Every decade has a signature haircut. The fifties had clean backs and sides, the seventies had long hair and legs, the eighties had mules. In the 90s, it was all about curtains. Worn by everyone from David Beckham and Brad Pitt to countless boyband members and this guy from Dawson’s Creek, that was the style for would-be idiots and a generation of men increasingly comfortable with the idea of grooming themselves.
The curtain hairstyle – if you missed it or forgot it – is a style where the hair on the top of the head turns into bangs and is defined by a strong center parting along the center. It’s a floppy disk, the maintenance is pretty demanding, and it’s back.
A quick glance at the spring collections of any number of brands will confirm that the ’90s fashion revival is still in full swing, and with it, it was the haircut that defined the look. decade. But that wouldn’t be the first comeback, as the history of curtains dates back much further than the turn of this century.
“It was an extremely popular haircut with men in the late 19th century,” says Josh Gibson, director of Sassoon Academy, “with famous icons like writer Oscar Wilde and artist Aubrey Beardsley sporting the look. The trend continued among working-class men until the late 1920s, then returned briefly when hippie culture spread from America in the 1960s.
The revival of the 1990s came with the rise of grunge and local indie bands. Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder, Placebo frontman Brian Molko and Blur bassist Alex James were notable curtain champions. Then the boy bands took over; Take That wore them (aside from Gary, who was still in his delicate stages) and Westlife, as well as all the stars of teenage television (see Jared Leto, straight out of the test tube, in My so called life) and the gaze then filtered down to the teens and beyond.
How to wear curtains today
In the 90s, this cut looked best for people with thin, straight hair. This type of hair emphasizes the strong parting that defined the look, but not everyone had the right type of hair or cut (see Olly Murs). It didn’t stop them, and it shouldn’t stop you either, because modern curtains have evolved. In fact, that floppy disk look with a stiff parting really didn’t do anyone any favors, and now a little texture is your friend.
“The look can be updated by making it more personalized,” says Gibson. “It tends to suit narrower, childish face shapes, but can be cut out to make it look slimmer across the face. Essentially, this haircut works best on someone with a medium or offset natural parting. “The hidden bonus of our recent love affair with quiff haircuts means some of us are probably a little bit of length at the top. Just stop straightening it and let it fall apart and voila, you. have the basics for the curtains.
What to ask
First, identify your favorite curtain design (see below) and ask yourself if you have similar hair types. There’s no point in styling if it doesn’t work for your hair. It just means more hassle and time spent styling it (unless you want to go with a more drastic option like an undercut or permanent relaxer treatment, which can make appearances impossible so far achievable)
“If your hair is curly or wavy, you might be better off going for a slightly longer version to avoid having a really thatched look,” Gibson advises. The stubble it refers to occurs when very thick hair is wedge-shaped below or not styled properly on top. There is a case here for an undercut if you want the look but your hair is super thick.
“With straighter hair, it’s probably best to ask your stylist to keep the length at the cheekbones, as this will frame the face,” says Gibson. You can leave it long and layered at the back, or take the lengths just above the ears and keep it tight at the sides for a classic look.
How to style it
For anyone who currently shivers at the memory of frizzy thatch-like curtains, appreciate the fact that styling products today are about a million times better than they were then, when Saline sprays, matte wax, hair oils and hair straighteners did not exist. In fact, back in the ’90s there wasn’t much other than wet gel, crunchy mousse, and hairspray on the go.
Men with curly hair were especially rough, says Gibson, who recommends “letting curly, wavy hair dry naturally and using a generous amount of Sassoon Professional or Sassoon Curl Form Highlighting Oil to achieve that grungy, lived-in look.” We’ve talked about co-washing before (forgoing shampoo every other day to wash with conditioner instead), and it can help reduce frizz and give curls definition.
For straight hair, it is easier to polish it: “Use less product and blow dry down and forward with an air brush to keep follicles flat and to prevent flying hairs.” Gibson explains. Visit your barber as often as you normally would, even if you grow him. And never, ever use gel – or risk looking like Peter Andre.
The best celebrity curtain hairstyles
It’s hard to believe, but before he discovered cheese, the Cotswolds and the Conservative Party, Blur’s Alex James was cool. Damon Albarn might have had more of a stage presence, but as a bassist for one of the biggest bands of the ’90s – and with enviably soft hair that drew attention to his beauty – he didn’t It’s no surprise that he has so many fans.
The godfather of grunge is also the king of the headboard. The Nirvana Cobain leader sported long, white curtains that hovered around his collar with dirty roots at the top. More like a west coast surf bum than a true curtain enthusiast, he made his unwashed, skanky hair the epitome of freshness.
He could babble inconsistently at times, but Shaun Ryder made some awesome music with the Happy Mondays and Black Grape. During peak Happy Mondays Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches moment, Ryder sported a rounded mod bowl with a strong center parting.
The world lost incredible acting talent when River Phoenix died prematurely in 1993; he also lost a fine hair. During her short but dazzling time in the limelight, Phoenix never misled a follicle in a variety of looks, including a prime example of long disheveled curtains.
Reeves has tried different lengths over the years, but his last curtain moment came when Ted walked in. Bill and Ted’s False Trip. Her hair is the optimum thickness and texture to make a perfect example of 90’s curtains.
Bring it back to the present, Charles Melton, American Riverdale actor, (no, we’ve never seen him either) was recently caught by a gossip website for “ big shame ” (never good) or something like that. We can learn to forgive this because of the excellent short curly curtains he wears.
The best example of modern curtains is also our haircut of the year. Timothée Chalamet’s hair is now a legend, all the proof you need that this once-controversial style is right for the times. TC prefers a quirky parting with its natural texture.