What’s in vogue has a way of recycling itself. We see the inevitable impulse to recreate vintage looks resurface every few years, whether it’s the comeback of boyfriend jeans or cat eye glasses. Even the beehive hairstyle of the 1960s lives on today.
It proves, time and again, that nostalgia is a compelling inspiration point.
L.A.-based celebrity hairstylist Carlos Zelaya sees this first-hand as he styles the on-screen and red-carpet looks of TV and film stars. “Hair trends are driven by fashion trends,” he says. “So, as fashion designers are inspired by vintage looks, we [hairstylists] are driven to create looks that complement these fashions. That’s when we start to see vintage and retro hairstyles begin to re-emerge.”
Just this year, stars from Janelle Monáe to Jennifer Lopez, and models on runways from Moschino to Guo Pei, have made the beehive their own — all while also paying homage to its original mid-century icons.
Adi Nujeidat, the co-owner and artistic director of YGallery Salon, explains this penchant: “As artists, we are always inspired by the world and culture that has existed before us. I like to take influences from the past and combine them with the energy of modern-day culture.”
The Beginning Of the Beehive
Since its origin, the beehive hairstyle has adapted to the times and to the women who opt for the towering look.
Early adopters included those radiating confidence such as actresses, singers, and the fashion set — a fact that still holds true. The original creator, Chicago hairdresser Margaret Vinci Heldt, was asked to dream up a new hairstyle by the editors of Modern Beauty Shop magazine (now Modern Salon). It debuted in a 1960 issue; no one could have predicted that it would spread to some of the most influential American girl groups and film icons of the times — much less that it would still be relevant 57 years later.
Why? There’s something entirely commanding about the high-and-mighty look.
This attitude is what both set it apart from the soft bouffant waves of the 1950s and gave it such an allure. So, it’s no surprise that women with strong points of view continue to embrace the trend.
“It creates an illusion of height, and I think that contributes to its longevity,” says Zelaya. “For women, it can have a similar impact to high heels and how they make her look taller and slimmer. The saying goes, ‘The bigger the hair, the closer to God,’ but I always say, ‘The bigger the hair, the smaller the hips.'”
Here are five ways women continue to pile up their hair and boldly bring their big personalities to life.
1. The Half-Up Hive
This deconstructed take on the beehive made the up-do less prim and more rock. It plays perfectly with a heavy eyeliner and harkens a bad-girl mystique. Rebels across decades dared to align with this commanding spin, including Top-40 soul-pop group The Ronettes in the 1950s and ’60s, and the aughts’ soul singer Amy Winehouse.
2. The Nested Hive
Instead of smoothing teased hair backward, this version smooths the outer layer sideways. Either way, it still requires hairspray. A lot of hairspray. Not that it deters the brightest and most beautiful from flaunting the nested hive at star-studded dinner parties or red-carpet events. Over time, it has been a hairstyle paired with brilliant bib necklaces and shoulder-baring gowns. This is equally true for striking women from this early-era Christian Dior model to music sensation Jennifer Lopez, who looked poised at her London film premiere.
3. The Vertical Hive
Heldt (who died in 2016) said she wanted a hairstyle to fit under her fez hat, à la Jackie Kennedy. This sky-high variety builds on this idea —literally.
Perfected with pearls, lace, and ribbon, the vertical hive channels 18th-century aristocracy. Nujeidat notes the intention of the look. “This beehive is avant-garde. The texture of the hair is polished and shiny, symbolizing the future,” he says. “Perhaps the beehive hairstyle has survived all these years because it’s BIG, eye-catching, and unique but classy at the same time. It has a futuristic flare to it.”
Mari Wilson, a 1980s pop/jazz singer, used this to shape her signature look and, more recently in 2010, fashion designer Lorenzo Riva added a satin accent to sweeten the authoritative hives on his runway at Rome Fashion Week.
4. The Understated Hive
Longing for volume but allaying grandiosity, some women softened the beehive with simpler styling. Moderate hair height, side-swept bangs and a neutral lip let the sultry eyes become the focus. This style was worn deftly throughout the eras by icon of easy listening Barbra Streisand and, generations later, by sought-after model Gigi Hadid at Milan Fashion Week.
5. The Embellished Hive
Whatever shape hairstyles take, they are bound to be decorated. For the beehive, the smaller and more delicate the accent, the better. This bore a trend of rhinestones and pearlescent accents.
It was imbued in the minds of everyone who saw Audrey Hepburn wearing a sparkling hair comb as Holly Golightly in the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “This style was more feminine, which related to the period when the hair was more sophisticated, almost princess or fairytale like,” Nujeidat says. Today, the embellished hive lives on as seen on funk/soul star Janelle Monáe at the 2017 Golden Globe awards in Los Angeles. “She’s really making a statement, connecting her hairstyle [and accessories] with her dress,” says Zelaya.
With so many ways to wear it, the beehive won’t be falling out of trend anytime soon, says Nujeidat. “Sophisticated style with edge makes women feel empowered, rich, and beautiful.” This desire is timeless. And, as he explains, major haircare brands are boosting the possibilities.
“Bumble and bumble, Vidal Sassoon, Anthony Mascolo, and Bertram K have created incredible hair products that allow artistic directors to control style and volume in the exact way they desire,” Nujeidat continues. With advanced pro tools and continued consumer demand, it looks like things are looking up for the beehive.