The Evolution of Rocker Hair

From wild tresses to choppy shags, these rock icons might not give a damn about their hair reputations, but their mop tops and pompadours are essential to their rockstar image.
Reading time 10 minutes

Beyond the sound of rock 'n' roll, crafting the right image of care-free living or angsty rebellion to go along with it has the ability to make an artist legendary. Capturing the zeitgeist requires expressive garb and equally outstanding hair–just think of The Beatles' bowl cuts or Jimi Hendrix's afro, which have become engrained with how we remember them in their heyday. Here, L’OFFICIEL combs through the most memorable rockstar hairstyles in history.

Elvis Presley

Dubbed the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley is most definitely among the most recognizable icons in American history. Winning him international acclaim, his scandalous thrusting dance moves that earned him the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis” and his flashy garb are only part of the fame equation. Elvis’ jet-black, voluminous, and glistening pompadour haircut remains the standard for rockabilly style. It became synonymous with the singer, with men soon asking for the “Elvis cut.” Before the King reinvented the slicked back, gelled and sculpted ‘do, it was introduced by a mistress of the French ruler King Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour. Like Elvis, her hairstyle of choice began to be imitated by the masses.

The Beatles

Considered to be the most influential band of all time, John, Paul, George, and Ringo garnered their claim to international fame with one of their first live U.S. television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 as four refined mod mop-topped boys from Liverpool singing “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Proceeding the televised special, Beatlemania ensued, seemingly replacing Elvis’ famed coiffure with what the Fab Four called the “Arthur” cut, as they were inspired by a German art student the band met in Hamburg, Jürgen Vollmer. From their neat bowl cuts came sideburns, mustaches, and long shaggy hair along with more experimental and psychedelic music like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Bob Dylan

A Nobel Prize recipient, Bob Dylan is widely considered one of the greatest  songwriters of all time. The folk, blues, rock, and gospel musician may be versatile and experimental in his musical compositions, yet his sartorial and grooming tendencies have remained consistent throughout his enduring career. His fluffy, tousled mop of hair, with tight ringlet curls seems to live a life all its own in shabby, artsy disarray.

Janis Joplin

American singer-songwriter, Janis Jopliin's powerfully piercing and unrivaled raspy, emotive voice made her one of the most successful musicians of her era. Known for her rock star angsty antics, Joplin’s uninhibited stage presence was about as untamed and free-flowing as her frizzy fringed locks. The rock, blues, and soul singer left her laissez-faire wavy tresses to tangle and fly in the wind during her electrifying performances. Known for dressing eclectically, the psychedelic singer was often seen with feather boas in her hair to add to the drama of her flowing tie-dyed bell-sleeves, bell bottom jeans and rounded colored sunglasses.

Robert Plant

Only rivaled by The Who’s Roger Daltrey and possibly Queen's Brian May, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s voluminous and untamed locks have gone down in the band’s iconography. Making way for kitschier adaptations by ‘80s glam metal “hair bands,” Plant’s effortless golden curly mane with a life of its own personified the wild and feral British rock ethos of the late ‘60s. Often rocking open button-down shirts and hip-hugging bell bottom jeans, the lead vocalist tapped into the care-free hippie lexicon with his spiraling ringlet tresses.

Jimi Hendrix

A triple threat singer, songwriter, and quite possibly one of the most influential electric guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll, Jimi Hendrix is amongst the most acclaimed musicians of the 20th century. While Hendrix gained a reputation for playing his guitar with his teeth, his signature whispy ‘fro was among his most memorable traits as well. Often adorning his head of hair with eye-catching, printed bandanas, his coiffure went from a perfectly sculpted afro to free flowing waves depending on the day. With his thin mustache and maximalist hippie style, Hendrix’s famed hairdo was the cherry on top of exemplary rock star style.

David Bowie

As versatile as his wide array of stage personas, David Bowie's hair transformation is as groundbreaking as it is plentiful. From the young and mod Davy Jones fringed bouffant evolving into longer, shaggier tresses, to the premiere of his iconic choppy red mullet as the psychedelic Major Tom and the flamboyant Ziggy Stardust created by hairdresser Suzi Fussey, this was only the start of Bowie’s noteworthy and unpredictable ‘dos. From his character Aladdin Sane and Halloween Jack’s brushed red mullet, to the slicked back glam of The Thin White Duke. Bowie never passed an opportunity to evolve his ever-changing hair, as the ‘80s and ‘90s both saw new and inventive ‘dos on the revolutionary artist.

