The school uniform. The red catsuit. The SNAKE. There’s no denying that since she burst into the public consciousness back in 1998, Britney Spears has turned out a whole host of iconic looks. But beyond the outfits (which incidentally, absolutely dominated Halloween costume choices this year), Ms Spears’s hairstyles also deserve to be given legendary status, with the spiteful tabloid commentary that clouded the late ’00s firmly in the past.
So, as the woman herself celebrates both her personal freedom and a milestone birthday (Happy 40th, Brit!), we’re honouring some of Britney Spears’s best video, red carpet and on-stage hair moments from her decades in the spotlight. And with all things turn of the millennium very much back on the style radar, we’ve consulted with hair pro Suzie McGill (international artistic director of Scottish salon giant Rainbow Room International) to provide tips and tricks enabling you to recreate and remix your favourites.
Baby One More Time bangs and golden layers
When the world first met fresh-faced 17-year-old Britney Spears, both her hair colour and texture were more ‘girl next door’ than ‘pop starlet’. A deep, honey-blonde and parted fringe provided the foundation for those unmistakable pigtails, and on the cover of her debut album, she kept things simple.
“This look of Britney’s almost resembles the ’90s ‘Rachel’ cut, featuring a mid-length style with layers that add volume and texture to the hair,” explains Suzie. “She wore it so effortlessly and the great thing about this style on straight hair is the layers add shape without any heated styling tools having to be used. You can simply spritz some texturising spray into the hair to give it further movement if required.”
“This hair colour was one of my favourites of Britney’s,” she adds. “It looked healthy, full of shine and worked perfectly with her complexion. To get the same shade, ask for a gorgeous warm and natural – almost bronde – tone, with delicate highlights.”
Platinum blonde show-stopping lengths
By the time Britney donned a bejewelled, nude bodysuit in the video for the smash-hit ‘Toxic’, her bombshell rating had been dialled up a notch, and that was reflected in her bolder and brighter hair colour.
“This is a signature look of Britney’s and one she seems to always come back to,” says Suzie of the long, platinum lengths that first appeared with the release of Spears’s 2003 album In The Zone. “Although super-light, Britney’s hair didn’t look damaged and instead looked creamy and shiny – the perfect light blonde hue! She can pull off any look and thanks to careful toning and conditioning, she always nailed this hue perfectly.”
Want to emulate Brit’s ’00s mega-star blonde or the dustier tones she opted for throughout her more recent Glory album campaign? Be patient on your journey to platinum and accept that toners and breakage prevention treatments need to be your new BFFs! Familiarise yourself with some of your options by checking out our guide to bond-building hair products.
Bringing in bold tones
In the videos for her singles ‘Do Somethin” and ‘I Wanna Go’, Britney Spears spiced up her trademark blonde hair with slices of red and black. This experimentation with flashes of bold colour was something she returned to on the red carpet at the 2015 Teen Choice Awards, with a mint green and purple dip-dye.
“Britney’s 2015 Teen Choice Awards hair look definitely made a statement,” says Suzie. “It was a unique look for her, but she softened it by opting for waves and by keeping the bands of blended mermaid-like colours to the ends. It looked fabulous.”
If you’re looking for a lower commitment way to try out rainbow hair shades on a blonde base, hidden panels, clip in extensions or a dip-dye effect are a great option. “Having these tones just on the ends of her hair allowed this look to be a lot lower maintenance for Britney,” Suzie adds, “blending and fading beautifully as it grew out.”
Pump up the volume
“Britney looked radiant at the Grammy Awards in 2002,” says Suzie of this style, which was reminiscent of one of Spears’s own idols, Mariah Carey. “This was one of the first times we had seen Britney with voluminous, ringlet curls,” she adds. “It’s a seriously statement look for someone who normally wears their hair straight, but it’s one she pulled off perfectly.”
Key to making a mountain of ringlets read ‘diva’ rather than pageant-esque? If you’re using a heated tool like a tong to recreate this Britney Spears hair look, switching up the curl direction will make the results appear more natural. It’s also good to keep a close eye on product use to help with the texture of the ringlets, so go easy on the lacquer-like strong hold hairspray and add lightness back in with gentle use of dry shampoo or texture dust. The aim is for the style to last, but not look set in place, with some natural fluffiness and less tightly curled strands breaking up the shape.
“This look screamed red carpet glamour,” says Suzie, “and if you’re lucky enough to have naturally curly hair, today we are embracing curls more than ever. Dress them up for parties and going out simply using curl-specific products to help define and give them more volume, and you’re good to go!”
Crimping made easy
Though she rarely opts for curls, Britney has rocked a variety of crimped and barrel-waved looks throughout her career to date. In fact, if she’s not wearing her hair in a high ponytail on stage or sporting a piecey, tousled look, you can bet she’s been styled with mermaid S-waves or a mixed-texture effect, just like in the music videos for ‘Boys’, ‘Stronger’ and the 2015 collaboration with Iggy Azaelia, ‘Pretty Girls’.
“Britney Spears became renowned for her crimped hair looks, wearing them in a number of different styles,” says Suzie. “Sometimes sections were crimped with the rest of the hair left straight, or she wore them with braids to give the look an even more playful and youthful appearance.”
Micro-braids are back in a big way thanks to the Y2K style revival and so Britney’s visual back catalogue is a great place to mine for inspiration. “Celebrities like Britney provide the perfect reference point to bring these looks back on trend with a modern twist,” Suzie agrees. And that twist can be as simple as swapping a zig-zag for the altogether more current centre parting, or making the base for your style a more modern shape, like a shag or wolf cut.
That settles it; when it comes to the ultimate ’00s hair icon, we’re convinced it’s Britney, b*tch! Now, off to YouTube to enjoy some tunes and screen-grab some serious hair inspo!