The Flamboyant & Ecstatic Era of 1980s Mens Hair Fashion

1980s mens hair fashion

The 1980s mens hair fashion in the United States was a vibrant and expressive era that reflected the bold and extravagant spirit of the decade. This period was marked by a diverse range of hairstyles that broke away from the more conservative styles of previous decades.

This era of fashion was characterized by its boldness, diversity, and influence from music and media. It was a decade where self-expression through hair reached new heights, with styles ranging from the big and voluminous to the sleek and polished, all contributing to a unique and memorable era in fashion history.

1980s mens hair fashion

Here are some key aspects that made 1980s mens hair fashion special

Big Hair and Bold Volume

One of the most defining features was the emphasis on volume. Inspired by the glam rock and heavy metal bands of the time, men sought to achieve big, attention-grabbing hairstyles. This often involved extensive use of hair products like mousse, hairspray, and gel to create lift and hold. Styles like the mullet, which was short in the front and sides and long in the back, became iconic. The mullet symbolized the era’s rebellious and carefree attitude and was sported by celebrities from rock stars to athletes.

Influence of Hollywood’s Music and Media

The music scene heavily influenced men’s hair fashion in the 1980s. Bands like Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, and Van Halen popularized long, voluminous hair that became synonymous with rock and roll. Meanwhile, pop icons like Michael Jackson and Prince set trends with their unique and often elaborate hairstyles. The emergence of MTV in 1981 also played a crucial role in shaping hair fashion. Music videos became a major platform for showcasing the latest styles, making it easier for trends to spread and gain popularity.

Diverse and Eclectic Styles

The 1980s mens hair fashion was a decade of experimentation and variety in men’s hairstyles. Beyond the voluminous rock styles, there were also sleek and polished looks inspired by new wave and punk movements. The punk scene introduced edgy, unconventional hairstyles such as mohawks and brightly colored hair, challenging traditional norms and embracing individualism. New wave bands like Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls brought forward more avant-garde styles, featuring asymmetrical cuts and innovative shapes.

Business and Casual

While many styles of the 1980s were bold and extreme, there were also popular looks that catered to more conservative tastes, especially in professional settings. The “business in the front, party in the back” concept of the mullet allowed for a balance between work-appropriate and leisure styles. Also, the yuppie (young urban professional) culture popularized more refined and clean-cut hairstyles, such as the slicked-back look, often achieved with gel for a sleek, sophisticated appearance. This style was epitomized by characters in popular TV shows and movies, like Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street.”

Technological and Cultural Shifts

Advancements in hair care technology during the 1980s made it easier for men to experiment with their hair. A wide range of products became available, from volumizing shampoos and conditioners to styling tools like hairdryers and curling irons. This accessibility encouraged men to try new looks and maintain elaborate styles.

1980s mens hair fashion

The Inimitable Hairstyles That Changed The 1980s Mens Hair Fashion


The 1980s mens hair fashion was a transformative period for men’s hairstyles in the United States, marked by bold experimentation and a departure from the more conservative looks of previous decades. This era witnessed the emergence of several iconic hairstyles, influenced by the music, television, and film industries, as well as the broader cultural movements of the time. Here are some of the most prominent and popular men’s hairstyles of the 1980s:

The Mullet

Perhaps the most iconic hairstyle of the decade, the mullet featured short hair on the front and sides with long hair flowing down the back. Popularized by rock stars and athletes, the mullet was famously dubbed as “business in the front, party in the back.” Celebrities like Billy Ray Cyrus and actors in TV shows helped cement its place in 80s culture.

The Mohawk

Although primarily associated with punk culture, the mohawk crossed over into mainstream fashion in the 80s. Characterized by a strip of long hair running down the center of the scalp with the sides shaved, the mohawk was a radical departure from conventional styles and a bold statement of individuality in the 1980s mens hair fashion.

Big Hair and Perms

Influenced heavily by the glam metal bands of the time, such as Poison and Mötley Crüe, men’s hairstyles became larger and more voluminous. Perms were used to add curls and body, creating a full, bushy look. This style often involved significant use of hairspray to maintain the height and volume.

