No matter how uncertain times may be, there is one thing you can always count on (at least when it comes to beauty and fashion): Everything that was once old will be new again. Just consider tie dye, scrunchies, super-shiny lip gloss, one-shoulder tops, and the ‘80s power shoulder, which, by the way, is continuing to make a major comeback.
But perhaps no trend is having a bigger renaissance than curtain bangs, the wispy, face-framing fringe with roots in the ’60s and ’70s. Celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Hillary Duff, Kacey Musgraves, Halle Berry, Gigi Hadid, Elizabeth Olsen, Katy Perry, and The Crown‘s Emma Corrin, to name a few have been embracing them. Plus, they can be spotted on popular TV characters (think: Cassie, played by Kaley Cuoco in the HBO Max miniseries The Flight Attendant). And, yes, they’re all over TikTok (the hashtag alone has over 640 million views). Curtain bangs seem to be sweeping (no pun intended) the nation. In fact, even Jennifer Lopez—who debuted super sleek, bone-straight post-breakup bangs in May—couldn’t resist the trend.
It’s easy to see why: Not only are soft, swoopy curtain bangs extremely versatile—meaning they flatter any face shape and look equally good on straight, wavy, and curly hair, as well as long and short hair—but they also require much less maintenance than other bang styles, both in terms of daily styling (hello, air drying) and growing out (goodbye, bi-weekly trims).
So, if you’ve ever pondered that age-old question (no, not “What should I do with my life?” but “Should I get bangs?”), chances are, you might once again be contemplating making the cut. That’s why we chatted with a variety of hairstylists to find out everything you should know before getting curtain bangs.
Okay remind me, what are curtain bangs?
First made famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s by actresses like Brigette Bardot, Goldie Hawn, and Farrah Fawcett, curtain bangs—as the name suggests—are parted down the middle (or, sometimes, to the left or right) and swept to each side, so they perfectly frame your face and eyes, much like a curtain does with a window. “They’re super sultry, because you can be flirty and coquettish with them,” says New York City-based stylist Juan Carlos Maciques. “You can sort of hide behind them, but people can still see your eyes.”
While curtain bangs—which are a softer take on traditional, straight-across fringe—can vary in length, they’re typically shorter in the center (think: between the middle and bottom of the eyebrow) and longer on the sides, with wispy ends that blend into the rest of your hair. But if it’s your first time making the cut, though, you may want to go a bit longer, says Los Angeles-based hairstylist Aviva Perara. That way you’ll also have the option to pull them back into a ponytail or tuck them behind your ears .
There’s a reason curtain bangs became so popular in 2020 and continue trending in 2021.
They’re cut in a way that blends into the rest of your hair, so curtain bangs are a perfect middle ground (i.e. you can have bangs some days and no bangs other days)—which is super appealing, whether you want to test out a more manageable fringe before committing to something shorter or you want to shake up your style without doing something as dramatic as, say, micro bangs. Plus, you don’t have to worry about running to the salon every couple of weeks for regular trims. “You can basically forget about maintenance if you want to let them grow,” says Maciques. “Over time, they’ll just become face-framing layers.”
But there might also be another, more surprising reason behind the rise of curtain bangs. Like most things lately, Emily Heser, a stylist at NYC’s Cutler Salon, believes it may also have to do with the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve seen a huge jump in requests for bangs,” she says. “Which I think has to do with the desire to feel like you have some style even while your face is covered with a mask. Not to mention that I’ve had people tell me they were more inclined to take a risk during this past year since they weren’t seeing a lot of people.”
Now, as people begin to return to “normal” life, many are continuing to make major changes to their hair—which makes sense. A 2013 study found that stressful life events make people more likely to significantly change their appearance.
Will I look good with curtain bangs?
Here’s the best thing about curtain bangs: They look good on practically everyone—whether you’ve got straight, wavy, or curly hair, says Perara. “Anyone can pull off bangs as long as they’re tailored to suit your best features,” adds Heser. “Some people might look better with them completely above the eye, while a cheekbone-grazing length might be more flattering for others. That’s why it’s essential to find a stylist who really listens to you.” (Just as important? If you have wavy or curly hair, make sure to tell your stylist if you’ll be wearing it natural or straighter as that’ll help determine the right length and depth of your bangs.)
Not to mention that curtain bangs look equally good with all face shapes (yes, even round faces) and hair lengths. “As long as the shape looks balanced, curtain bangs can work with any style,” says Heser. “Whether you’ve got a pixie cut, a bob, a shag, or even waist-length strands, you can make the bangs sweep to the sides in a way that complements the rest of your look.”
But there is one or two exceptions: If you have a cowlick—those pesky pieces of hair that grow in their own pattern—near the front of the hairline, it may be tricky to get that signature middle part, warns Perara. Additionally, if you have very fine hair, you might find blunt bangs more flattering. “In order to get the wispiness of a curtain bang, you have to cut into the hair,” says Perara. “Whereas when you cut it blunt for straight-across fringe, that adds weight to the hair.”
Curtain bangs are relatively low-maintenance.
The truth is, all bangs—including curtain bangs—require some extra effort. “There is truly no such thing as a low-maintenance bang,” says Perara. “Anyone who says that is lying.” But that said, curtain bangs may be easier to style than other types of bangs—and that’s especially true during the cooler fall and winter months. “Bangs are a lot easier to manage when there’s no humidity, because they aren’t as likely to get sweaty or frizzy,” says Heser. “So for any client trying bangs for the first time, I usually recommend they wait until fall.”
Here’s how to style them.
Start by parting your hair down the middle, then take a one-inch section that’s close to the temples and wrap it around a one-inch round brush, making sure to hold the brush perpendicular to your hairline. “You don’t want to blow-dry the bangs horizontally as that can make them look too puffy or bubbly,” says Perara. Make a few passes with the blow dryer, remove the heat, and hold the section of hair in the brush for a few seconds to help shape it. Repeat this process, working in one-inch sections towards the center of the bang, before starting over on the other side. Once you’re finished styling, you can also spritz a disposable mascara wand with some hairspray and run it through your bangs to help keep them in check.