Punk Hairstyles

1980s punk. Photo by Tim Shapker.

Punk hairstyles tend to be androgynous. Both men and women wear their hair short, dye it every color of the rainbow, and spike it up into unusual, even unnatural, shapes. From 1970s punk rockers like Iggy Pop, through 80s hardcore and 90s grunge, punk style has gone through a true diversity of styles and expressions. Here are a few of the more popular ones.

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The Mohawk

A Mohawk.

What It Is: A strip of hair, usually along the median plane of the head, left to grow while the sides are shaved off.
Famous Wearers: Mr. T

Adopted into punk culture during the 1980s. The name "mohawk" comes from a Native American tribe of the same name, who wore the same hairstyle––although it was worn by other peoples as well.

The mohawk is the most iconic of all punk hairstyles. When spiked up, it's a sure signifier of punk pretensions, if not sensibility. The look also has many variations, including a death hawk, or a teased and spiked look popular in the death rock subculture, and the reverse mohawk, where a strip of hair is shaved down the middle of the head, while the rest grows out.

In recent years, young people have started wearing the "faux hawk," a hairstyle which involves slicking up the hair on the crown to create, yes, a faux hawk. This hairstyle is a disgrace to the human race, as it makes all of its wearers look like they're about to star in an "edgy" energy drink commercial. The "faux hawk" is not a punk hairstyle.

Buzz Cut

Henry Rollins. Photo by Jon Iraundegi.

What It Is: Very short hair, usually shaved with an electric razor to a uniform length.
Famous Wearers: Henry Rollins (see above), Sinead O'Connor

The buzz cut predates the punk movement, and has unfortunately come to be associated with neo-Nazis. This look became a punk hairstyle in reaction to hippie culture, with its emphasis on unkempt long hair. A buzz cut allowed young punks to be both threatening and neat in their appearance.

A buzz cut is sometimes grown out until the hair is about a half-inch long.

Chelsea Cut

Chelsea Cut photo by Fiona Bearclaw.

What It Is: A shaved or closely-cropped haircut, with long bangs and sometimes side fringes of hair.
Famous Wearers: None as I know of

The Chelsea haircut is particularly popular among young women in the punk scene; it's flattering without being overly feminine or frilly.

The Chelsea mohawk, a combination Chelsea cut and mohawk, included long bangs and a side fringe with a mohawk along the medial plane of the head.

Pompadour

James Chance. Source unknown.

What It Is: Short hair combed back from the forehead, without a part.
Famous Wearers: Elvis, James Dean, James Chance

The pompadour involves combing the hair on the sides of the head back, while curling the hair on top of the head over itself. The height of the hair on top of the head is up to the discretion of the wearer, as well as how it looks on their head.

Various augmentations, like the quiff, are popular in the rockabilly and psychobilly movements.

Devilock

Devilock photo by Itsquitealright.

What It Is: A long tendril of hair combed forward over the face, while the rest of the hair is kept short.
Famous Wearers: Jerry Only (Misfits), Fat Mike (NOFX), Davey Havok (AFI)

This look is a more extreme version of Eddie Munster's haircut, where a deep widow's peak was cut into his bangs. Bands like Samhain have taken the look to its logical conclusion, by sporting very long, unkempt locks of hair down the middle of their faces. The look was invented by Jerry Only, bassist of the Misfits.

The Bettie Page

Bettie Page.

What It Is: Long, sometimes waved hair, with short, straight bangs coming to the middle of the forehead.
Famous Wearers: Who do you think? :-P

This hairstyle is popular among young women into vintage style, especially 1940s and 1950s fashion and the naughty librarian aesthetic. Although not "punk" per se, Page is a noticeable influence in subcultural fashion.

The Mullet

Joan Jett. source unknown.

What It Is: A hairstyle where hair is cut short in the front and sides, and left long in the back.
Famous Wearers: Joan Jett, Nick Cave, Debbie Harry (Blondie)

This hairstyle gets a bad rap, as it's sometimes associated with white trash. However, those with natural good looks (like the people listed above) can pull off this style and even make it look flattering. As a punk hairstyle, the mullet has faded out of fashion. Perhaps we should be happy for that.

If you'd like to get a mullet, consider carefully. This haircut only flatters a few, and has some unwelcome white-trash connotations, especially in the states.

See Also: Mullet Hairstyle

Short, Spiky Hair

Sid Vicious.

What It Is: Short, spiky hair.
Famous Wearers: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten

Short, spiky hair is an easy look––so easy that many "posers" have appropriated it, leaving their more avant-garde peers to become either more conservative or more radical in their style.

For some people, short, spiky hair is the best look, since it's low-maintenance and can allow them to hold down a minimum wage job without running afoul of the dress code.

Conclusions

Punk hairstyles have changed and evolved through the decades; many mainstream hairstyles, anachronistic hairstyles, and vintage throwbacks have all existed within different parts of the movement.

However, the egalitarian (or theoretically egalitarian) politics of the punk movement allow a great deal of stylistic mobility, even if some people demand a completely unrealistic purity ("I'm punker than thou because my blah blah blah etc etc"). This allows punk rockers, especially the charismatic, attractive and influential ones, a great deal of latitude.

Related Reading:

Riot Grrrl

The Best Punk Models You've Never Heard of (Unless You're Really, Really Cool)

Sid and Nancy

Kinderwhore

Kinderwhore Makeup

More about all kinds of hairstyles, including punk hairstyles, in this section.


1980s punk photo by Tim Shapker.

Henry Rollins photo by Jon Iraundegi.

Chelsea Cut photo by Fiona Bearclaw.

Devilock photo by Itsquitealright.

Source unknown for Joan Jett and James Chance photos. Please contact us if you have any information.

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