Curly, straight, up, down, or dyed, Southern hairstyles have always been on point. Through the years, there have been hairstyles that are truly signature to the South and have really captured our stylish hearts. There have been the updos that are breathtaking, chic, and memorable. And there have been the well-coiffed styles that we request when we make our appointments at the beauty salon each week. So many women have set the standard high, and we are inspired by their everyday and glamorous looks. Here are some of the most iconic hairstyles over the years.
1941 Joan Crawford
The shift in fashion between the 1930s and 40s also brought a big change in hairstyles. Feminine flapper gowns were traded in for structured suits with ‘dos to match. Married four times and ever bold in her style choices, Texas born Joan Crawford was always ahead of her time. We love Crawford’s take on the pin curl updo, a popular look of the decade.
1942 Ava Gardner
Born in Smithfield, South Carolina, and a darling of the classic Hollywood cinema era, movie star Ava Gardner always sported her dark curls shoulder length and pinned back to frame her gorgeous face. Remember her in those famous flicks, such as The Killers and Mogambo? With arguably the strongest Carolina drawl in all of Hollywood, this starlet made sure her Southern roots were never forgotten.
1943 Gene Tierney
Houston, Texas native Gene Tierney owed much of her Hollywood fame to her acclaimed beauty—hair included. Here, sculpted, pinned back curls make another appearance, and it’s no wonder this hair style was such a hit —out of the way and universally flattering, it allowed for her famous face to take center stage.
1944 Jennifer Jones
She won an Oscar for her first starring role in The Song of Bernadette (1943), survived breast cancer, and lived a full life until the age of 90. The Oklahoma native was a trendsetter with those memorable bumper bangs, which became a hairstyle that swept the country and is still popular today in rockabilly culture.
1945 Ella Fitzgerald
This American jazz singer was called the First Lady of Song, the Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. And while “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” may have been one of her hits, we imagine that perfectly coiffed hair of hers that became almost as famous as Virginian herself (born in Newport News, Virginia) was put right back in place post-wash.
1946 Dorothy Lamour
This Louisiana native and World War II pinup girl could most often be seen with her jet black hair parted straight down the middle and tightly curled to frame her face. Crowned Miss New Orleans as a teen in 1931, she went on to be a pillar of Southern beauty both on and off screen for more than 50 years.
1947 Howard Hughes
Yes, men are making our list too. The eccentric billionaire from Humble, Texas was the producer of many films from the 1920s to 1950s. His distinct side part reflects the groomed style worn by many men during the time. And it is an iconic look that is still so popular today.
1948 Irene Dunne
Short, tight curls and a side part characterized Irene Dunne’s hair for the majority of her career, as was the case for many other Hollywood celebrities of her time. The difference? Dunne’s ‘do, and her career, came with a dose of unrivaled Southern pride—especially for her home state of Kentucky. In her later life, she wrote that her life of stardom failed to match the joy she garnered from a simple trip down the Mississippi river.
1949 Dale Evans
The country singer-songwriter and film star was born in Uvalde, Texas in 1912. She was also the third wife of the singing cowboy Roy Rogers. The Texas born beauty brings together two 1940s looks we've always loved—the cowboy hat and the omelet fold hairstyle.
1950 Patricia Neal
Kentucky native Patricia Neal started her acting career on the cusp of the decade—transiting from the more structured, sculpted curls of the ‘40s, to a looser rendition in the ‘50s, her hairstyle was often on the fence as to which era it belonged. Like her hair, her acting appealed to a broad audience and in 1963 she reached her career peak by taking home the Academy Award for Best Actress.
1951 Bettie Page
There’s no doubt about it—the Bettie Page bang is alive and well today. It’s been going strong ever since it’s namesake debuted her modeling career in the ‘50s. Dubbed the Queen of Pinup, Page, who was born in Nashville, Tennessee, was an icon in her own right— though nothing about her career stood the test of time quite so well as her cropped frontal fringe.
1952 Debbie Reynolds
Mother to Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds from El Paso, Texas, rose to her own fame in 1952 as the start of Singin in the Rain. It was her first leading role and one that paved the way for a hugely successful Hollywood career. Like her predecessors in the 40s, her hair adhered largely to a tightly curled and cropped style, though it did loosen up and evolve along with her career.
1953 Vera Miles
If you’ve seen Hitchcock’s Psycho, you know the magic that is Vera Miles. With cropped platinum blonde hair and a show-stopping gaze, it should come as no surprise that she spent her early years collecting pageant crown in her home state of Oklahoma. She went on to sport both longer and shorter styles as trends evolved, but always stayed true to her signature champagne color.
