How to revive 1980s 'Stranger Things' haircuts this summer

Stylists share tips on how to cut, style and maintain retro locks as the Netflix series sparks fashion return

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The 1980s is known for lofty perms, glam rock manes, edgy mullets and gravity-defying volume — and a retro barnet is back in business this summer.

Stylists across the UAE have seen a rise in clients asking for hairdos made famous in the era, with the shag cut, the wolf cut and the aforementioned mullet reemerging as trends.

The daring looks usually involve cutting the hair to drastically different lengths and backcombing it into oblivion, adopting styles of singers Cyndi Lauper and Kate Bush, whose song Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) is used throughout season four of Stranger Things.

However, rather than adults in their thirties looking for a slice of nostalgia, 1980s hairstyles are favoured mainly by Gen Z clients, who are inspired by the likes of edgy pop star Billie Eilish and the cast of Stranger Things, says Jay Crump, owner and stylist at Paintbox Hair.

Mind the mullet

“Retro styles are definitely becoming more popular, and I’ve had a lot of requests for full-on mullets and shag cuts from back in the day,” says Crump.

“I’ve also had a lot of clients asking for the wolf cut, which is a beautiful and feminine style that is more manageable in daily life.”

While Crump encourages people to try different styles, she warns getting a choppy cut is a big commitment and admits she is not a fan of the mullet.

“Styles always come around again from different eras, but I really thought we were safe from the mullet,” she says. “In my mind, it’s always been iconic for being bad, but here we are.

“It’s more of an edgy, rocker-style for the younger generation. You’re not going to see many mullets around the office, in my opinion.”

Tousled and teased

For hair consultant and stylist Emily Tucker, the curly locks of Julia Garner, who plays tough-talking Ruth Langmore in Netflix's drama Ozark, are having a big effect on the fashion conscious, while Madonna’s tousled 1980s tresses look even better the second time around.

“[Retro styles] have really taken off in London and we’re starting to see them filter into the UAE for summer,” says Tucker, who splits her time between Hair Signature Salon in Al Barsha, Dubai and Havie & Moon in Dubai Hills.

“Madonna recently rocked a short, blonde and permed look and Julia Garner’s blonde ringlets are also a big hit.”

For Tucker, the main influence remerging in the UAE is a big, bouncy blowout favoured by yesteryear actress Farrah Fawcett.

“We’re seeing a lot of 1980s hairstyles with a modern twist at the moment,” she says. “More people than ever are asking for roller blowouts, and volume is definitely on its way back after a long absence.

“It’s a nice way for people to experiment without going all out. A really soft shag haircut or choppy layers is also a cute way to incorporate the 1980s trend into day-to-day life.”

Getting the chop

Trendsetters asking for drastic new looks are often sent away to reconsider their choices before going under the shears at Crump’s award-winning salon in Dubai’s Diamond Business Centre.

“It’s a big decision and growing out a mullet is no easy feat,” she says.

“I’d recommend anyone considering any of these retro cuts have a proper consultation with a stylist and consider whether you have the time and energy to commit to styling it every day. [Some styles] can look really rough if it’s not styled properly.

“I’ve eased a couple of my clients in gently with modified mullets, and I really am a big fan of the wolf cut and the shag cut.

“The key to the shag cut is to find a stylist who knows how to razor-cut your hair into a light, feathery and wispy finish. When done properly, it looks gorgeous.”

Styling tips

Crump says volume is key when styling a cut, and those with naturally flat hair should reconsider getting choppy layers.

"With any of these layered looks, you’re creating a shape on your head that needs to be pumped up a bit,” she advises. “This isn’t a look you can just roll out of bed with.”

If you do have the time and dedication, Tucker recommends investing in a Dyson Airwrap hair styler or Beauty Works professional styler for big, voluptuous waves.

“Back in the 1980s, a lot of people had perms, but these days there are all manner of wands and stylers to create the same effect,” she says.

Billie Eilish's hairstyles through the years, from black and green to blonde — in pictures

Updated: June 15, 2022, 3:32 AM