POPSUGAR Celebrity

18 Moments in Hair History That Changed the World

Apr 30 2013 - 1:47pm

Ever wonder who invented hair dye or who kicked off the resurgence of natural hair? Without these people, your hair could be decidedly different today. Read on to see who's behind some of the biggest moments in styling in honor of National Hairstyle Appreciation Day.

Source: Getty [1] and Corbis Images [2]

Marcel Grateau

Marcel Grateau may yet be the most influential man in modern hairstyling. In 1872, he invented the curling iron, a variation of which many professional stylists still use today. And if you've heard of the Marcel Wave hairstyle, you should know that the crimped style bearing his name was popular well into the 1930s.

Eugene Schueller

L'Oréal founder Euguene Schueller created modern hair color in his French apartment in 1907. Over a century later, women use a similar synthetic dye in their own homes.

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Madam C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker was an one of the most successful black women of the early 1900s. In her own home, she created a sulfur-based shampoo to combat hair loss. She later spread her business to salons, hair schools, and nationwide product distribution. She is also responsible for making hair straightening popular among black women.

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Louise Brooks

When you picture the 1920s flapper girl, you imagine the cropped bob and blunt bangs of film star Louise Brooks. Her short cut illuminated the independence of women from long hair (and a patriarchal society).

Jean Harlow

Before Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow was the platinum blonde bombshell. At the same time in hair history, Anita Loos published her novel-turned-movie, Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Seems like fair-haired maidens have been having more fun since the Roaring Twenties and beyond.

Christina Jenkins

In 1951, Christina Jenkins submitted a patent "hairweeve." A former wig company employee, Jenkins created a new process of adding synthetic extensions by sewing hair onto cornrows. Similar to Madam C.J. Walker, she opened her own cosmetology school to teach others her technique.

Bettie Page

A hair retrospective wouldn't be complete without the most infamous fringe of all time. Midcentury pinup girl Bettie Page was most known for her risqué modeling, but her blunt bangs remain popular to this day. Her current copycats include Dita Von Teese [5] and Katy Perry [6].


Twiggy is the perfect example of how a haircut can change your entire look — or career. After a cropped cut at the famed House of Leonard salon, her modeling career took off. Eventually, she became the face of the mod movement.

Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon's five-point cutting style [7] made him famous in London and beyond. Sassoon styled many famous women like Dionne Warwick and Nancy Kwan (pictured). And his precise short bobs ushered in the wash-and-wear movement of the 1960s.

Source [8]

Mia Farrow

One of Sassoon's star clients was Mia Farrow. Her short style in Rosemary's Baby brought gamine hair to the average woman — while propelling the plot forward too.

Angela Davis

Revolutionary civil rights activist Angela Davis was much more than her Afro. But her hairstyle represented the civil rights and Black Is Beautiful movements in the 1970s. "It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo," she said. Her hair may have been a symbol, but her ideas changed the world.

Sinéad O'Connor

Sinéad's liberating buzz-cut hairstyle seemed to coincide with her strong political and religious views. At the time, flowing locks were still in fashion. The bald style was just one more way Sinéad fought the patriarchy.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail with husband Bill for the 1996 presidential election. While the political power couple focused on the prime issues, some media outlets gave Hillary's hair top billing — much to the chagrin of serious-minded women and politicos everywhere.

Madonna Coffman

In 1997, Locks of Love [9] broke away from its partnership with a wig company to become a nonprofit charity under the helm of Madonna Coffman (right). Coffman suffered from alopecia as a young adult, and then her daughter also developed the condition at 4 years old. Now, Locks of Love provides wigs to hair-loss patients under 21.

Lauryn Hill

When searching for the originator in the recent natural hair revival, you must look to Lauryn Hill. She emerged as the feminine lead in The Fugees and broke Grammy records as a soloist, all while popularizing dreadlocks in the mainstream.

Keri Russell

Remember Felicity? The '90s show suffered a ratings hit when Keri Russell [10] chopped her long curly locks (after an onscreen breakup, of course). Suddenly, hair was given a lot more weight.


In 2006, India.Arie proclaimed "I Am Not My Hair," and the lyric became a theme song for the independently tressed. She debuted her shaved head at the 2006 BET Awards, further proving that even though hair is a woman's crowning glory, she is still a queen without it.

Gabby Douglas

At the 2012 London Olympics, Gabby Douglas became the first African American woman to win the all-around gymnastics gold medal. Unfortunately, much of the spotlight remained on her hair instead of her beam work. The silver lining to that cloud? The then-16-year-old athlete kept her focus on more important things — namely, her record-setting achievements.

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