This Is The Evolution Of The "It" Hairstyle Over The Years

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Blame it on the endless stream of pictures on social media, but in 2016, tracking celebrity hair changes has become a full-blown sport that requires up-to-the-minute refreshing. Like many beauty nerds worth their weight in dry shampoo, we do our very best to follow — and share — hair trends as they happen. It’s a lot. But which of these chops rank as the most covetable in history?

We took this question to some of the biggest hair pros in the biz, who revealed which styles have become the most requested by clients over the past 30 years (along with behind-the-scenes stories of how they came to be). Some of the cuts ahead were done by the stylists who picked them, while others have simply been around for years thanks to their mass appeal. Among them are Sally Hershberger’s shag cut for Meg Ryan, Garren’s chop for Karlie Kloss, and, of course, looks like The Rachel and Halle Berry's "spunky" pixie — all the way to modern shags and lobs from stylists like Anh Co Tran and Jen Atkin. Suffice it to say, there are some cult-status cuts ahead.

Are we pining for one of the most zeitgeist-y cuts on the planet? You bet your ass (and chances are you are, too). Peep the timeline of game-changing cuts ahead, and get ready for a major dose of hair inspo — just in time for the New Year.
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Photo: Images Press/Getty Images.
The Year: 1988
The Cut: Long pixie
The Woman: Linda Evangelista

Back in 1988, Linda Evangelista was just another model with long, dark-brown hair — until she allowed it to be cut for a shoot. According to Vogue, legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh suggested the cut. The resulting long pixie, cut on the spot by editorial stylist Julien d’Ys, not only helped catapult Evangelista to the next stage of her career (ahem, supermodel-dom), but became the badass chop to copy.

“Everyone had that super-long hair in the '90s, [but] Linda Evangelista was one of the first prominent celebrities to make that big change and own it,” says Robert Sherman, senior stylist at Fekkai at The Mark Hotel in New York City. “In the '90s, if you had this pixie, it’s because you were making a statement. These are the photos women bring into the salon.”
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Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images.
The Year: Early '90s
The Cut: Crop cut
The Woman: Princess Diana

"I had the privilege of working with Princess Diana for several years, and when I cut her hair short following a Vogue shoot, it became an iconic hair moment,” shares Sam McKnight, a stylist and author of Hair by Sam McKnight. For the shoot, McKnight had given his famous model the illusion of short hair by tucking shoulder-length pieces into her tiara. Diana so loved the look that she asked McKnight to do the cut. And it quickly became one of the most sought-after looks around the world. [Ed. note: This isn't the exact image, although it was taken very close to this date.]

“My world went a little crazy for a while afterwards, as suddenly the princess' image was everywhere and the world's media were talking about her new haircut and about me — even on the front page of The Times! Diana looked incredible, of course, and the haircut became much-copied thereafter."
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The Year: 1993
The Cut: Pixie
The Woman: Halle Berry

“I just see myself as a short-hair, spunky kind of person,” Halle Berry once told InStyle magazine. It’s no wonder the actress has tried many variations on the spunky pixie during the past two decades. “But it’s one of the first iterations of her signature cut — textured and piece-y, rather than slick — that’s most iconic," says its creator, celebrity stylist and co-owner of Pasadena, CA’s Salon Sessions, Neeko Abriol.

“If it's cut correctly to the texture and lifestyle of the person, [going] short is probably the most impactful decision a woman can make,” Abriol says. “It's almost like a rebirthing — there’s nothing to hide behind. To tell yourself, 'I don't need long hair' is an empowering statement. And I think every woman that has ever requested short hair was in that moment of, 'I want people to look at me in the eye, not at my outfit or anything else.'”

When the actress decided to make the chop in the early '90s, her stylist says it was for similar reasons. “Halle wanted to come out and have it be all about her as a person. She wanted people to see her character, not just her features,” he recalls.
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Photo: Ron Galella/Getty Images.
The Year: 1995
The Cut: The Rachel
The Woman: Jennifer Aniston

Before #hairgoals, there was hair envy. And in the '90s, legions had it bad for Jennifer Aniston — all thanks to a cut done by her longtime stylist Chris McMillan. The long, choppy cut showcased face-framing layers and came to be known as The Rachel, after Aniston’s character on Friends.