1954 Ruth Brown
Before the Queen of Soul, there was the Queen of Rhythm & Blues— Virginian Ruth Brown. Brown was born in 1928 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Crowned for her mastery of the R&B genre, her cropped, curly ‘do was the perfect pairing to her musical mastery.
1955 Elvis Presley
As the biggest celebrity of the decade—and arguably, of the century—the King’s stardom was largely defined by his overall persona, and, of course, his hair. Slicked back, jet black, and never out of place, Elvis Presley sported the original pompadour style that now lives on atop the head of many an imitator. The King was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935.
1956 James Brown
James Brown’s influence is seemingly unending—with a roster of iconic musicians like Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie all crediting him for their success to some degree. It’s no surprise that the Godfather of Soul who was born in South Carolina and spent his last days in Atlanta had a look that was just as funky—and Iconic—as the genre he created.
1957 Joanne Woodward
With her ultra short bangs and sleek blonde hair, this Georgia peach (born in Thomasville, Georgia in 1930) was always true to her roots, even when she made her home in Connecticut with husband Paul Newman. Variations of this fringe, not unlike the Bettie Page bang, are still a much sought-after style today.
1958 Carolyn Jones
She played leading lady to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Kirk Douglas where she (and her array of hairstyles) always held their own. Born in Amarillo, Texas, she wore her hair stick straight, jet black, and long for her role as Morticia Addams in the The Addams Family, but it was her platinum cropped ‘do that we remember most.
1959 Shirley MacLaine
The six-time Oscar-nominated actress who was born in Richmond, Virginia alludes to the end of the 1950s with her chic pixie cut that may have even inspired Twiggy herself in the 1960s. Trendsetting, she made her Hollywood debut with a cropped cut in the Hitchcock film The Trouble With Harry in 1955. Probably one of our all-time favorite roles was the bitter, wise-cracking "Ouiser" Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.
1960 Brenda Lee
At 4’9’’, vocalist Brenda Lee from Atlanta packed a whole lot of spunk into her mini frame—and, appropriately, earned the nickname Little Miss Dynamite as a result. Her hair, piled atop her head in true 60s fashion, was just one element to this singer’s look that secured her stardom for years to come.
1961 Dolly Parton
When country music icon Dolly Parton first came on the Nashville scene in the early 60s, her blonde locks were even more voluminous than they are today. The only thing that outgrew her hair? Her superstardom—she went on to hold the record for the most Billboard Country charts #1 hits ever held by a female musician. Here are 18 things you may not have known about Dolly Parton.
1962 Roy Orbison
Another Tennessee native, who was born in Texas, with a noteworthy hairstyle, Roy Orbison’s coiffure was quintessential to the decade in which he found fame. The classic pompadour look was certainly a popular one (fellow musician Elvis Presley also claimed it), and it’s almost too close to call who wore it best.
1963 Lady Bird Johnson
First Lady Johnson was an icon for so many reasons, but most notably it was her commitment to beautifying the nation alongside her husband, LBJ, that anchors her legacy. It’s not hard to see this devotion to beauty reflected in Lady Bird herself—the Texan, who was always immaculately styled from head-to-toe (hair included), she was truly the gold standard of her time.
1964 Johnny Cash
The pompadour found another devotee in famed singer-songwriter Johnny Cash—who is responsible for hit songs like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” and “I Walk The Line.” His stardom rightly knew no bounds and this caliber of hair, perfected decade after decade in the same coiffed style, has been matched by few—much like his musical talent.
1965 Sharon Tate
Though it was tragically cut short in 1968, Sharon Tate’s life was marked in part by her mastery of the bouffant hairstyle of the 60s. Staying true to her Texas roots, Tate kept the big hair. Puffed high on top and cascading down on either side, the halo of blonde hair that frames her face in every photo perfectly highlights the beauty that brought her fame.
1966 Lauren Hutton
With undeniably luscious locks and a modeling career of equal caliber, it should come as no surprise that Hutton who was born in Charleston, South Carolina graced the cover of Vogue a record 41 times. Her sandy blonde tresses often took center stage, and years later, they’re still serving this starlet well.
1967 Loretta Lynn
Standing as the most awarded female country musician of all time, it’s safe to say that Kentuckian, Loretta Lynn, will go down as one of the most celebrated country stars in history. Seemingly adhering to the age-old adage of “the bigger, the better,” Lynn’s huge hair speaks volumes for popular hair culture at the time.
1968 Jim Morrison
Wispy, choppy layers characterized the Doors frontman’s ‘do in 1968, and though perfecting the “just rolled out of bed” look wasn’t likely his goal, the Floridian seems to have mastered it just the same. One of the greatest rockers of all time, his legacy lives on through the playlists (and hairstyles) of many a young devotee.
