As the decade comes to a close, we’ve all been forced to grapple with our past beauty mistakes through the cruelty of something called the Ten Year Challenge. For those who have been blissfully unscathed by it until this point, the challenge consists of simply posting a side-by-side of a photo of yourself taken in 2009 and 2019.
Along with bringing about some hardcore cringing, it’s sparked an overly enthusiastic discussion among our staff about the disturbing amounts of eyeliner, duck faces, and Abercrombie layered tank tops (why so many tank tops??) we had in all our group photos (shot on a digital camera, obviously). Sure, these were embarrassing, but nothing became more clear in our Facebook album exhumations than the fact that we all had the same bangs. You know the ones. Despite spanning various ages and locations, every single one of us had thick, choppy, deeply swooped bangs pushed to the side, blocking our line of vision like a furry eyepatch.
Literally, everyone had them.
After a brief unofficial investigation, the origin of The Bangs seem to be traced back to a few sources: Ashlee Simpson, early pioneer of The Bangs, circa her 2004 Autobiography album, Kristin Cavallari on Laguna Beach in 2005 (later to be followed by both LC and Heidi on The Hills), and the crop of Disney channel starlets popular at the time (Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, and Selena Gomez) who were presumably trying to add a little edge to their look while trying to remain family friendly.
But perhaps, the most horrific revelation is that like The Bump (or Pouf?), it’s been a long enough time that The Bangs might very well cycle back into modern-day hair lexicon. Case in point: Taylor Swift is wearing them on the latest cover of British Vogue.
I have a lot of questions for our past selves. Who impressed upon millions of girls across the country that a chunk of bangs was the look? Why did we insist on frying them with a flat iron (in my case it was a bang-sized hot pink one) but crunching gel through the rest of our hair to create “waves”? Why were we always so…greasy? In an attempt to understand—and, perhaps, warn a new generation of impressionable young women—I asked the Glamour team to share what pair of bangs inspired them to get the cut, as well as photographic evidence of how it actually turned out. Join us for a stroll down memory lane.
“I don’t remember having any specific person inspiring me to get bangs, but I was into emo music, so maybe that was it? Around that time I also felt deeply connected to Rory Gilmore and Zooey Deschanel—two women who have had excellent bangs over the years.” —Anna Moeslein, senior editor
“I’m not sure why I was so taken by Ashley Tisdale’s side bangs—Selena Gomez was my true icon in 2009—but I have a distinct memory of bringing a photoshoot torn out of Seventeen of her to the hairdresser. I was convinced the bangs would totally change my life and would finally make me into the it-girl I was destined to be (I was 13). The results were…less than great…but I’ve never been able to shake the allure of bangs and have had some variation ever since.” —Bella Cacciatore, beauty associate
“What were the early 2000s without My Chemical Romance? Whether I was crafting an angsty playlist on my iPod Nano, going all in with neon eye makeup courtesy of Hot Topic, or perfecting the perfect wispy side bang—eternal heartthrob and MCR frontman Gerard Way’s influence was never far away. Not at all counting down the days until the band’s comeback.” —Erin Parker, commerce writer
“I was obsessed with Sharpay Evans’ hair and I wanted to do anything to replicate it. But all that I had in my power was Sun-In and combing almost all of my hair over the side of my face. I TRULY believed this was bangs, instead of just like, hair on top of face. —Jenny Singer, staff writer
“I had really short hair that I always curled to make it look even shorter. Vanessa Hudgens always (and still does) have a boho-chic vibe that I wanted to copy, so I did just that. I committed with curly side bangs and all. I can’t ever see myself going back to that length, but when I feel a bit of nostalgia I’ll curl my hair and pin it up just like that, but the side bangs are never coming back.” —Khaliha Hawkins, producer
“I was making plenty of questionable decisions in 2009, but none of them involved my hair. I had returned to my dark-brown roots and cut off a bunch of dead weight after a few regrettable years as a blond. The goal was side bangs with a cross between Mandy Moore’s length with Victoria Beckham’s choppy, piecey texture.” —Kim Fusaro, branded content director
“Suburban Missouri had a reality terrible litmus test for what was ‘cool’, so most of my style and beauty decisions from 2005 through 2011 can only be described as a ‘What Would an MTV Reality Star Do?’ I was firmly Team Kristin all the way (I had the Hollister slogan tee that said so) and copied whatever the Laguna Beach star did—so, yep, that means double popped polos and denim skirts with Ugg boots, all with The Bangs. Believe me, it was a far less regrettable decision than when Snooki introduced me to a teasing comb.” —Lindsay Schallon, senior beauty editor
“The year was 2007, and I was obsessed with Anne Hathaway from The Devil Wears Prada. I brought a photo of her looking gorgeous to my mom’s hairdresser, and somehow ended up with a shoulder-length cut and side-swept bangs. I hadn’t yet discovered dry shampoo, and they remained permanently greasy for the next two months. I spent the following year growing them out. TL;DR: It was not my best look.” —Madeline Hirsch, senior social media manager
“As someone who (this is true) once won a giant Tweety Bird at a fair because someone guessed I was six when I was 12, I spent most of the early 2000s desperately trying to look my actual age. Somehow I hoped side bangs would help? I pinned my hopes and dreams on Miley Cyrus, whose bangs seemed to imply a certain level of maturity that I obviously lacked. Did it work? All I know is that I still get asked for ID at bars. I’m 27.” —Mattie Kahn, culture director
“I got thick side bangs because I, for some reason, was very taken with the idea of being a woman who haphazardly gives a subtle shake of her head to get them out of her eyes. I also was inundated with images of 2000s-era Mischa Barton and Jennifer Aniston, both of whom were massive superstars at the time and looked so fresh and modern with sideswept fringe.” —Perrie Samotin, digital director
“Nicole Richie was always my girl. I was obsessed with her Rachel Zoe boho chic makeover, loved her on The Simple Life, and for a long time (once she got the makeover, obvi) she was my style icon. While I couldn’t afford her clothes, I COULD get her bangs. And boy did I ever. To very mixed results…” —Samantha Leach, assistant culture editor
I don’t really remember why I got The Bangs. Judging by my other choices at the time, I think I wanted to seem fashion-y, but also like someone who has a lot of feelings (read: emo girl). And they gave me a great excuse to flirtatiously brush hair out of my eyes. —Sarah Olin, art director
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate of Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.