The shag style emerged during the 1960s as an easy and unisex look. Unlike the famous fashion cuts of the ‘60s, such as the Mary Quant bob and Vidal Sassoon’s Five Point Cut, the shag did not become the iconic look of a decade until the 1970s. Yet writing for Bella Online, Lyn Chapman points out that shag hair can look a little like a long pixie cut. With the distinctive haircuts of the 1960s, shag cuts could be seen as natural evolution once people started to grow their hair longer.
During the 1960s, longer and straighter hairstyles became popular on both men and women. This moved styling away from the structure of the beehive, or the formality of Mod cuts, toward the natural, flowing locks we associate with hippies. Most hippies simply let their hair grow -- but the long, hanging hair of these styles was the perfect opportunity to add a few subtle layers. Long layers can shape hair, giving body and a tousled look. Before the '60s, wearing hair long and hanging had been considered too informal, but by the '70s this freedom led the way for a whole new generation of haircutting, that is still influential today.
Shag cuts are multi-layered styles, with shorter lengths concentrated around the top and crown. The underneath sections of hair, at the back and sides, are left to grow longer. The layering can be as subtle or pronounced as desired but the classic shag look of two distinct lengths did not emerge until the ‘70s. While modern shag cuts are often teamed with bangs, ‘60s style was to grow hair long around the face and to style a center parting. Layered hippie locks were subtle and long, showing off the flowing hair and natural volume of the decade.
Hippies and those influenced by this style, washed their hair and left it to hang naturally, without backcombing, setting lotion or spray. This was the same for men and women. So layers in a ‘60s shag style were not pronounced and would have formed the overall fluffy, shiny hair popular at the time. This relaxed shag look resulted from growing a short cut out rather than actively getting a fashion style cut in. The structured ends of the former cut would flick out as the hair grew to the ears and neck. These could be further flicked and highlighted by wearing a band across the head.
Since the early '70s, when the style really took off in glossy fashion terms, the shag has been one of the most popular haircuts around. The 1971 film “Klute,” saw Jane Fonda sporting a sleek version of the shag, with bangs. This shape has come to represent one of the classic hairstyles of the 1970s and shag cuts have ever since been a large part of mainstream hair cutting. With famous variations of the basic cut seen on Joan Jett, Jennifer Aniston and Meg Ryan, shag styles have come to be associated with women’s hair-cutting and are considered flattering, as well as easy to wear.