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Last updated: February 16, 2021

Black Hair Through The Decades

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Ethel Moses // Instagram via @lotlitalamont

A Quick History Of Black Hair Innovation & Trends

From the old school bouffants of the early 1900s (we see you, Madam C.J. Walker!) to the natural hair movement we’re embracing today, below, we’re sharing a timeline of iconic hairstyles that embody ✨black girl magic✨ beauty trends throughout the decades. Keep scrolling to see black hair’s past and to learn what some textured hair experts hope to see happen in the future! P.S.—Pretty sure we’re going to need to bring back some of these looks…


1900s to 1910s

The early 1900s to 1910s were a fascinating time in black hair. Where hair salons and products were virtually non-existent, Annie Turnbo Malone debuted her Wonderful Hair Grower products in 1902 and eventually one of her sales girls, Madame C.J. Walker, started her own iconic haircare brand in 1905. In 1909, Garrett Morgan accidentally developed the first chemical relaxer and began selling it to great success.


Popular hairstyles for the time were The Gibson Girl, the pompadour and Marcel waves.


Aida Overton Walker // Instagram via @radiantlydead



1920s to 1930s

The Roaring Twenties brought forth boyishly short blunt, wavy bobs and flapper-loving finger waves while the thirties saw women leaning toward more feminine looks like the brush curl, pin curl and water wave hairstyles.


Josephine Baker // Instagram via @theivyweaver


1940s to 1950s

Black women in the 1940s continued to wear their hair in curls and other popular hairstyles like Victory Rolls or a chignon. Though wigs and hair pieces already existed, the arrival of the 1950s brought with it the first sew-in hair weaving process, developed by Christina Jenkins and patented in 1951. The pompadour bang, the beehive and wigs also rose in popularity.


Eartha Kitt // Instagram via @hippiepowerlove


1960s to 1970s

The 1960s were a revolutionary time for black Americans and the hairstyles reflected that. Big hair was the move with beehives, teased hair and wigs, but the Black Power Movement gave people the confidence to wear their natural hair for the first time. That confidence moved into the 1970s, where afros were everywhere and braids started to make an appearance. But straight hairstyles weren’t completely abandoned with bombshell waves and the Jheri curl still trending.


“The afro has been the style with the highest level of self-love, self-care and bravery because to be who you were authentically was perceived to be radical,” says MIZANI Global Artistic Director and Ulta Beauty Pro Team Member Pekela Riley (@pekelariley) when asked about iconic hairstyles throughout black history.


Tammi Terrell // Instagram via @itzbaumchellebaby



1980s to 1990s

By the 1980s, the Jheri curl really took off in the black community thanks to Comer Cottrell and his partners who formed the Pro-Line Corporation in 1970. Asymmetrical cuts and big curly hair were also defining trends for this decade.


By the 1990s, straight styles were back in fashion. From short pixie cuts to blowouts, women were leaning further back into heat styling. Natural curls were only worn if they were a looser texture while Janet Jackson’s box braids in the 1993 film “Poetic Justice” brought braids back into the forefront.


Salt-N-Pepa // Instagram via @music.before.06


2000s to 2010s

The early 2000s were filled with crimped hair, flipped ends, curly ponytails, micro braids and so many hair accessories! If some of those styles sound like what you’re seeing today, that’s because the trends of this decade are back on top! “The 2000s are definitely back,” says BTC Team Member Kara Williams (@haircolorkilla). “Swoop bangs, super sleek ponytails and buns, laid edges, flips, spiral curls and accessories like scrunchies and hair clips.” 


The last decade saw black women going back to their roots and embracing their natural curls. Relaxer sales started to decline as more and more women embraced wigs, extensions and braids as protective styles. Super short pixies, shaved sides and bobs were popular haircuts along with the mullet and shag, which are creeping back into popularity today. “The mullet and shag are coming back full force,” says Jeannetta Walker-Rodgers (@watchmyhairbounce). “And I’m here for it all!”


Ariana Espinoza // Instagram via @arikills



Here’s What Hairstylists Are Hoping For In 2020 & Beyond!


No More Judgment

I am hoping to continue to see people taking care of their hair and their scalps! I would also love to see less judgement on how black women choose to wear their hair! It doesn’t matter if it’s short, long, natural or relaxed. Let people shine and have the freedom to wear their hair as they want free from judgement,” says Jeannetta.


Genuine Inclusion, Not Just A Subcategory

Magnified inclusion—where black hair is valued in the mainstream, maintains its beautiful identity and is not subcategorized but achieves equal value as every other valued category within the general market,” says Pekela.


More Texture Education

Less texture discrimination and more understanding about how to care for textured hair as a whole. Even black hairstylists aren’t very well educated because there isn’t professional styling education available,” says Kara.