The “quiff,” that flamboyant plume of hair flipped high above the forehead, has become the coif of choice for pop princesses in search of a fiercer image: Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monáe, Rihanna, Pink and even Justin Bieber have all done the swoop. Also known as the pompadour, the oil-slicked hairstyle emerged in 1920s London as a dandy man’s ’do, but it was England’s rebellious teenage Teddy boys 30 years later, and their American counterparts, the Rockabillies, who solidified its place among the great outsider styles of the 20th century. Guys and dolls, musicians and models have been riffing on the quiff ever since.
The look’s enduring appeal lies in its gender-bending charm: It’s a little pretty on men, a little handsome on women (witness Jennifer Lopez at last year’s punk-themed Met Gala) and an instant signifier of non-conformist confidence on everyone.
Karl Lagerfeld requested quiffs for Chanel’s fall couture show as a modern counterpoint to the 18th-century-inspired embellished knits. “Karl gave me a drawing of square hair, with a very graphic shape and an androgynous look, like Grace Jones,” says Sam McKnight, Lagerfeld’s go-to hairstylist and Pantene Pro-V global stylist ambassador. Jones, of course, is the former supermodel who practically TM’d the flat-top—the ’80s iteration of the quiff. To keep models looking couture-elegant, McKnight softened the hard, Jonesian edges, pulling long tresses into polished ponies and building rounded platforms on top. But instead of the heavy beeswax-and-mineral-oil Brylcreem of the Grease era, McKnight recommends glossing with Pantene’s new Keragloss Oil Mist, a light spray made of plant-based oils for major shine without the wax that turned old-school quiffs into goopy monoliths.