What, exactly, constitutes "Gen Z style"? It's a tricky thing to pin down, and that's mainly because eclecticism and individualism are so key to the generation's aesthetic preferences, as are TikTok, K-pop, slang millennials may never understand (is "cheugy" still a thing?) and a general rejection of the gender binary. That's true when it comes to fashion, and perhaps even more so when it comes to beauty.
Take, for example the wacky, whimsical, sometimes flat-out weirdly-named viral hairstyles and fads bubbling up amongst the youths: In a recent trend report released by Google outlining the most-searched Gen Z hairstyles, the top two were the "wet mop haircut" and the "broccoli haircut." And though Gen Z is set on forging their own unique approach to fashion and beauty, they also draw plenty of inspiration from "vintage" (yes, I cringed writing that) '90s and early 2000s trends, which has set forth a resurgence of throwback looks millennials themselves invented — butterfly clips, baby braids, claw clips... I could go on.
If you, like me, still don't really understand "cheugy" and mainly think of "the Rachel" when tasked with naming an ultra-trendy hairstyle that defined a generation, well, this is a primer for you. I tasked hairstylist Clayon Hawkins — whose Gen Z-heavy celebrity client list includes Olivia Rodrigo, Iris Apatow and Maddie Ziegler — with breaking down nine different hair trends the younger generation is loving right now.
The Wolf Cut
"The wolf cut is a cross between a shag and a mullet, and has probably been most popularized by Miley Cyrus, although the look also harkens back to '60s Jane Fonda," says Hawkins. "It's a totally unisex, badass cut that looks great no matter what texture you have. A good volumizing spray and matte wax are key to making this cut work. It's also the anti-blowout cut — letting your hair air dry is the key."
The 'Wet Mop' or 'Broccoli' Cut
The "wet mop" and the "broccoli" haircut are basically the same thing, explains Hawkins, who describes them as "the go-to cuts for all the young heartthrobs on TikTok." The style — which is long on the top and closely cropped or faded on the sides — is actually a silhouette that has been around for decades, but has evolved over the years.
"In the 2000s, you had buzzed sides and a mohawk or faux-hawk on top; in the 2010s, we went longer and had a man bun on top," says Hawkins. "These days, we're seeing a shaggier bang, as is the case with the wet mop, or a curlier bang, like the broccoli cut. These looks are super fun and are a nod to the '90s with a K-pop twist."
"Gen Z is all about embracing and enhancing their natural beauty," says Hawkins. "If your hair is naturally curly, you're going to rock those curls and show off what your parents gave you. Everything is effortless and natural feeling."
Just because Gen Z doesn't remember Y2K doesn't mean they can't be nostalgic for it. "Every generation yearns for the 'simple time' before they were born, and Gen Z is no different," says Hawkins. "They just happen to yearn for the campy Y2K looks of the past."
He points to Y2K-inspired barrettes and accessories, like claw clips, as current Gen Z trends, but also predicts that pigtails and pigtail braids will have a big moment over the summer: "It's fun, fresh, and also a great style for hotter seasons."
This one you probably know: Gen Z does not care for a side part.
"Middle parts are huge with the younger generation," says Hawkins. "You'll rarely find a Gen Z starlet or pop star with a side part, and even the boys are embracing the 'butt cut,' which was dreaded for two decades. Both of these looks are about feeling effortless and an ambivalence towards volume. Expect these looks to last a couple more years."
"Effortless hair will always be in, but people are definitely having more fun with their hair. There's a playfulness to the younger trends," says Hawkins. One example is baby braids — skinny face-framing braids that are often used to add a bit of flair to hair that's simply down or up and braided (as seen above).
"Baby braids are fab," says Hawkins. They're also practical and especially helpful for those in the process of growing out bangs or trying to get short layers off the front of the face.
"Why pin your bangs away with a basic Bobby pin when you can load up with barrettes? I'm obsessed with accessories and so are all of my clients," says Hawkins, who, it's worth noting, is also an ambassador for hair accessory brand Goody. "I think that this generation views hair accessories more as a statement and as a way of expression, rather than just a practical thing. Even something as simple and practical as a claw clip now has so many different colors and patterns to choose from. So expressing yourself while keeping your hair out of your face has never been easier."
"Short haircuts, especially on feminine-presenting folks, are all about power and showing off the face," says Hawkins. "It's a way of saying, 'I'm still feminine and gorgeous and don't need to be attached to long hair.'"