1969 Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul—and arguably the queen of the beehive, as well—wasted no time dominating an entire genre of music and making her mark in the realm of style with her icon look. Her music is alive and well on radio waves and turntables today, and now more than ever, her soulful, proud style continues to demand a royal serving of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
1970 Janis Joplin
Born in Port Arthur, Texas to an engineer and Sunday school teacher, Janis Joplin was a lifelong non-conformist. Genre-defying vocal talent and her signature untamed locks solidified her rock star image. In the 1970s, she would often tie feather boas into her hair to draw even more attention to her hair’s wild volume.
1971 Tammy Wynette
The country music queen is nearly as well remembered for her pillowy, bleach blonde bouffant as she is for “Stand By Your Man.” Born Virginia Wynette Pugh Bird, producer Billy Sherrill rebranded the former Mississippi beautician as Tammy in the mid-60s, explaining that her hair reminded him of Debbie Reynolds’ ponytail in the movie Tammy.
1972 Muhammad Ali
‘The Greatest’ hailing from Louisville, Kentucky has inspired generations of athletes. Today, he still remains the only three-time lineal heavy weight champion. When it came to his crown, Ali kept it high and tight in a style he sported until his death in 2016.
1973 Roberta Flack
Virginian and Grammy award-winning singer Roberta Flack recorded her debut album “First Take” in only 10 hours. Born into a musically adept family and a showing great talent early on, she even received a full musical scholarship at the young age of 15. Her Afro hairstyle was iconic of the 1970s civil rights movement, which included a shift towards natural ethnic hair—a sharp contrast to the decade’s long-and-straight trend.
1974 Kris Kristofferson
With the beard, that hair, and his soulful songwriting, it’s no wonder the Army vet, Kris Kristofferson romanced the likes of Janis Joplin and Barbara Streisand. The Texan who penned “Me and Bobby McGee” among many other hits had a prolific career as a singer, song writer and actor—and he had a flowing mane to match.
1975 Farrah Fawcett
From Corpus Christi, Texas, Farrah Fawcett rose to fame in 1975 after photographer Bruce McBroom captured her image for a poster series. The now iconic image—Farrah in a red one-piece swimsuit with blonde hair and toothy smile—would go onto become the best-selling poster in history. Her feathery, teased-out Charlie’s Angels ’do was arguably the most sought-after look of our time.
1976 Sissy Spacek
With the release of Carrie, actress Sissy Spacek introduced a form of malevolence to audiences. On the surface, she was a small town Texas girl with a peaches-and-cream complexion and long strawberry blond locks; but underneath her delicate exterior, she was an unflinchingly actress dedicated to breaking the mold.
1977 Betty Buckley
Broadway legend and Eight is Enough actress Betty Buckley may have cut her teeth in New York City, but now resides at a secluded 35-acre ranch near her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. As the strong, nurturing stepmother in Eight is Enough, her style embodied 70s-professional, with a teased hairstyle reminiscent of Farrah Fawcett.
1978 Crystal Gayle
There’s long hair—and then there’s Crystal Gayle long hair. Gayle’s chart-topping country-pop crossover hits like “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” made her the first female country artist to achieve platinum sales, but the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter and sister of Loretta Lynn is often best remembered for her sweeping, ankle-length dark locks.
1979 Willie Nelson
Willie, the original “Red Headed Stranger,” forged a new breed of country music when he moved to Texas in the 1970s, trading his suit and tie for long hair and blue jeans. Today, Willie’s long hair remains a symbol of his rebellion and legacy, so legendary that a snipped-off set of his braids were auctioned off for $37,000.
1980 Billy Gibbons
Billy Gibbons most defining feature as lead singer of ZZ Top is undoubtedly his long, unruly beard that he’s maintained for decades. Nowadays, this Texan musician can still be seen performing for his solo project—and don’t worry, the beard is still intact.
1981 Debbie Harry
With such a steadfast commitment to her blonde locks, it was only appropriate that Debbie Harry name her band after her iconic hair. Born in Miami, Florida, Blondie’s influence is still felt today, and there’s no doubt you’ve seen many a bleach blonde that’s following in Harry’s footsteps today.
1982 George Clooney
It’s no small feat to have heartthrob status for four decades, but Lexington, Kentucky native, George Clooney makes it look easy. His acting career began in 1978, and he’s been making audiences swoon ever since. While we love his current silver fox status, it’s impossible to forget his early days of long curls.
1983 Linda Gray
She may have been born in California, but as the star of one of the most popular Southern shows in history, Dallas, she makes our list for her unforgettable feathered locks that was so perfectly 80s.
