The Rachel, the pixie and space buns: iconic 90s haircuts are set for a comeback – here’s how to recreate them

Few hairstyles brought us as much joy as the greats of the 1990s; and now they’re breaking through to the mainstream once again. Have your pink hair dye handy as we throw it back to some classic 90s looks – complete with a contemporary upgrade. 

The 90s renaissance is reaching its peak. It started with accessories, as we welcomed the return of Alice bands (hello extra day between washes), scrunchies and statement clips. We moved onto flirting with baby bangs and wispy updos over the last year or so and now we’re ready to revisit this decade of legendary haircuts.

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From Bella Hadid working ‘the Rachel’ to FKA Twigs taking Mel B’s space buns to the next level, the fashion pack are already getting in on the action. But are you ready to join them for a trip down memory lane (that leads you straight to the hairdressers)? Just stay away from the All Saints chunky highlights. For now, at least…  

Then: the Rachel

The Rachel was *the* haircut of the 1990s

“The Rachel” needs no introduction; Jennifer Aniston’s Friends haircut, created by Chris McMillan, spawned a million copycats and made “choppy layers” a standard salon request. All about honey highlights and face-framing layers, the style eventually fell out of favour, but it could be time to dig out that hot brush and bring back the feathering once again. 

Now: the Bella

Forget precise blow-dried layers, the modern “Rachel” is more about movement and rich honey tones. Bella Hadid is leading the way with her latest look, which colourist Jenna Perry says was directly influenced by Aniston’s iconic 90s ‘do. We predict big things for “the Bella”. 

Then: box braids

Janet Jackson’s braids-with-band look was an instant hit

A timeless protective style, braids look just as good now as they did in the 90s when the likes of Brandy and Janet Jackson inspired a new wave of box braid fervour. Janet’s legendary braids-plus-white-headband look can be lifted directly from the 90s to today for guaranteed sartorial success.    

Now: braids with a twist

When it comes to box braids, anything goes now, from long, chunky braids to colourful twists – as spotted at Paris Fashion Week. Celebrity references come from Rihanna and Zendaya (above), who lets a braid fall forward as a 90s piecey bang and earns a bonus 90s point.  

Then: space buns

Mel B put space buns firmly on the 90s style agenda

Mel B could fill an entire feature of great 90s hairstyles, from bantu knots to natural curls, but when it comes to copycat-inspiring looks, her space buns (or ‘spice’ buns) definitely deserve a place on the list. 

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Now: space buns upgrade

If you thought you were too old for space buns more than 30 years on from the original style, think again. Jennifer Lopez proved that two buns is better than one, with a look styled by Chris Appleton, leaving the front section of the hair loose (also tapping into another 90s trend, for a double whammy win). 

FKA Twigs also ticked off two 90s trends for the price of one with space buns in a vibrant red hue, worn with side-slicked bangs, that had us itching to reach for the Wella Silvikrin. 

Then: the short bob

Gwyneth Paltrow's short bob sparked a raft of copycat versions

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors bob, in hindsight, looked good mainly because it was worn by Gwyneth Paltrow. Nevertheless, that didn’t deter an army of lookalike cuts in the 90s, spilling into the early noughties and merging seamlessly into the ‘Pob’ in 2006 when Victoria Beckham claimed the look as her own.

Now:  a bob with tousled volume

As with most covetable looks in 2020, the appearance of effortlessness is key to this style’s success. Our short bob icon is US model Hannah Kleit (above), who takes Paltrow’s 90s side-parted bob and makes it infinitely cooler with choppy lengths and a little tousled volume. And when it grows out? We can aim for the Kaia Gerber phase

Then: pigtails

Emma Bunton's pigtails were a staple style statement of the 1990s

Whether it was Emma Bunton’s Baby Spice pigtails or Britney Spears in the Hit Me Baby One More Time video, grown women in pigtails became a thing in the 90s. But surely, 20 years later, we’re past that?

Now: retro pigtails 

Two decades later, and we’re most certainly not over pigtails. In fact, they’re having something of a revival for 2020, with an ironic retro edge

When you think about it, the comeback makes sense. Pigtails are sort of a ponytail split in half for the front view. Since most of our socialising takes place on Zoom at the moment, a hairstyle that looks great from the front and usually a bit crooked from the back is ideal. 

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Our current pigtail icons are Bella Hadid, who opted for the style to vote in the US election last month, and Maya Jama (above). Jama added a 90s hair-wrapped band to her pigtails, in a nod to the style that we worked for special occasions – like non-uniform days – in the actual 1990s.

Then: the pixie crop

Demi Moore rocking the pixie crop back in the day

Pixie crops were the thing in the 90s. From Jada Pinkett-Smith’s bleach blonde curls to Winona Ryder’s nice-girl-goth chop, short cuts were everywhere. We also loved Nia Long’s short crop, Halle Berry’s finger waves and Demi Moore’s Ghost pixie.

Now: the side-swept pixie

Three decades on, and still no haircut turns heads quite like a pixie crop. Pinkett-Smith has shown that this statement cut works at any age, still rocking a bleached pixie in 2020. 

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If you are ready to trial this 90s throwback but want an updated twist, look to Demi Lovato (above), who has blurred 90s and noughties lines with a side-swept grown-out pixie by Amber Maynard Bolt.

Then: fancy high pony

Tyra Banks and her 90s pony brilliance

Let’s be honest: almost everything Tyra Banks did style-wise in the 90s could be lifted and recreated to great success in the 2020s. But perhaps her most iconic look was the styled ponytail, which has been recreated over and over, complete with side-slicked bangs and blow-dried ends. 

Now: throwback evening pony

The ponytail is a forever favourite, not least because it works best on those in-between wash days. Translate Tyra’s high-polished pony to the everyday with a slightly more relaxed take on the trend. We love this curly version of the high pony worn with a scarf for an off-duty feel. 

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If it’s an evening ponytail that you’re looking to bring into the now, look no further than Ariana Grande (above) who is single-handedly flying the flag for ponytail lovers everywhere, and has recreated Tyra’s 90s look almost to a tee.

Then: pink hair

Gwen Stefani made us all think pink

Not many stars experimented with their looks in the 90s quite as much as Gwen Stefani, and not many of her hairstyles turned more heads (for the right reasons) than her ombre pink dye job circa 1999.

Now: pink hint

A year like 2020 calls for finding the rainbow wherever you can. And if that means brightening your day with a bold dye job, so be it. It feels like everyone has trialled pink hair over the last year or so, from Dua Lipa to Lottie Moss (above), and Helen Mirren to Fearne Cotton

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So how can you get in on the trend? Pink hair works best on lightened hair, so blondes or highlighted hair can hit the bottle in full confidence knowing that the colour will fade within a few weeks if you opt for a wash-out dye. And pared-back tones work just as well as Stefani’s brasher hues. We love Kaia Gerber’s dip-your-toe-in approach.

Want more 90s nostalgia? Read about The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reboot or remember the 16 weird things we all remember from playing The Sims. The 90s is the new now, after all.

Images: Getty

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