“That moment changed hair cutting and styling,” recalls Jon Reyman, founder of Jon Reyman Pro and Spoke & Weal. “We were using flat irons more than ever and layering in a whole new way. This was a big change, a dramatic change from heavy hair to light, face-framing layers. It’s definitely one of the most requested cuts in my 20 years of cutting.”
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Photo: Bob Grant/Getty Images.
The Year: 1996
The Cut: Layered shag
The Woman: Meg Ryan

Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon... There’s a long lineage of actresses who have been labeled as “America’s sweetheart.” And they all seem to share the same hair: long, shiny, and straight. But if you’re Meg Ryan in the '90s, you buck convention by getting a choppy, short cut — thanks to stylist Sally Hershberger — and the world follows suit.

“I’ve been doing this cut for a long time, and to this day it's the most requested from my clients,” says Hershberger, celebrity stylist and cofounder of the Sally Hershberger | Tim Rogers Salon. “We made hair history with this trend in the '90s, and it became so popular all over the world. It was the perfect style for an edgy, no-nonsense woman.” Hershberger says the cut has made a huge comeback this year.
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Photo: Kevin.Mazur/INACTIVE/Getty Images.
The Year: 1999
The Cut: Long, textured, messy curls
The Woman: Sarah Jessica Parker

Little got between a woman and her straightening iron in the '90s. That is, until a little show called Sex and the City came along. In season 2, Sarah Jessica Parker’s curls and texture were played up, thanks to lived-in styling and long layers that beefed up the volume.

“Her hair seemed to symbolize what her character was experiencing on the show,” recalls Aaron Grenia, a stylist and cofounder of IGK Hair. “This cut really showcased her natural hair texture and waves, and was super-sexy and free, which was exactly what her character was experiencing being single in New York City.”

It may seem like a no-brainer now, but Carrie Bradshaw’s hair (and Carrie fever) also helped change the way we thought about styling our curls. “We saw a lot of women in salons start copying her and transitioning from trying to control or transform their curls to embracing their natural hair,” Grenia says. And that’s something that’s stayed in style ever since.
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Photo: Tom Kingston/Getty Images.
The Year: 2002
The Cut: Curly lob
The Woman: Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker’s long and voluminous curly mane was a huge part of her character’s free-wheeling identity on Sex and the City. So when she turned up in season 4 with a new gig at Vogue and more manicured curls cut into a lob, viewers were shocked — and smitten.

“We still see curly girls in [the] salon today that use Carrie's photo as their inspiration,” Grenia says, noting that the shoulder-length cut (and purposefully grown-out roots) not only looks put-together, but is low-maintenance, too.
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Photo: Robert Mora/Getty Images.
The Year: 2003
The Cut: Layered bob and fringe
The Woman: Heidi Klum

Both Reyman and Sherman recall the ripple effect that Heidi Klum’s fringed cut made on the masses when it debuted on the cover of Elle in 2003. “Michel Aleman cut this Heidi Klum look in Elle, and needless to say, it was a very big deal,” recalls Sherman. “She had just had major life changes and came out with this amazing look that was so ‘wow.’ This haircut on Heidi changed the way stylists were looking at hair at the time.”

People not only wanted to cop the lash-grazing bangs and long lob, but Klum’s color as well. “The bright white-blond and the strong fringe were so sexy,” Reyman says. “Heidi looked unbelievable. Modern retro. I wanted everyone to have it — and everyone wanted it.”
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Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.
The Year: 2007
The Cut: Pixie cut 2.0
The Woman: Michelle Williams

The pixie cut, of course, is nothing new. But when the right celebrity makes the cut at the right time in the right culture, it has been proven over and over again to have a major impact on hair trends. Think: Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow, Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Michelle Williams.

“When Michelle Williams cut her hair into a pixie, that changed her entire career!" says Sherman. "It caused such a stir because it's such a striking look. [Cuts like this] show off the face and accentuate bone structure. After cuts like these, the number of short cuts I do over the next six months is dialed all the way up.”
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Photo: Frank Trapper/Getty Images.
The Year: 2007
The Cut: Long, layered cut
The Woman: Reese Witherspoon

"One of the most requested haircuts that I've gotten from clients has been the haircut I gave to Reese Witherspoon in 2007,” says celebrity stylist Cervando Maldonado. You know the one: a long, layered look with bangs and so much ease.