1984 Rob Lowe
After his breakout role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, Virginian Rob Lowe became a heartthrob of the decade, with plenty of scandals to match his new stardom. His feathered coif was layered and just the right length.
1985 Chris Evert
Tennis star and Floridian Chris Evert (born in Fort Lauderdale) rose to the top of athlete stardom and was ranked World No. 1 for the United States in 1985. Her wispy, layered cut was a hit, and so was she. You can still find her on ESPN today as a sports analyst.
1986 George Strait
The King of Country from Poteet, Texas hasn’t been seen much without his signature Resistol cowboy hat in recent years. Hat free sightings in the 1980s, when seven of his albums reached number one on the country charts, show a full head of good hair that he still has today at age 64.
1987 Patrick Swayze
Dirty Dancing will go down in history as one of the hottest movies of all time—in large part due to the Texan star of the show, his many shirtless scenes, and his swept back brown locks that were perfectly styled to stand opposite Jennifer Grey’s curly bob.
1988 Delta Burke
Delta Burke’s hair mirrors her personality—and in a word, it’s huge. The ever-so-popular designing woman was born in Orlando in 1956. Today, she’s not always center stage, but this Floridian—and former Miss Florida—still knows how to steal the spotlight.
1989 Andie MacDowell
This Southern belle owes her career in part to her iconic tresses. The South Carolina native was first discovered as a young student by a model scout who noticed her perfect ringlet curls. It wasn’t long thereafter that her career took flight and she’s been a star ever since.
1990 Julia Roberts
Too big to be forgotten: we first fell in love with Julia’s mega-curls with the 1990 release of Pretty Woman. Later that decade, the Georgia native would go onto become the highest-paid actress in the business, proving she was ahead of the curve in more than just the hair arena.
1991 Johnny Depp
It seems like every year style chameleon and Kentucky native Johnny Depp has a new look, but the early 90s had him at full heartthrob status following the release of Edward Scissorhands. With his shoulder-length, casually unkempt cut—a part of his “Free Winona” phase— foraged a specific brand of nonchalant grunge.
1992 Wynonna Judd
“I change my hair like the weather,” has said Kentucky native Wynonna Judd. The country music star’s 90s-era big, flaming red mane was a signature part of her masculine-meets-feminine look. She masterfully paired her flowing locks with tuxedo jackets and bower hats to create a whole new genre of Nashville superstar style.
1993 Billy Ray Cyrus
Following the release of “Achy Breaky Heart” in 1992, it’s safe to say Billy Ray became the poster child of the country music mullet. Since, the musician has gone on to both top Billboard charts, and try his hand at acting. While he’s sported a range of classic country music hairdos, through the years, he’ll forever be remembered as the originator of the “Kentucky Waterfall.”
1994 Oprah Winfrey
By the mid-90s, The Oprah Winfrey Show had evolved from its original tabloid talk show format to a platform for broader news themes—covering everything from spirituality to cancer. It was a transition that helped launch Oprah into the global media queen she is today. Her ever-changing style went from teased hair to a sleek bob in this era. Since, Miss O from the tiny town of Kosciusko, Mississippi has been trend-setting with her hair choices and beyond.
Years after her death, the legacy of Selena is undeniable, from her influence on the Latin-crossover music scene to her radiant smile and signature style—big hair, hoop earrings, bright red lips, and bejeweled bustiers. Loyal devotees still flock to her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas to visit the statue that stands in her honor.
1996 Renée Zellweger
With her breakthrough role in 1996’s Jerry Maguire, Renée Zellweger emerged on the scene as the “had me at hello” girl next door. Raised in the Houston suburbs, her ‘90s roles would establish her as one of the biggest actresses of the decade, and her fresh-faced look and layered blond locks embody the 90s-minimalist vibe.
Born Brandy Norwood in McComb, Mississippi, the singer and actress was scouted as a kid. She proved her talent with a globally successful album, a TV show, and film career before she ever turned 18. By the late 90s, Brandy was a full-blown star, and hair icon thanks to her famous micro braids.
1998 Ricky Williams
During his heyday all eyes were on Heisman Trophy-winning, and University of Texas football player Ricky “Texas Tornado” Williams. He was one of the most famous college football players of his time, and his signature dreadlocks, tattoos, and pierced tongue defined him as a non-conformist in the streamlined world of pro sports.
1999 Sandra Bullock
The late ‘90s found actress Sandra Bullock amid a string of successes, including the Speed franchise, Hope Floats, and her general arrival to America’s-sweetheart status. Her various style phases of the decade, were led by shimmery makeup, chunky highlights, and razor-cut flipped bobs. Born in Virginia with homes in both New Orleans and Austin, this beauty’s Southern roots run deep.