The Flat Top

Characterized by a flat, level plane on the top of the head, this hairstyle was particularly popular among African American men and was a staple in hip-hop culture. Artists like Kid ‘N Play and athletes like Grace Jones brought the flat top into mainstream popularity.

The Jheri Curl

Another significant style in the African American community in the 1980s mens hair fashion was the Jheri curl, a glossy, loosely curled look made famous by celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. This hairstyle required significant maintenance, involving specific gels and lotions to maintain its signature shine and curl pattern.

The Rat Tail

A more niche yet distinctive look was the rat tail, where the hair is cut short except for a long, thin section at the nape of the neck. This hairstyle was often seen as a rebellious or countercultural statement, embraced by some subcultures and younger men looking to stand out.

Spiky Hair

With the advent of punk rock and new wave music, spiky hair became a symbol of defiance and individuality. Musicians like Billy Idol and actors in teen movies frequently sported this edgy look, which was achieved using strong-hold gels and hairsprays.

Slicked-Back Hair

The slicked-back style, reminiscent of the 1950s greasers but with an 80s twist, saw a resurgence thanks to movies like “Wall Street.” This hairstyle was often associated with yuppie culture, portraying a sense of power and control. It required pomade or gel to achieve a sleek, shiny appearance.

Feathered Hair

Although more synonymous with the late 70s, feathered hair continued to be popular into the early 1980s mens hair fashion. This look involved layered, feathered hair, often parted in the middle or to the side and was worn by various celebrities, including David Hasselhoff.

1980s mens hair fashion

The Game Changers of 1980s Mens Hair Fashion


The 1980s was a decade that saw men’s hair fashion take bold and varied turns, influenced by a mix of music, film, sports, and television. Several icons emerged during this era, setting trends that defined the look of the decade.

These icons, with their distinctive hairstyles, not only defined the aesthetics of the 1980s mens hair fashion but also influenced a generation of men who sought to emulate their looks. Whether through the Jheri curls of Michael Jackson, the mullet of Billy Ray Cyrus, or the spiked hair of Billy Idol, these figures left an indelible mark on men’s hair fashion that continues to be remembered and celebrated today. Here are some of the most famous figures who influenced 1980s men’s hair fashion in the USA:

Michael Jackson

The King of Pop was not only a musical icon but also a trendsetter in fashion and hairstyles. His Jheri curl, a glossy and loosely curled hairstyle, became immensely popular in the early 80s. Michael Jackson’s look was widely emulated, especially after the release of his groundbreaking album “Thriller.”

Bon Jovi

The lead singer of the eponymous band, Jon Bon Jovi’s big, voluminous hair epitomized the glam metal look. His flowing locks, often styled in a layered and teased fashion, were iconic of the rock scene and influenced many fans.

George Michael

George Michael was known for his perfectly coiffed hair, often feathered and highlighted. His look was synonymous with the glam and glitz of the 80s pop scene.

Billy Ray Cyrus

Although he rose to fame in the early 90s, Billy Ray Cyrus’ mullet became emblematic of the 1980s mens hair fashion. His “business in the front, party in the back” style was adopted by many and became one of the most recognizable looks of the decade.

David Bowie

Always ahead of his time, David Bowie’s ever-changing hairstyles were a source of inspiration. During the 80s, his looks ranged from the sharp, spiked hair associated with his “Scary Monsters” era to the more refined, slicked-back style of his “Let’s Dance” period. Bowie’s ability to reinvent his image continually influenced fashion and hair trends.

Billy Idol

The punk rock star was known for his spiky, bleached blonde hair. Billy Idol’s rebellious look, combined with his sneer and leather outfits, made him a poster boy for the punk and new wave movements.


With his flamboyant style and impeccable sense of fashion, Prince was a hair icon of the 1980s mens hair fashion. His curly locks and perfectly groomed facial hair complemented his extravagant wardrobe and stage presence, making him a trendsetter in both music and fashion.