The Derry Girls looks that make us miss the Nineties

Posted by
Kelly Allen

With its scrunch-dried hair, Alice bands and berry lipsticks, Channel 4’s hit comedy is making one Northern Irish writer nostalgic for the looks of her past.

I grew up in Northern Ireland. At a time in my life when I was trying to uncover my identity, society and politicians were dividing my friends by religion into ‘us and them’.

Even so, we realised that whether you were Catholic or Protestant, we all had the same worries and woes of being teenagers: mainly trying to pull boys at school discos, and making our pocket money stretch to buying No 7’s Bon Bon lipstick or the perfect blue shimmery eyeshadow.

The cast of Derry Girls

This fixation on beauty was one of the reasons that the hit Channel 4 show Derry Girls has struck such a chord with me. The make-up and hairstyles worn by Erin, Michelle and the rest of the girls make me yearn for a time when all I had to worry about was getting the Friday night chippy order right, and I could threaten to ring Childline if my mum was annoying me.

Here are some of the Derry Girls’ best looks… 

Erin’s Bottle Blonde Hair

Erin Quinn, played by Saoirse Jackson

Despite hours of begging, our mums wouldn’t splash out on expensive foils so, like Erin, we had to rely on Sun-In to achieve golden blonde locks – it left our hair as dry as straw with a strange yellow tinge.

Michelle’s Scrunch-Dried Hair     

Erin (Saoirse Jackson) and Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) 

If you weren’t lucky enough to have naturally curly hair then a perm was a must-have to achieve hair like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

The secret to scrunch-dried hair was piling the mousse on to achieve the ultimate wet look. However, no-one could touch it once it had dried as it would actually crunch. 

As Michelle knows, it’s a look best accessorized with a high pony tail, scrunchie and giant silver hoop earrings – not school uniform-appropriate, but she’s a rebel (and so was I).

Clare’s Alice Bands

Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan)

Nineties girls were making Alice bands cool long before Blair Waldorf even considered ruling the Upper East Side in Gossip Girl.

They came in every colour and were perfect for keeping your hair in place, even if they were so tight they left indentations on the side of your head.

Erin’s French Plait

Without YouTube videos to teach us how to create fancy hair styles, we were stuck with our mums moaning at us, “What do you think I am? A hairdresser?” every time we asked them to do anything fancier than bunches. 

For a special occasion we pleaded to be taken to the hairdressers to get a French plait for a fiver – but that would just get the response: “Do you think I’m made of money?”

Michelle’s Berry Lipstick

The lipstick of the Nineties

With limited pocket money (it had to stretch to make-up, Tammy Girl tops and 10p worth of pick ’n’ mix on the way home from school) we had to look after our belongings. Michelle’s discontinued berry lipstick was so important to her that she even stole it from a dead nun’s handbag. 

For those with pasty Irish skintones, frosted lipsticks like Michelle’s were the obvious choice. They covered our permanent blue tinge from living in Derry where the temperature is always freezing.

Orla’s Emo Eyeliner

Orla McCool (far left), played by Louisa Harland

Cat’s eyes? Winged eyeliner? Kids in the Nineties were oblivious to the possibilities of well-applied product: instead, we piled on the eyeliner as thickly as possible then smudged it to look grungy. The final result made us look as if we hadn’t taken our make-up off for a week.

Aunt Sarah’s Sunbeds

No-one seemed to worry about skin cancer in the Nineties – plus, with the Baltic Northern Irish weather, a sneaky sunbed would give your pasty white skin a bit of a glow. 

Of course, there was always the risk of a bomb scare while you were tanning, meaning that half the city would see you wrapped in a towel during the evacuation. But it would be worth it. 

Images: Channel 4