2000 Justin Timberlake
Memphis native, Justin Timberlake hasn’t fully embraced his curls since the early 2000s, and we’re still mourning that he said ‘bye bye bye’ to his longer locks. He wasn’t afraid of a dye job or hair gel, and everything about it worked. We’re still shouting “‘N Sync forever.”
2001 Rob Thomas
The front man for Matchbox 20 got his start in his hometown of Orlando, Florida. Showing dudes can wear bangs too, Rob Thomas’ Nirvana-meets-The-Beatles ‘do became a signature style of the time.
2002 Kelly Clarkson
Millions watched and fell in love with the Fort Worth songstress, Kelly Clarkson, as she won the first-ever season of American Idol. Her contrasting highlights had broad appeal at the turn of the millennium, and ‘Miss Independent’ sported the look for years.
2003 André 3000
He doesn’t show his hair often—with hat collection like his, who would? But, when he does, the style always proves fresh and unexpected, like this grown out Afro. Originally from Atlanta, and now settled in Dallas, André’s sense of style makes us want to shake it like a Polaroid picture.
2004 Britney Spears
The pop star from small town Louisiana has done just about everything with her hair, including shaving it all off. But her hair as it was in her glory days is how we remember it most—long, blonde and full of extensions.
2005 Eva Longoria
This Corpus Christi, Texan has got beauty and brains (in 2013, she received her masters in Chicano studies from California State University), and the former Desperate Housewife’s hair is eternally on point. Her modern take on the 60s beehive shows what’s old can always be new again.
2006 Brad Pitt
As the king of effortlessly cool, superstar Brad Pitt’s tousled tresses have always been a standout. Long or short, combed or uncombed, blonde or dark, we would argue that just about anything works for this Oklahoma native.
2007 Reese Witherspoon
She’s an Oscar winner, producer, clothing designer, and master of the side swept bangs. The Tennessee girl’s hair may have evolved over the years, but Reese Witherspoon as always stayed true to her ever-classic style. Read more on Southern Living's cover girl Reese Witherspoon's Tennessee roots here.
2008 Carrie Underwood
Big hair, don’t care. This Oklahoma girl (from Muskogee) wears her hair both curly and straight, but no matter the look, she never lacks volume. Now the co-host of the Country Music Awards is even rocking a shorter hairstyle.
2009 Megan Fox
After winning the heart of Shia LeBeouf’s character as the breakout star of Transformers, Megan Fox became a sex symbol across the globe. We love how this Tennessean channels old Hollywood with this side part and pin curl.
2010 Matthew McConaughey
It was the year of the “McConaissance” when America’s favorite romantic comedy leading man, Matthew McConaughey began embracing a more dramatic of his acting chops—which ultimately led to an Oscar win. Complementing his more serious side, this Texan, adopted a shorter and more sophisticated ‘do.
2011 Ellen Degeneres
The time-old quip “blondes have more fun,” rings true for the comedian and talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, who is always smiling—and dancing. Her frosted pixie cut has become a part of her signature look, and we can’t imagine her any other way. Hailing from the small Louisiana town of Metaire, this beloved celebrity with the gift of gab always stays true to her style.
2012 Miley Cyrus
Miley’s ultra short cut is as bold as her MTV Video awards performances. The Tennessean has gone from being famed a teeny bopper playing Disney’s Hannah Montana to an edgy mega star, and through it all Billy Ray’s daughter’s style has always been supremely influential.
Beyonce’s surprise self-titled album became the fastest-ever selling album on iTunes after just three days. A native of Houston, Texas, Queen B and her tresses have reigned supreme for the last decade. And it doesn’t matter what Mrs. Carter does, curly or straight, short or long, the world follows.
2014 Rick Ross
At the start of 2014, the New York Times declared that the beard had gone mainstream—made evident by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney who sported one at Washington’s first conference of the year. From rappers like Mississippi native Rick Ross to celebs like Ryan Gosling, the beard was everywhere this year.
2015 Ariana Grande
The topknot had a major moment in 2015. It may seem like an effortless updo, but in reality there is an art to pulling off this perfectly un-perfect adaptation of the classic bun. Petite songstress, Ariana Grande might be best known for her ponytails, but we also love the messy bun for this Florida native.
2016 Selena Gomez
When the most followed person on Instagram wears her hair in beach waves, it’s almost a guarantee that the trend is soon to follow. The actress and singer from the Lone Star State is constantly reinventing herself and surprising her devoted fans with her new hairstyles.