Let’s split the difference

It’s a ’90s beauty trend that’s enjoying a 2020 boost – two-tone framing colour that makes your face the picture

The ‘90s revival is a trend that’s undoubtedly here to stay. It started with chokers and sportswear, and now blocky, high contrast hair is having a moment. In recent months, there’s been a rise in root stretches, chunky highlights and face-framing brights across Instagram feeds – serving looks that are equally retro and modern, while delivering some serious hair inspo for the summer months ahead. 

There’s no doubt that the Spice Girls had a huge influence on the must-have fashion and beauty looks of the late ’90s. In recent months, one Spice-inspired look has come to the fore, and this time it’s rooted in colour.

She may have been Ginger by name, but Geri’s hair trademark throughout the girl-group’s stratospheric rise was her bold-as-brass bleached bangs. Now, her distinctive look has been reinvented for the Insta generation with the addition of a radioactive edge. For Gen-Z, it’s all about the face-framing brights.“Those 90’s bleach bangs are a personal favourite of mine,” admits Carl Bowes, manager at Bleach London Berwick Street. “The look is strong and bold, and by simply adding a bleach fringe it changes your hair as a whole.”


“The look is totally rock and roll,” adds Joel McCauley of Slunks in Cardiff, “especially when it clashes with your base colour. People who are always pushing for the next cool hair idea or look have been really embracing this trend. These are the sort of looks that keep our jobs interesting and fun.”

As well as acknowledging its retro origins, Joel believes the trend’s resurgence is a natural result of the balayage boom. “If you look at how big balayage has become, the one thing that stands out is the mantra: ‘It’s all about the money piece’,” he explains, referring to the placement of lighter strands around the face. “It’s no different with alternative colours; it’s all about being bold and making a statement. Yes, it’s straight from the ’90s, but the modern twist means the colours are more refined and – importantly – picture ready.”

As well as face-framing brights, there’s been a rise in split-tone tresses, giving the option to go strong and bold with the colour placement, or alter the contrast between dark and lighting by going softer for a delicate finish. “Britain is going to go crazy for contrast hair à la Cruella De Vil, but it doesn’t have to be as stark as her look,” points out Anna Veck, owner of Anne Veck in Oxford. “Subtler colouring will become more widespread, using a centre parting with a half-half look for a striking effect.” 

Now, celebrities in lockdown such as Ruby Rose have been experimenting with split tone hues from their home. The vivid punky hues offer a bold take on the trend, giving a more pigmented punch (and perhaps a little ambitious until salons re-open – in England that looks like 4 July at the moment).

If you’re looking to  refresh your colour until you can sit in a salon once more, there’s some amazing treatments available to keep your locks looking on point. In the meantime we’d suggest turning to the pages of Pinterest and Instagram, if you’re looking for some high contrast colour inspiration for when the doors of your favourite salon are open once again.