There’s Southern hair and then there’s Southern church hair—the special ‘do worn to Sunday services, WMU meetings, and bridal teas. It is painstakingly curled (or straightened), styled to the nth degree, and generously shellacked with hairspray. (Surely, after all these years, we needn’t specify Aqua Net?) Some of us went through a troubling “natural” phase in the ’70s, but we’re all better now. Take a look at these retro hairstyles, and let us know if we need to bring any of them back.
1960s Flip Hair
At the beginning of the 1960s, our former 50s ‘do got slightly jacked up and flipped. The flip required applying the right set of rollers long before heading to church or taking your highschool yearbook photo.
Sticking with Traditional
Even so, we leaned toward the traditional—nothing too outlandish. Still, we brought out the rollers and hairspray when planning to dress in our Sunday best.
But then along came the bouffant…This throwback to European aristocracy was popularized in the 1950s and ’60s and required a set of rollers, backcombing, teasing, and a healthy dose of lacquer hairspray.
Featuring (left to right): Bess Meyerson, Miss America Of 1945, Debra Dane Barnes Miss America 1968, Marie Beale Fletcher Miss America 1962, all in New York for a Luncheon at club 21.
And our church hair just got bigger and bigger. (Trivia question: Which one of the Supremes was born in Mississippi? Mary Wilson, in center of photo. You’re welcome.)
By the ’70s, the bouffant had given way to more natural styles and straightening hair with an iron. But even so, the South’s MANY Miss Americas, like Phyllis George, still had sense enough to keep a teasing comb handy, especially on Sunday.
Turn away! Don’t look! That straight, “busted down the middle” hair of Marsha’s drove Southern Mamas crazy in the ’70s, when Sissy wouldn’t put so much as a bow in her straight hair! (Reese Witherspoon has since helped Mama make her peace with stylishly sleek Sunday tresses.)
Fortunately for Mama, Southern girls rediscovered curls in the mid-70s, bringing well-coiffed waves back to the sanctuary once again. Longer hair was set in rollers or permed to achieve soft curls below the crown.
Eventually, y’all, we did this. Feathered hair for the Easter service is one vintage hairstyle that needs to stay in the time capsule. Ditto the prairie dress.
Clearly, these 80s ladies know how to handle a can of Aqua Net. And we respect that. They’re always welcome in our fellowship hall.
Here’s a variation on poufy 80s church hair—soft, big curls—with a bow-neck blouse to set it off. We’re not surprised her gleaming hair graced shampoo ads.
Reba, honey, with hair like that, you could’ve sung with any gospel quartet in the 90s. In this era, we teased and feathered our bangs into glorious heights.
Miss America from the 90s
This beauty could be a Southern preacher’s wife from the 90s. She’s actually a Miss America from that era, but we couldn’t envision a better example of church hair if we tried. Note the gentle lift around the face, the shiny curls that look soft to the touch but could withstand gale-force winds. We salute you, Miss America. And since your name is Tara Dawn, we’d like to make you an honorary citizen of Mississippi. Or Texas.
Queen Esther Marrow
Here we are in the late 2000s—when a powerful message still calls for hair that delivers. Thank you, Queen Esther Marrow, for showing us how it’s done.