Tina Turner

Widely recognized as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the inimitable Tina Turner began her illustrious career with the Ike and Tina Turner Review of “River Deep, Mountain High” fame in the early 1960s. The powerful vocalist donned a straight, yet voluminous flippy coiffure in the song’s promo video, before she began working the highlighted, textured, and wildly towering fringed ‘do that became synonymous with the “Proud Mary” singer’s name.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett, the rocking guitarist of the Runaways and famed frontwoman of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts has defined the archetypal female punk rocker since her early days as a rebellious teen. Having styled and cut her hair on her own in the early days, the badass performer dyed her hair from a light brown shade to a dramatic jet-black to offset her Runaways band member, Cherie Currie’s platinum blonde tresses in the mid-1970s. While the “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” songstress once shaved her head completely and experimented with other hairstyles, Jett always returned to her quintessentially punk rock blunt shag cut.


Maybe more than any other artist, Prince had a way with switching it up. One of the greatest of his generation, the “Purple Rain” singer and acclaimed guitarist always worked eccentric and flamboyant, anti-conformist looks. From fluffy, feathered blow-outs, perfectly sculpted afros, or loose and glossy ringlets, to straightened, fringey pixie cuts and finger waves, Prince’s ever-transforming hair and revolutionary talent knew no bounds.

Debbie Harry

Formative rock band Blondie helped pave the way for the blossoming punk scene and new wave circuit of the mid-1970s. Named after catcalls the band’s founding frontwoman Debbie Harry received on the streets, the icon worked a peroxide treated, bleach blonde ‘do. The flaxen haired superstar began rebelliously dying her tresses in grade school to look like silver screen starlets of Old Hollywood, though only took the plunge to platinum after working at a hair salon in her early '20s. Her feathered bangs, and choppy, messy, textured shag cut has inspired modern day chart-topping artists from Courtney Love to Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.

Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” fame has most likely dyed her hair every color of the rainbow. Paired with her shocking and artfully executed neon colored makeup, her wildly teased and overly hairsprayed, out of control mop shaved on one side ruled the ‘80s.

Courtney Love & Kurt Cobain

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Hole's Courtney Love were considered grunge royalty of the angsty alternative rock genre that took root in Seattle and quickly engrossed the whole country, capturing the zeitgeist of the moment. Nirvana frontman Cobain’s laissez-faire blonde (and the occasional hot pink) shaggy unwashed bedhead is almost always remembered with his ripped jeans, worn out band tees, pilled sweaters, and plaid flannels, becoming the look of the moment. His spouse, Love was known for her unbrushed bleached lob with bangs, and sometimes topped with a tiara.

Gwen Stefani

Before acting as a judge on The Voice or her highly publicized relationship with Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani was the eclectic badass frontwoman of California rock band No Doubt. From her signature platinum blonde to adding in black streaks, going bold hot pink or soft baby blue, Stefani has always managed to keep us on our toes. Executing aqua top knots with precision, ‘40s inspired blonde curls, fuschia blunt bangs, or poker-straight platinum tresses, the “Hollaback Girl’s” unique personal style has gone down in pop culture history.

Amy Winehouse

As consistent as her powerful, bone chilling vocal prowess, Amy Winehouse’s signature look grabbed the attention of on-lookers as quickly as her raw talent. The British singer’s dramatic and unruly black beehive bouffant paired with her thick charcoal wing-tipped eyeliner tapped into retro rockabilly style while maintaining a modern pinup feel. The enduringly epic look of her untamed and wildly voluminous towering ‘do remains synonymous with the late "Back To Black" singer and has yet to be mimicked as authentically as Winehouse, herself.

Miley Cyrus

From her straight blonde wig with Hannah Montana bangs to her long brown wavy wholesome locks as a tween superstar, Miley Cyrus has had many a dramatic personal evolution, reflecting much of it through her various hairstyles. Breaking out of her Disney-mold, Cyrus chopped off most of her hair in her Bangerz era, debuting a bleached pixie cut with shaved sides. Then came the double top knot space buns, and now, her edgy rock chick Joan Jett/Debbie Harry-inspired shaggy mullett, courtesy of her mother and hairstylist Sally Hershberger. Now, shorter styles like Cyrus' are among the most popular beauty trends of the year.



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