The late ’90s through the early 2000s had some of the most iconic fashions of the last century. Whether it’s low-rise jeans or bubblegum pink velour tracksuits, the popular clothing of this era is making a comeback in a big way. Y2K beauty is also in the midst of a renaissance, and with it comes the return of some truly iconic hairstyles including baby braids and chunky highlights.
It’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgia and excitement of these trends, but for the younger generations that are attempting them for the first time, a zigzag part can be intimidating to accomplish. While some Y2K hairstyles may require a trip to the salon, others can be masterfully achieved at home. Before you break out the butterfly clips, hear from our three hair experts—Adam Federico, Mirna Jose, and Nai’vasha—on their favorite Y2K hairstyles and advice on how to get the look.
Nothing says early 2000s quite like butterfly clips. Most original butterfly clips were either metallic and sparkly or brightly colored plastic, but we are loving the more realistic butterfly clips of today. These clips also offer a great deal of versatility, as they can be added to almost any hairstyle and hair texture. “For curly or textured tresses, I love the use of a butterfly clip,” says Federico.
Feel free to incorporate butterfly clips into the root of your hair as a way to hold strands back, or into the length of your hair, as seen above in the Coachella look created by celebrity stylist Justine Marjan. A word of caution: Remove your butterfly slips slowly and carefully. The hinge of these clips can tangle in the hair and cause breakage if removed quickly, especially for those with curly or fragile hair.
Tiny, face-framing pieces were all the rage during Y2K—the smaller the better. Updos with tendrils framing the face were particularly popular during this time period, shares Jose. For an updated take on the trend, we love the wavy tendrils Priyanka Chopra often leaves loose when rocking an updo. While this style is typically easier for those with bangs, it can also be achieved using the shortest layers of the front of your hair or even your baby hairs (if you have enough of them). This is also a great time to try out clip-in bangs.
The chunky highlights of the early 2000s made way for the money piece trend of today. Face-framing blonde highlights were a popular Y2K mainstay, according to Federico, and one of his personal favorite trends. One way to capture this style is with bleached bangs, as seen on Dua Lipa. Consider also adding some chunky blond highlights throughout the body of your hair as well to balance out the look.
While the messy bun is a style that has survived decades, spiky buns are making a comeback on the red carpet and runways. To achieve this pointy look, we recommend starting with very straight hair and liberally applying hairspray before pulling the hair into a bun. Leave the ends out; you may need to further straighten and/or apply hairspray to really help the spikes stand out.
A sleek high ponytail is one of Jose’s favorite looks from this era, as she says it flatters all faces. A dramatically high ponytail is also great for all hair textures, though those with curly or fragile hair should take care not to pull their locks back too tightly.
If you’re looking for a fuller ponytail, try incorporating some clip-in hair extensions for added volume. Jose recommends Kintsugi Amplifying Glaze ($68) to help to achieve a sleeker look when wearing a high pony. “The product uses micro-algae to help repair any split-ends while simultaneously giving hair a glossy frizz-free look,” she explains.
Buns of all sizes and quantities swept scalps across the world during the early 2000s. Bantu knots, which date back to the Zulu Kingdom in Africa, were a popular protective style for textured hair. This hairstyle has been around for centuries, due to its ability to protect the hair from moisture loss and breakage. Bantu knots are achieved by creating neatly coiled buns or knots in sections of hair across the scalp, as seen here on Amandla Stenberg. Due to the cultural significance and history of the style, it’s important to avoid misinterpretation and appropriation by white and non-Black individuals.
Crimped hair was all the rage at the turn of the millennium but quickly fell out of style. The latest take on this look is “mermaid hair” which uses a three-barrel hot tool to achieve a similar, but looser crimped effect. This style is perfect for more humid days, as the added frizz and volume will only amplify the mermaid wave look. Pro tip: Start by misting hair with sea salt spray for added body and volume, like This is a Sea Salt Spray ($28) by Davines.
For a look that was popular in both the early 2000s and the 1950s try flipped ends. “One of my favorite styles to do is the flipped ends,” says Jose. “I always use Kintsugi’s Moisture Bond ($40) because it deeply moisturizes, prevents frizz that could lose the shape of the flipped end, and also works as a heat protectant, which we all know is not optional when it comes to using hot tools.” Flipped ends can be added to many looks, including ponytails, half updos, and even pigtails. Nai’vasha says this look is one of her favorites, too.
