, and styling trends, this week is all about diving into inspiration. What better place to look than Hollywood and all of its glory?

The silver screen gives us a lot to explore. From award-winning beauty technicians to unforgettable styles, we’re going to peel apart decades of material and share directly from the creators of the looks themselves.

Why Hair Matters

Part of hair’s beauty is its adaptability. Hair is arguably the most expressive and malleable area of our bodies. It’s a way of communicating about ourselves without words. Styling ourselves based off of a classic look can offer a welcoming familiarity to those around us.

Hair styling also provides opportunities to learn about other cultures and celebrate what makes them unique. While we may be able to identify looks which are niche to a culture, oftentimes we aren’t presented with the details behind why it’s culturally significant. An exciting part of cinematic beauty is the opportunities awarded to stylists to share hair with a story.

Chances are, you haven’t really paid much attention to the hair in the last few movies you’ve seen. Normally most of the audience’s attention is directed toward the performances themselves (and most certainly the eye-catching elements such as set and cinematography). 

Here’s something to think about— in every box office smash at your local theater, each styling choice is deeply intentional. The actress didn’t just show up on set. Glam takes hours and every detail counts. This principal goes even more so for films aiming at nominations for makeup and hairstyling awards.

Looking to get inspired? Wanting to be more in-touch with appreciating talent within cinema? Here’s a little checklist of things to get you inspired and plugged in:

  • Pay attention to which movies and stylists are recognized by The Academy for hair styling categories.
  • Add some movies to your watch list which have been nominated for excellence in hair.
  • Investigate the up-and-coming big names in the beauty world (we’ll be spotlighting some of them later on in this article).


The Memorable Looks

In the 100-plus years of film, audiences have seen dozens of amazing hairstyles— from vintage looks like Vivian Leigh’s southern belle curls in Gone With the Wind to more recent flicks like Anastasia Steele’s wispy bangs in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. Though it’s impossible for us to pick one iconic hair moment, we’ve been able to narrow it down to a few looks that will go down in movie hair history.

Whether you’re looking for a ‘do to cosplay or simply want some inspiration for your own everyday style, these big-screen hair moments are worth watching.

1950-1979 Hollywood

[Images via @jamesdean on Instagram]

  • Heartthrob James Dean made a huge splash in both Hollywood and pop culture during his brief five-year career in the 50s. His bad boy personality hooked everyone right from the start, and his ultra-cool hairstyle is still cited by young guys today as inspiration. Dean sported a dark and handsome longer-on-top look that was effortless and irresistibly attractive. East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause go down in history as his two hit projects.

[Images via @audrey.hepburn on Instagram]

  • Classic Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany's. Based on the Truman Capote’s late 50s novella, Hepburn exudes grace with an immaculate up-do. Jumping off the screen with it’s gentle blonde highlights and subtle bangs, this look is solidified as one of the most notable hairstyles in movie history.
  • Powerhouse Carrie Fisher in her 77’ appearance in the mega-franchise Star Wars. Fisher’s performance has taken on additional significance as a powerful women’s empowerment staple. The double side bun look is instantly recognizable, solidifying Carrie Fisher as an icon in the fight for good. While the traditionalist form of this look may be too inescapably tied to the space opera, the style has created room for more wearable adaptations which are equally as expressive.
  • Olivia Newton-John in Cult Classic Grease with her iconic curled blonde. This big-screen look is a prime example of how extreme volume communicates a larger-than life personality. While the look is now viewed as a period piece— relatively inaccessible for the modern day— it still serves as a template for immaculately styled curls.

[Image via @stevemcqueen on Instagram]

  • Steve McQueen’s Suave Style dominated the box office in the 60s and 70s. His coarse hair was rugged and sun-bleached, but he always seemed to have a poised aura of both confidence and intentionality. He exuded masculinity with his minimally-styled short cut, cementing himself throughout his career as one of the greats.


