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Black hairstyles have gone through many changes over the years. 1980s styles ranged from Grace Jone’s flat top fade, to Janet Jackson's long curly weave. Some styles were more popular than other styles. These styles include finger waves, asymmetric hairstyles, Jheri curls and braids.

Finger Waves

Finger waves first became popular during the 1920s and 1930s with white women. Finger waves experienced a surge in popularity among black women in the 1980s. While people with longer hair can finger wave the front of their hair, this style was primarily worn by women with short straight-permed hair.

Asymmetric Hair

Asymmetric cuts where popular with African American women in the 1980s. These cuts ranged from subtly asymmetrical styles to styles where one side of the hair was dramatically shorter than the other. In some cases, one side of the hair was cut close to the scalp, sometimes with lines in it, and the other side was left long. This style was popularized by rap groups like Salt 'n’ Pepa. These styles were curled either under in an asymmetrical bob or flipped upward.

Jheri Curls

Jheri curls were a popular perm invented by stylist Jheri Redding, former CEO of Nexus. Many celebrities wore Jheri Curls including, most famously, Michael Jackson. A Jheri curl is often done in a salon because of the caustic chemicals in the perm. The hair is set on rod rollers and chemicals are applied. To get the famous Jheri curl look, the user must apply an activator, a solution designed to keep the hair moist and, as some would say, greasy. Jheri curls became a popular topic for comedians during the 1990s because of the wet activator, which tended to get on clothes and anything that came in contact with the hair.


Beaded braids were a popular style for black women going into the 1980s. Entertainers like Patrice Rushen popularized them. Towards the end of the 1980s, beaded braids gave way to box braids and cornrows. For many of these styles, extensions were added in the braiding process.

About the Author

Kate Bluest

Based in New York, Kate Bluest has been writing for various online publications since 2005. She has participated in several writing workshops, including the MIT Writing Workshop. Bluest holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from SUNY Empire State College.