Zigzag Hair Part
One of the easiest ways to spice up a center part, the zigzag hair part can be combined with many other looks on this list. Achieved by sectioning the hair back and forth in a zigzag pattern, use a rattail comb—like the one from Harry Josh Pro Tools ($20)—to create the pattern and part the hair to either side.
Space buns are a popular style for all hair types, but Jose specifically mentions how great they are for curls and coils. She says they are “easier to achieve because they don’t require any tools,” created only by working with the hair’s natural texture. To try it out for yourself, part your hair in two and twist the hair into buns at the crown of the head. This style can also be done as a half-up style by only pulling the top section of the hair into the two buns and leaving the rest of the hair loose.
Micro braids were made iconic in the early 2000s by the likes of Beyonce and Brandy. These braids are the “micro” version of the also popular box braids. Micro braids offer a lot of flexibility in style, as they can vary in length and color. They can also be styled into many of the other looks on this list, like space buns or a high ponytail.
The scrunchie is having a renaissance. What was once a brightly-colored cotton-covered elastic is now found in many forms, including protective silk for textured hair. Lupita Nyong’o gave us serious scrunchie envy with this perfectly coordinated ensemble. Scrunchies can be added to other styles and are often less damaging to the hair than traditional hair elastics.
Face Framing Braids
Tiny, face-framing braids are a favorite of Federico’s. This style is great for all hair types but was most commonly found with straight or wavy hair during the early 2000s. To try this look at home, section off the top part of the hair, part your hair as you normally do, and then braid the two sections and secure with small or clear elastics.
The 1997 classic film B.A.P.S. features a collection of gravity-defying updos that served as inspiration throughout the Y2K era. Cardi B’s Met Gala look has many elements of Y2K hair trends and is reminiscent of the movie’s iconic styles. Nai’vasha says she is personally a big fan of all of the sculptured B.A.P.S. looks.
Similar to the ponytails of the Y2K era, the higher the pigtails the better. Many of the pop princesses of the early 2000s donned sky-high pigtails and we love to see Rosalia embracing this retro look. She combined her pigtails with some face-framing tendrils and even a tiny braid for a total Y2K throwback.
Barrettes, barrettes, barrettes—worn almost any way—are Federico’s favorite way to capture Y2K magic. “To style barrettes, I recommend getting a matching set of four,” he says. “Style hair smooth and part down the center. Next, liberally spray a boar bristle brush with R+Co Bleu’s Reflective Shine Hairspray ($39). Smooth down the root area. About three to four inches off of the root line stack the barrettes, two on each side.”
Britney Spears made braided pigtails an essential Y2K hairstyle with her 1999 “…Baby One More Time” music video. If you’re looking to give the braided pigtails a more mature and modern update, try French braided pigtails like those worn here by Lilly Singh. For added drama, try adding extra length with extensions.
Nai’vasha is a big fan of the Halle Berry pixie, as she says it’s the easiest to achieve for all textures. “Most of the techniques used to achieve these styles were all about building with layers on layers. I like to use the Curl Queen Royal Nectar Hair Oil ($52) to give these looks some hydration and shine,” she says.
Claw Clip Updo
Claw clips are the perfect lazy day hair accessory. What started as a Y2K fashion staple has become part of the modern-day model’s day off uniform. Styling your hair with a claw clip is as easy as twisting the length of your hair up to the back of your head and securing it with a large enough claw clip.
Adding gemstones to hair was a popular Y2K trend that is easy to implement on your current favorite styles. Adhesive gemstones or pearls can be applied to the lengths of your hair or at the hairline. Gabrielle Union’s addition of subtle sparkle to her braids is a great example of how you can make this style your own.
Lizzo embraced a lime green version of the mixed texture look made popular by Avril Lavigne and the Olsen twins in the early 2000s. You can try this look by using a crimping iron on random pieces of hair. Make sure to stagger the frequency and height of each crimp to ensure a tousled look.
A Little Bit of Everything
Doja Cat hit the Grammy’s red carpet rocking multiple Y2K hair elements, proving that it’s possible to pull off a little bit of everything from these trends. This look combined face-framing tendrils, a spiky bun, and flipped-out ends for a half-up look that inspires envy. Consult the advice for each of these components to pull off a Y2K-packed look. We think this style would be perfect for wedding guests or even prom.