“We cut her hair for a movie role, and it unexpectedly became a big hit when she debuted it at the 2007 Golden Globes,” he says, noting that the breezy style broke the rules of the red carpet. “At the time, styles were usually worn a bit more formally. She stepped out with this free, flowing look and chic bangs instantly became a classic. I started receiving requests for the cut immediately, and still get requests to this day for that haircut.”
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Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images.
The Year: 2012
The Cut: The chop
The Woman: Karlie Kloss

It was 2012 when Karlie Kloss famously whacked seven inches off her hair. Dubbed “the chop” by Vogue, the layered cut felt brand-new at the time. But its creator, celebrity stylist and R+Co cofounder Garren, knew better.

“The one to start it was Brigitte Bardot, then Farrah Fawcett, then Kate Moss,” he says of the game-changing, layered cuts that he created for each woman. “Sandra Bullock also made it popular, and it resurfaced when I gave Karlie Kloss the look.”

Most recently, the stylist created a version for Kendall Jenner’s Vogue cover shoot (it was the September issue, after all). “Looks are always being recycled every four to five years, depending on what the clothes are doing,” he says. “You change the look up with fringe, a razor, etc., so it feels new again, but it’s all about timing.” The singular constant? No matter what the decade or who the model, each iteration has sparked a collective desire for that cut.
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Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images.
The Year: 2013
The Cut: Uniform layer cut
The Woman: Tracee Ellis Ross

“She has the best hair on the planet in terms of natural, big, full-textured hair. Not only is she one of my clients, I think she’s a hair icon and her mother is a hair icon,” says stylist Larry Sims of Ross. “Girls on social media will often ask me how to get her shape and texture, the way that it moves, the roundness of her hair.”

So how does he achieve full-bodied hair of such epic proportions? It’s all about the cut. “A great cut, with textured hair specifically, is a cut that looks just as amazing straight. When it goes curly, it takes a gorgeous form — that’s an amazing cut, and that’s what we've been able to do with Tracee and anybody else who has asked for that cut,” he says.

The trick is to trim the hair so that any piece will be even with another if pulled up toward the crown of the head. “When you drop the hair down, it forms this gorgeous round silhouette for your hair,” Sims says.
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Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Images.
The Year: 2014
The Cut: New-school flat top
The Woman: Lupita Nyong’o

No one could accuse Lupita Nyong’o of having basic style — and that’s in large part due to the versatile haircut Sims created for her in 2014. “We singlehandedly were able to revolutionize how Black women rock their hair and what Black women thought they could accomplish with their hair,” he says.

Until that point, many people thought that close-cropped can’t be worn in many ways, but the duo proved otherwise. “We basically gave her shaved sides and left a little at the top that we created and molded into different shapes,” he explains. “People couldn't really wrap their heads around how we came up with so many different looks within one specific haircut. It really showed there is a level of creativity and diversity in terms of being able to switch something so minimal and flip it into so many different styles.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Anh Co Tran.
The Year: 2015
The Cut: The textured lob
The Woman: Many, but it's this image of actress Arielle Vandenberg that went viral

Last year, you couldn’t swipe a finger on Instagram without seeing woman after woman sporting a lived-in lob. “I created the versatile, mid-length haircut to give the wearer tons of movement and texture without taking too much of the bulk,” says celebrity stylist Anh Co Tran.

By now, many celebrities — from Margot Robbie to Kristen Bell — have jumped on the lob bandwagon. But in 2015, Arielle Vandenberg was the first to get the chop from Tran. “She helped to usher in (along with my textured lob) a new era of style — it’s a new take on the classically French, effortlessly undone look.”
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images.
The Year: 2015
The Cut: Layered shag 2.0
The Woman: Kim Kardashian

Celebrity stylist Jen Atkin has styled so much Kardashian and Jenner hair that she’s an honorary member of the family at this point. So it’s no surprise that Kim’s layered shag from last year is one of Atkin’s most requested cuts.

“The Kardashians [and] Jenners are such trendsetters, and I think people were so shocked and impressed when they cut their hair short,” she says. “Shorter hair lengths are refreshing, cool, and relaxed compared to the overly styled, long locks that girls have been wearing for so long.”
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