Popular Hairstyles of the 1970s
Hairstyles of the 1970s—that might sound like a contradiction in terms, since the 1970s are often correlated with fashion at its worst. Hairstyles in that decade ranged from the plain to the elaborate, and every stop in between. At the decade’s beginning, the most popular style for women was the Marcia Brady special—long and straight. The hair was all one length, parted down the center and fell past the shoulders.
Girls did wear ponytails, but the usual way of restraining the hair was with large barrettes on either side. These could be gold or silver tone metal, brightly colored plastic that coordinated with the girl’s outfit, or even made of wood. Another way of wearing the long hairstyle was to pull a section back from either side, bring the two sections together in the back, securing them with a large barrette or the hair clasps made of wood or leather, featuring a wooden or plastic stick running through either end, to secure the hair back. A single long braid in the back was also popular, and this was often looped up and secured at the nape of the neck for a dressy look.
Singer Cher, with her famously long and thick hair, which she was constantly throwing back over her shoulders, brought the style into the couture crowd. Sleek up-dos for formal occasions became popular. Long, straight hair was so popular; in fact, that girls with curly hair would iron their hair straight, in those days before relaxers and hair straightening devices became popular. Girls who preferred shorter hair often wore a modified flip, right at shoulder length, parted in the middle and again, secured with barrettes on the sides. Headbands were popular for both long and short hair, and came in a variety of materials, colors and designs.
One hairstyle revolution came with the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics and the advent of figure skater Dorothy Hamill. Her short, modified Dutch boy cut was called "The Wedge" and took salons and teen magazines by storm. Girls and women all over were bringing in pictures of Dorothy, wanting her stylish, sassy cut. The hair was one length in the front, with soft bangs, and cut into the "wedge" shape in the back. It had a lot of movement and seemed ever so much easier to style and maintain than the long, straight hair, which required frequent, painful brushing.
It is one of the great mysteries of womanhood that the style so effortlessly achieved in the beauty salon is nearly impossible for the owner of the new style to replicate. Thus it was, that, although the wedge cut was hugely popular, rarely did it look on anyone else as it looked on Dorothy Hamill. Other celebrities had their influence on 70s hair, most notably actress Farrah Fawcett and her "Farrah flip." Again, fashion magazines were crammed with cutting diagrams and tips on how to achieve the carefully tousled, longish, feathered-back look that Fawcett made so popular.
Hairstyling products like Dippity-Doo, formerly the sole realm of the blue-haired set, came into vogue with younger women as they tried to maintain the "winged" look in their own hair. The hairspray companies found a gold mine as they were now able to sell their product to the teenybopper crowd, when before, only older women who went to the salon once a week had much to do with hairspray. It was essential in keeping the Farrah flip tamed, however. The other two actresses on the television series "Charlie’s Angels" also had their influence on hairstyles. Girls whose hair wasn’t of sufficient thickness to achieve a Farrah quality might opt for the more sophisticated, medium-length body wave Jaclyn Smith wore, or the smart, modified pageboy sported by Kate Jackson.
Body waves were another hair innovation of the 70s. Home permanents had been around a long while, but they mostly achieved a curly crop much like Freda’s in "Peanuts." The extra-large rollers and the advent of the "Rave" body wave brand made home perms common. Women no longer had to come out of a perm looking like a French poodle. When all they wanted was more body, and a gentle wave, the hair people had the answer with the home body wave. This in turn gave rise to shampoos formulated especially for permed and/or colored hair, along with conditioners and other hair treatments made specifically for women who permed.
Hairstyles for African-American women changed in the 70s as well. In the early 70s, they often wore long, straight hair, but many also had the large afros made popular by political activist Angela Davis. A smaller afro came into fashion in the middle 70s, as interest in African culture, stirred by the miniseries "Roots," was born. African-American women often wore scarves, and are one of the few segments of American women who still routinely wear dressy hats. Up-dos became popular as well. Even the body wave, modified for the needs of their hair, became popular among African- American women.
For white girls who couldn’t manage a Farrah flip, actress Valerie Bertinelli was a lifesaver. Her "wings," not as extreme as Farrah’s, were much easier to achieve, and she wore a layered hairstyle which popularized that cutting style for years to come. Disco brought in short, kicky styles that worked on the dance floor, but the longish Farrah hair still remained popular — even with fashion dolls. Punk rock had women dyeing their hair pink and spiking it into Mohawks, a’ la Wendy O. Williams. Experimentation seemed the order of the day, and it wasn’t surprising that women again clamored for a new hairstyle when the movie "10" was released in 1979 and actress Bo Derek’s cornrows were revealed. Long a popular African-American style, Derek popularized the arduous process for white women. A good cornrow style might take up to three hours to complete and would easily cost in the neighborhood of $100-$150, even in a middle-class suburb.
Hair in the 70s ran the gamut: short and curly, long and straight, long and tousled. Almost everything done with hair showed up in that decade. And the Farrah flip was only the precursor to 80s hair: the bigger, the better.