How To Get 80s Hair

Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

It was just cool hair. We didn’t realize at the time that it would one day be 80s hair.

Cool hair was just cool hair. It was a strange thing about the 80s that we didn’t expect fashion to be different in the future. As we saw it, we were the future, and fashion would only get more 80s as time went on. Think of Sean Young in Blade Runner: those outfits are 1940s on the surface, but the interpretation is exaggerated 80s. Because that’s what we expected–progress, but in more or less the same direction. Our style was the ultimate, the most glamorous, the pinnacle of fashion toward which humankind had been striving for thousands of years. Any great change must have been retrograde. (Which, come to think of it, the 90s kind of were, but I tend to see them now as less backsliding and more retreating from the edge of a cliff.)

You can find examples of 80s hair in movies and magazines, but for the real thing as the common folk wore it, what you want is a high school yearbook from 1988 or so. That’s where you’ll find the giant pouf bangs, the teased perms, the gravity-defying, AquaNet-supported marvels that put 60s back-combing to shame and wrung tears of envy from the wistful ghost of Marie Antoinette.

You too* can achieve these heights–and widths–by following a few easy several fairly labor-intensive steps. So grab your round brush and get ready to ROCK. Here we go.

  1. Grow your hair long and get a spiral perm. It’s possible to work with short and/or straight hair (like those girls in Weird Science whose names I never knew because girls were basically walking rewards in 80s teen movies that did not star Molly Ringwald) but the true Prom Queen 1988 look requires a perm. You can fake a spiral perm with those little bendy rollers that give you really tight ringlets. If you insist on wearing your hair straight, it is crucial that you achieve maximum bang height to compensate.
    • If your hair is naturally very curly, do not get bangs. Even in the 80s, there were limits, and no one has ever not regretted very curly bangs.
    • For a more movie-star and less high school look, you can use big hot rollers instead of getting a perm. Don’t think this will fry your hair less. You’re going to want the maximum heat setting. If you can’t smell them working, they’re not hot enough.
    • If you are a fan of Poison or Bon Jovi, a perm is non-negotiable. You need a perm and great big bangs. This helps other kids recognize your tribe so they don’t mistakenly invite you to an R.E.M. show.**
    • If you want to be New Wave, this guide is not for you. Just spray your roots for height and keep your bangs flopped forward so that no one ever sees the right side of your face. Like the moon, you are nocturnal, and you must protect your dark side.***
  2. Gather your tools and ingredients:
    • A clarifying shampoo
    • Your preferred combs and brushes
    • 1 can mousse (any brand, just so it’s sticky) OR 1 bottle Aussie Sprunch spray****
    • 1 can AquaNet OR 1 bottle Aussie Freeze spray
    • A blow-dryer with a diffuser
    • A curling iron
  3. Wash your hair twice. Then apply conditioner, leave on for your preferred time, and rinse it all out. I mean rinse. Soft, shiny hair full of healthy natural oils will not give you the volume you need. Pull your hair through your fingers. If it squeaks like a frightened rodent, it’s clean enough.
  4. Saturate your hair with mousse or Aussie Sprunch.
  5. Dry your hair upside-down with a diffuser while scrunching to make curls.
  6. Blow-dry your bangs, using a round brush to make a circular pouf. It should resemble a doughnut with a very small hole.
  7. Lift the top half of your bang doughnut with a round brush and spray with AquaNet or Aussie Freeze. Allow to dry before removing the brush, or sizzle it dry with a white-hot curling iron for true immobility. Repeat with the bottom of the doughnut, curling downward. You should be able to bounce a quarter off your bangs.
  8. Hold your hair out at the temples and spray, spray, spray. For straight hair, you want it to stand out twice as far to compensate for the lack of curl volume. These are your magical wings of fashion, which will lift you to soar above the crowd, and, if sprayed properly, protect you from bullets. Never let your magic wings fall!
  9. Maximize volume. If this were the 60s, you could back-comb it, but this is the 80s, so here’s what you want to do: bend forward at the waist and spray the shit out of the roots. Allow to dry or blast with a diffuser on the “melt steel” heat setting.
  10. Stand up, flip your hair back, and give it a finishing cloud of hair spray. If you have a spiral perm, you should be able to see light through your hair. If you have naturally curly hair, sweep it sideways over your head like Jami Gertz in The Lost Boys. See? This is why those with natural curls could get away with skipping bangs. Remember: if your hair shines, it needs more spray.

That’s all! I guess it didn’t seem like much at the time, but when I look back now I can’t believe how much time we spent getting our hair big. And I didn’t even get into crimping.

I didn’t do the long hair thing past freshman year, but I can’t claim it was because I was too cool. It was because I got a lopsided bob to go with my (for some reason) mismatched earrings. While I didn’t do pouf bangs after that one year, I DID spray and scrunch for maximum volume. To my adolescent eyes it looked a bit French. I was taking French at the time and I was very into my idea of France–a shadowy, vaguely Bohemian, entirely American vision constructed from fashion magazines, post-Impressionist paintings, biographies of poets, and Lost Generation novels.

Around 1990, people began to show up at school with mushroom cuts instead of feathers. The 90s heroin-chic waif look came creeping in, and here and there you can see smaller hair in a snapshot here and there. But that’s another story.

New Wave Disaster

Yeah, this is me. I got that haircut ON PURPOSE.

* I’m a bit embarrassed that this particular article will be helpful only to those with European-style hair (and very bad taste), but I don’t have the experience, or the arrogance, to start telling women of color how to do their hair (or the sense to recommend that the 80s be forgotten forever). Back to the list.

Yeah, this is me. I got that haircut ON PURPOSE.
** If you’re about to tell me that you liked both Poison and R.E.M., you were probably a band nerd and played by different rules anyway. If you liked both and were not a band nerd, well, there’s nothing much I can do about your lack of commitment. Sure, Laurie, whatever.

*** I think to critics the term New Wave still applied mostly to bands like the Talking Heads, but at my school it meant a sort of proto-goth. If you were New Wave, you liked The Cure and Siouxsie. I understand now.

**** I highly recommend Aussie products for the full experience. A bottle of Sprunch is like a little purple TARDIS, bursting with a sweet fruity scent that’s guaranteed to transport you back in time to the second row of a George Michael concert (rest his soul). I gotta have faith.

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