The ’80s Are Calling—Mall Bangs Are Back

Nessa Barrett wearing mall bangs

Grab your legwarmers, your Benetton tee and your teasing comb, and let’s go to the mall! (Or the salon. Or the salon at the mall?) Yes, “mall bangs” are on their way back into the spotlight, and whether you rocked the trend the first time and are cringing at the comeback or are like, totally ready to time travel via your fringe, here’s what to know about the return of this divisive trend.

Vanna White in the '80s with mall bangs

What Are Mall Bangs?

For people of a certain age, the phrase “mall bangs” is either a blast of fond nostalgia for their youth or a terrifying vision of crunchy, crispy fried fringe. In the mid-’80s to the early ‘90s, mall bangs anchored the sky high, teased up, towering hair sculptures secured with layer after layer of Aqua Net. They were named as such because they were popular with young people who spent a lot of time at the mall. (Before the advent of online shopping killed the mall, the ‘80s and early ‘90s were the glory days of the indoor shopping center.) When you think ‘80s hair, you probably think of some form of mall bangs: a light, feathery, wispy bang either worn straight across the forehead or in sprayed in sections.

Megan Thee Stallion wearing mall bangs


The 2023 version isn’t a pure replica of the often-mocked mall bang per se, but it could be a daughter or niece of the ‘80s mainstay. It’s a bit softer and less shellacked than its predecessor, with more room to change it up. Kim Kardashian wore a mall bangs-meets-emo bangs slicked-down look that would have been right at home in Hot Topic, while Dua Lipa rocked a wispier set in Cannes. Musician Jesse Jo Stark’s curtain bangs certainly could go mall-centric with a big spritz of Aqua Net. And then, of course, there’s the Pamela Anderson-inspired updo, which has seen a huge resurgence over the past year; Anderson often rocked a subtle mall bang with her signature tousled style.

Jessie Jo Stark wearing the mall bangs trend

How to Get the Look

The beauty of bangs is that they really can be optimized for your hair type, texture and styling preferences, and the updated mall bang is no different. “When it comes down to it, I think mall bangs are not about perfection, just adding some interest,” says Heggy Gonzalez, editorial stylist and creative director at Inspire Greatness Aveda Institutes. “They can be very customizable. The thing with bangs or fringe, generally has a lot to do with your hairline, the size of your forehead and how thick you want them.”


For this style, it’s important to really hone in on what you want versus plopping down in the salon chair and asking for mall bangs, which will probably make your stylist’s eyebrows hit the ceiling. “Depending on what you Google, you’ll see a wide range of different styles; let’s face it, in the ‘80s everyone had some sort of bang,” Gonzalez explains of the “customizable” aspect of mall bangs. “I really think it’s about adding a little detail around the face that can frame a style.” Think that wispy texture that lends itself well to curling, teasing and pinning; if you want to be able to brush them away from your face, ask for longer curtain bangs with a feathery texture. If you already have straight-across bangs, ask your stylist to remove some of the weight for that cheerful retro allure.


As with all things fringe-related, concentrated styling is key. “If you want them flat to your face, mold them when they’re wet and let them dry naturally,” she recommends. “Add a creaseless clip if you have any strong growth patterns in your hairline.” If you have a shorter forehead, Gonzalez recommends opting for bangs with more length. To get that curly, piece-y texture like Pamela Anderson, grab a small curling iron—not a wand—and curl your bangs under, then spray ‘em down with a healthy wallop of hairspray. (In lieu of the beloved Aqua Net, maybe try a lighter formula for a bit more movement.) Once your bangs are secure, lace up your sneakers and live your best ‘80s girl life at the mall (or online).


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