Every era has its bangs. From the full fringe of the ‘60s to the ‘70s feathered look to the ‘80s voluminous variants, the face-framing snip serves as an aesthetic marker of a particular season, all of which have their place in today’s freeform beauty world. And as for ‘90s bangs? Those may be the most relevant of all.
“Bangs in the ‘90s were worn almost as an accessory,” says hairstylist Justin Toves-Vincilione. “They were part of the haircut, but they weren’t the focal point—they were there, but they were more of a whisper, while the makeup, hairstyle, and fashion were the shout.”
‘90s bangs were a study in shape, worn blunt and imperfect or wispy and blown round, depending on the desired style. “Wispy pieces make a bang feel ‘90s—something with a little more bend and texture,” says hairstylist Justine Marjan. The soft glamour of the delicate snip was countered by cut-across fringe trimmed for a somewhat unfinished finish, a nod to the decade’s grunge sensibilities. The styles balanced subversiveness and glamour, all with a dose of well-blended subtlety.
Meet Our Expert
Justin Toves-Vincilione is a hairstylist based in Los Angeles.
Justine Marjan is a celebrity hairstylist to stars like Khloé Kardashian.
The best part? Each look feels as fresh and fashionable as it did decades ago. “In my opinion, all 1990s bangs need to make a comeback, and stay for good!” says Toves-Vincilione. Here, 20 styles that prove the point.
“One that has made a huge comeback, along with an incredible evolution, is Claudia Schiffer’s blunt, face-framing bangs,” says Toves-Vincilione. “They have the right amount of softness but are blunt overall with the perfect taper at each end.” The stylist notes that though the style wasn’t necessarily the most common or popular in the decade itself, its introduction served as the foundation for today’s ubiquitous curtain bangs.
The piecey fringe that comes along with an elvish pixie is as enduring as Winona Ryder’s cool girl mystique. A new guard of close crops, shags, and mullets means that adapting this abbreviated frame is as natural a move as the bang itself—and easy to shift to suit your face shape and texture.
The blunt bangs of the ‘90s veered away from the long and modish ilk of decades past, moving above the brow and snipped with a disregard for uniformity. “The blunt and imperfect bang was a fun trend that was popular in the ‘90s, really showcasing that perfectly imperfect hair vibe that was very much the vibe back then,” says Toves-Vincilione. “Slightly uneven, a little choppy, but it made sense!” (Pssst: It still does!)
Toves-Vincilione considers the wispy bang the most memorable of the entire decade. “They were perfectly tapered at the ends, piecey, and curled ever so slightly to suit the face shape,” he says. To get the look, Toves-Vincilione recommends reaching for an extra-large boar bristle round brush (or a size that seems large in comparison to the length of your bangs) and focusing on shape over polish.
Embracing one’s natural texture is more timeless than a trend, and snipping said texture into an organic bang can instantly transform a look. Mariah Carey’s curls are styled just enough to retain their coiled shape but not so coiffed that finger raking and the occasional zhuzh are off the table.
Back in the ‘90s, Cameron Diaz was the queen of the sleek shag, a cut that came with a set of built-in bangs. This deep-sweep fringe frames Diaz’s bone structure to flattering effect while furthering the choppy nature of her cut.
A blunt and ironed bob becomes even more Y2K-reminiscent when enhanced by a strategic snip. Britney Spears’ barely-there bangs are just a few small sections, beginning at the apple of her cheek and finishing in a jaw-grazing layer.
Another precursor to today’s curtain bang, Monica’s hyper-polished fringe plays up an equally sleek updo. Trimmed to taper and accentuate her cheekbones, the singer’s bangs are parted askew, the better to create a sweet, glamorous, and red-carpet-ready frame.
As with Cindy Crawford’s iconic wisped bangs, Sandra Bullock’s fringe is all about that delicate rounded shape. The difference lies in the cut: rather than tapering off, Bullock’s bangs are cut straight across, left separate from her long layers rather than painstakingly blended. Pick your poison—the styling routine remains the same.
Tatyana Ali’s blunt bangs were snipped to arch over the eyebrows in a take on the baby bang trend. To get the look, Toves-Vincilione suggests starting with an ample application of volumizing mousse. “Blow dry your bangs with your hands or a detangling brush if you’re curly, and style your bangs by directionally drying them side to side until they lay forward perfectly,” he says. “Curly hair may require a brush that’s made for smoothing.”
Another variant of bangs made stronger for its curly texture, Sarah Jessica Parker’s spiraled curtain bangs—the shortest portion snipped to fall just past the eye line—lightens up her rounded cut while providing a fashionable frame.
Pamela Anderson’s wispy, mussed bombshell bangs are back in a major way, the voluminous look bringing buoyancy to blowouts and updos alike. “It’s classic, effortless, and easy to achieve,” says Toves-Vincilione, adding that the right bangs can make even the most dramatic of updos feel approachable and authentic. “I love how they are full, voluminous and just frame the face so beautifully,” adds Marjan.
Jennifer Lopez’s long, polished bangs may be from 1999, but they’re just as popular (and make a similarly strong statement) today. The center-separated style is delicate and blended, softening Lopez’s look before combining seamlessly with her medium-length cut.
Related: The Best Bangs for Your Face Shape
Layed blowouts are furthered by the addition of fluffed-up fringe. Michelle Pfeiffer’s long and piecey bangs merge into her long layers for a style that feels at once done and disheveled—and isn’t that the sort of insouciance we’re all after?
The princess of R&B’s polished lengths were afforded some attitude courtesy of a side-swept bang. The quietly jagged finish of Aaliyah’s bangs transmutes the style from simply sleek to cool and stylized.
We all know by now that ‘The Rachel’ has returned, and the iconic, glossy shag is as much about the bang as the ample layers themselves. Thick and choppy, these layers are designed to curve inward to gently hug one’s face.
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s super-segmented bangs take wispy to another level entirely, the look as much (or more) about the negative space than the strands themselves. “To achieve the piecey look, use a matte paste or a lightweight pomade to add definition after styling,” recommends Toves-Vincilione. “Less is more, so work in little by little until you see the definition you want.”
Rather than blown to rounded perfection, Tyra Banks’ bangs are styled straight, the better to showcase their slightly boxy cut. The fringe extends across the browline, stopping in one gaze-grazing segment before giving way to long layers.
Selma Blair’s abbreviated fringe is trimmed to halt blunt above the brow, the slight rounding and piecey separation offering quintessentially ‘90s notes—and playing off Blair’s cut. “To style blunt 90s bangs, I recommend making sure the volume, texture, and movement balance out with the rest of the style,” says Toves-Vincilione.
You can’t talk ‘90s without talking Kate Moss. Though the model spent much of the era sans bangs, this long, deeply parted, and polished fringe feels fresh and exudes effortless glamour.
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