Post-1980 Hollywood

  • Uma Thurman’s Signature Look in Pulp Fiction made waves in 1994 which still reverberate into pop culture today. The classic black bob cut has made its way onto many a graphic tee and halloween superstore. This cult classic is burned into our collective memory— recognized by even those born after the famous film debuted in theaters.


[Image via @janetjackson on Instagram]

  • Janet Jackson’s Early 90s Looks set an example of youthful style and attention to detail. From her show-stealing locks in the 1993 film Poetic Justice (with the late legend Tupac) to her fantastic hairstyle moments throughout her music career, Janet has always brought her fiery style.


Hollywood Today


[Image via @curtisleejamie on Instagram]

  • Jamie Lee Curtis Power-Play Grey has popped up many times in recent years. From Scream Queens and the 2018 addition to the Halloween movie series, to Knives Out, to a sprinkling of other films, Curtis has embraced a short pixie. We wanted to throw in this graceful addition as both a nod to horror film’s influence on beauty trends, as well as a fantastic portrayal of keeping iconic hair with age.
  • Imitative Beauty has scored big awards with the Academy for the past two awards seasons with both Vice (2018) and Bombshell (2019) winning the night’s highest distinctions for hair and makeup. Both movies used impressive styling to transform actors and actresses into the likenesses of their characters (all based on real life people). These made our list because they put on display the undeniable transformative power hairstyles hold.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Cartoonish Beauty in the 2002 live-action take on Scooby Doo. Gellar transformed the 2D version of Daphne Blake into a real-life red headed dream girl. The bold look contrasted dramatically with Daphne’s signature purple getup. The take on the classic character encapsulated diva beauty and went to show that a dramatic alteration in color (from Gellar’s natural blonde) can be stunning if executed properly.


The Voices Behind Award-Winning Hair 

Who’s behind the iconic looks we see throughout red carpets, Hollywood blockbusters, and magazines? A lineup of incredibly talented stylists, who reach into classic beauty and continuously innovate and reinvent for today’s stage.

The first stylist we’re honing in on is Oscar James. His talent agency (Ken Barboza Associates) summarized his star-studded career as follows:

“Since entering the industry, he has amassed an impressive client list, which consists of top supermodels and celebrities like: Tyra Banks, Iman, and Jennifer Hudson. His work has graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, Essence, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and InStyle Magazine. He is the artist behind popular ad campaigns for: Revlon, L’oreal, [and] Pantene” 

He’s also behind a number of Nicki Minaj’s outlandish magazine editorials. Keep in mind, Minaj is known as a trailblazer for the campish extremism she brings to her music videos, public appearances, and magazine features. Working with such icons is highly competitive and provides true proof of genius.

[Images via Ken Barboza Associates]

James knows Black hair. He’s known for styling clients in traditional African-American style staples— bringing attention to the vastly unappreciated styling category. James is truly a master at flipping back and forth between simplistically classic looks and outlandish avant-gardism. All of this while simultaneously paying tribute to cultural roots.

It’s artists like these who are pioneering the next wave of iconic hair. Need some inspiration? These behind the scenes stars are always cranking out new work, and it’s dying to be noticed. Skim through the portfolio’s of award-winning stylists next time you could use a little hairdo nudge.

Final Notes

Stylistic excellence calls for cutting edge tools. Here’s where AER Dryer comes in. We’ve received rave reviews from beauty insiders who have gotten their hands on our innovative cordless AER Dryer. The reactions all followed similar sentiment— this luxury dryer is going to take the hairstyling industry by storm. We pride ourselves on our flexibility of achieving great hair anywhere.

Eager to try some of the earlier mentioned looks for yourself? Use the concentrator to achieve Uma Thurman’s punchy look in Pulp Fiction. Going for a look with more delicate curls? The AER diffuser helps to keep curl patterns intact. Your toolkit is engineered for styling success.

We’re here to remove as many inhibitors as possible from your styling experience. Whether that looks like guiding you through obtaining healthy hair from the start, to finding the right products, to providing inspiration, to equipping you with state-of-the-art tools, AER Dryer is here to help you explore your best self.