10 Throwback Black Hairstyles We Should Leave in the Past

We love some retro styles, but don’t even think about bringing these back.

Top row: Mr. T’s muttonchops; Tupac’s hard-parted fade. Bottom row: Tisha Campbell-Martin’s feathered bangs and Eriq La Salle’s Jheri curl. Top row: YouTube screenshot; IMDb. Bottom row: YouTube screenshot; IMDb.

We all have that one yearbook picture that makes us say, “Man, why didn’t anyone stop me from getting that?” We remember being super on-trend at the time, but looking back, we see that some fads of our youth should be left behind. Even with the resurgence of ’70s, ’80s and early-’90s style in fashion and beauty, there are a few hairstyles we hope will be left in the archives—so that our great-grandchildren don’t have to go through the burden of crimps and curl-juice drips. We will admit that we were excited about the comeback of the Afro and high-top fade, but we’ll definitely be throwing the 10 styles below all the way back in time so that they never return.

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  • Mr. T YouTube screenshot

    Muttonchops

    We have to assume that this was one of those happy accidents that just stuck, like the invention of cornflakes or Post-its. Someone must have slipped while shaping up his chinstrap beard and just thought, “I’ll leave it.” We support black bearded men to the fullest, but this one was beyond our crush zone.

  • Giancarlo Esposito and Tisha Campbell-Martin in School Daze YouTube screenshot

    Teased and Feathered Bangs

    Bangs were a major staple in the ’80s and ’90s. But we are more than happy to leave behind these teased and feathered-to-the-heavens bangs. School Daze gives us tons of hairstyles to be nostalgic over, and a commentary on colorism and intracultural discrimination that is still super relevant. Oh, and this middle-part slickdown that Giancarlo Esposito (pictured, left) sports is a bonus on this list—let’s leave that behind, too.

  • Lionel Richie Amazon

    The Shag

    This ’80s cut is called the Shag—it is part fade, part Afro—also known as “the black man’s mullet.” Nine-to-five in the front, house party (complete with dance battle) in the back. Theo and Cockroach had one, most of New Edition had them, and Kanye rocked this throwback cut for a while during his 808s & Heartbreak days. The black mullet has been a style through the decades, but we are fine seeing this one fade back into the hairstyle archives.

  • Blaque album cover Amazon.com

    “The Combo” Style

    This is a blanket term for any hairstyle that was actually a hodgepodge mix of three or more hairstyles. It usually involved some part that was up, some part down and hair accessories were definitely included, and at least one finger wave. Mixed with French rolls, Bantu knots and front twists, these styles were peak fashion in the ’90s. Lamar in Barbershop summed it up with his free 99 haircut request: “Little off the top, long in back, slope to the left like Gumby. Munster front, Wyclef right.” Why have one hairdo when you can have them all?

     

  • TLC thatgrapejuice.net

    High Pigtails

    High pigtails are adorable … until middle school. Many of our black-girl faves were rocking these adult high pigtails with bows and ribbons and all the accessories of our elementary school days. There is a way to do two ponytails in a grown-up, chic way—which is to keep them low, maybe add a braid, and bow-free.

  • Eriq La Salle in Coming to America IMDb

    Jheri Curl

    More specifically, it was the curly shag mullet that really did this style in. Not only was this style super product-intensive, a number of sweaters and seats were ruined by this dewy hairstyle across gender, age and race. Jheri Redding, the creator of the perm product used to get the infamous curl style, is also referred to as the “Godfather of Hair.” He left us a legacy of soggy strands and dripped the profits all the way to the bank.

  • Tupac in Juice IMDb

    Hard-Parted Fade

    Cut-in parts were a cool guy/girl staple in the early ’90s. Salt-N-Pepa were doing it, Johnny Gill was doing it—parts were everywhere. We don’t mind the part as much as the multilevel fade it creates. All these steps and stairs in one hairstyle are not necessary.

  • Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle in Saved by the Bell IMDb

    Scrunchie Half Up, Half Down

    Don’t get it twisted—Saved by the Bell’s Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) was near the top of our style-goals list back in the day. Between her, Denise Huxtable and Hilary Banks, we learned every single thing we needed to know about big hair, great hats and accessorizing to the max. But it is time to donate every single one of your large, fabric hair ties. Other styles to leave behind: multiscrunchie bun, scrunchie low ponytail—basically, anything with a scrunchie.

  • Bobby Brown YouTube screenshot

    Gumby

    Gumby was a weird claymation humanoid character that was on television starting in the 1950s. Who decided that this no-clothes-wearing, fictitious, inanimate object should become a style inspiration is beyond us. But everyone was sporting the Gumby in the late ’80s and ’90s—extra fly points if you had those cuts in the side. 

  • The Rev. Al Sharpton in March 2000 MANNY CENETA/AFP/Getty Images

    The Conk

    Congolene was the first marketed version of the chemical relaxers we know (and sometimes loathe) today. Made with corrosive lye, it had to be applied with protective clothes and washed out almost immediately. Most black barbershops, dating all the way back to the ’20s, had at least one barber who specialized in “conking” hair. We have seen this slicked-back conk look on Little Richard and James Brown, and the Rev. Al Sharpton rocks it to this day. 

Shayna Watson is a freelance style and beauty writer who can be heard saying “Natural hair is a lifestyle” at least once a day. A Pittsburgh native, she currently lives in a shoe-box apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y.—which is fitting, since she really loves shoes. You can check out her personal style musings on A Nu Creature and follow her on Instagram.

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