The Best Oscars Hairstyles Of All Time

There's a reason why the Academy Awards act as the grande finale of awards season: There's no higher honor in Hollywood than winning an Oscar. Hell, even being invited holds major industry cachet, so it's no surprise that the best custom-made couture gowns, priceless jewelry, and never-before-seen glam is reserved for this one night.

With tens of millions of people watching, stars have historically used the reach to broadcast their very best glam, but over the last decade it's also become a platform to debut new looks and push the boundaries, both personally and culturally. Remember when Viola Davis went without a wig for the first time or when Zendaya wore faux locs to start a conversation about natural hair? That's just a small piece of the pie.

The point is, the Oscars are the show to watch if you're looking for a transformative moment — and we've rounded up the best ones so far, ahead.

Photo: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
Best Pixies
Halle Berry was the first, and is still the only woman of color to win the lead actress Oscar, so this moment shines for a few reasons. It was also the haircut heard around the world, since Berry was as synonymous for her dynamic short 'do as she was for her award-winning role in 2002's Monster's Ball.
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
"My inspiration came mainly from her short hair, which she cut three months ago for a movie and is now just grown out to a length that can be styled into a sophisticated, yet androgynous look," Enzo Angileri, Charlize Theron's stylist, said in 2013. “I wanted Charlize’s hair to look like she got out of jeans and a T-shirt and put on a gown because the style is so simple and chic.”
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.
"We did the cut during the middle of the night before the Oscars," Nikki Nelms tells us of Janelle Monáe's 2017 pixie. A nod to Berry or a statement about the future of femininity? We may never know the inspiration, but we do know the star loved it. "She was not nervous," Nelms told us. "It was her idea!"
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
Best Waves
Channeling old Hollywood can make a massive statement, too. Renato Campora created Jessica Chastain's textbook 2013 waves by curling her ends for 10 seconds, pinning them right away, and brushing them out.
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Can we talk about the fullness and body of this 'do?! Taraji P. Henson opted for a similar technique in 2017, which also hid her undercut.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
With an edgier take on classic waves, Angelina Jolie's 2009 curls were swept back to display her massive Lorraine Schwartz danglers and intricate body art.
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Best Locs
Despite the critics, we think that Zendaya's faux locs were absolutely breathtaking in 2015. "My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough," she wrote in an Instagram post.
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
It's only befitting that director/producer/screenwriter/all around feminist badass Ava DuVernay wore her auburn locs in a high crown ponytail.
Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images.
Best Buns
Don't be fooled by the rocks that she's got — J.Lo will wear a topknot wherever she sees fit, and did just that on the 2012 carpet.
Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage.
At the same 2012 ceremony, Emma Stone's looped updo (done by Mara Roszak) ushered in the trendy throwback look that never really went away: A glossy French chignon that's elegant and easy to wear.
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
In 2013, Mark Townsend gave Jennifer Lawrence's take on a chignon extra grit and texture.
Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Believe it or not, sporting something like a low, braided bun pushed boundaries in its own way by bringing casual, everyday styles to the most glam red carpet in all the land. This time, on Jessica Alba back in 2008.
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Image.
Best Bangs

Everyone went wild for the bangs that Cervando Maldonado gave Reese Witherspoon a decade ago — and thankfully, they're a mainstay on the star now. We're pulling a full stop on this category, because no one has debuted bangs to the same flurry of attention... maybe ever.
Photo: Jeff Vespa/WireImage.
Best Mini Afros

No one can summarize a personal victory better than the person who lived it — and boy did Viola Davis share her journey with us. "I would not say that I was 100% comfortable until I walked onto the carpet," Davis told us about her groundbreaking moment in 2012, when she walked the carpet without a wig for the first time. "You get to a point in your life when you realize it's not an option to sacrifice your authentic self to get by, because after a while it’s not you. That’s what I reached at that point. How all the women were standing, what they were looking at, the 'it' color... It was way too much pressure to me. It was liberating to be on that carpet on my terms."
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
Believe it or not, but Lupita Nyong'o almost walked the carpet without her 2014 pièce de résistance: that glimmering tiara-meets-headband. "It was optional, and [the stylist] told me, 'You don’t have to use it,' but I was so blown away by the headband and the diamonds," hairstylist Larry Sims told The Cut. "It’s a gorgeous piece. I said, 'I’m going to have to implement this'."
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