The Fab Four mop-tops that scandalized polite society in the mid-1960s were a distant memory by the ’70s, when even middle-aged businessmen were letting their hair grow long. During the 1970s, male rock star hair was often longer and lusher than that of their female fans. Rocker hairstyles of the 1970s would evolve significantly as the decade progressed, ranging from the shag cut favored by many rockers to the iconoclastic glam look of David Bowie — to the shorter, starker styles of the punk rock movement.
Rock Star Hair
Any major rock star during the 1970s had a long, thick head of hair, although specific styles varied significantly. Just as music evolved during the ’70s, so too did the clothes and hairstyles of the performers who produced it. Among the most notable ‘dos of the decade were the long, curly mane of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, the spiky “rooster” cut favored by Rod Stewart and Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards — and the thick-and-curly layered style worn by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint when the style first appeared, the website Hair Content claims that Manhattan hairstylist John Sahag originated the shag cut in the late 1960s. The shag is characterized by long hair, either straight or wavy, cut in thick, chunky layers, with more layers at the top of the head and thinning out at the bottom. The shag, in different variations and permutations, adorned the heads of such 1970s rockers as Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC’s Bon Scott, Alice Cooper and all four member of KISS.
David Bowie was at the forefront of the glam rock movement of the early 1970s, and his chameleon-like ability to continually reinvent himself throughout the rest of the decade was evident in his ever-changing hairstyles. During the glam era, Bowie was most identified with his Ziggy Stardust character, featuring hair dyed bright orange and cut in a unisex mullet that was long in the back, extending over the ears on the side and cut significantly shorter in the front and top. Bowie’s “Ziggy cut” was widely imitated by British teens. Bowie himself has said the inspiration for the haircut came from combining elements of three different female hairstyles picked out from fashion magazines.
A direct reaction to the self-indulgent bloat that had begun to permeate rock music by the mid-1970s, the punk movement offered a harder, more dangerous aesthetic. This was evident in the sharp-edged music of bands such as the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and in the punk fashions, in which strategically ripped clothing was reassembled with safety pins. Punk hairstyles were typically short and spiky, characterized by the hair of Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. Spiked mohawks — in which a strip of hair remained at the middle of an otherwise-shaved head — were also popular, and hair was often dyed outrageous colors such as Day-Glo pink or neon green.
References and ResourcesClassic 70s: 70s Hairstyles
Hair Content: Styles & Cuts: 70s Shag Hairstyle
The Ziggy Stardust Companion: The Ziggy Stardust Haircut
1970s Fancy Dress: Hairstyles in the '70s