Why Tina Turner’s Mega Mullet Was a Symbol of Rebirth
Yesterday, the world lost a beacon of style, soul, and resilience. Tina Turner passed away at the age of 83, leaving a legacy of powerful music and the sort of presence that legends are made of—factors evidenced by her award-winning music, ever-evolving fashion, and that symbolic, iconic hair.
“Tina Turner’s hair is so iconic that it’s entirely and instantly identifiable, even out of context,” says Rachael Gibson, also known as The Hair Historian. “You see that shaggy, supersized, spiky-but-soft shape, and it couldn’t be anyone else.” That hair, though—particularly the aforementioned style that represented her personal and professional renaissance—was all down to wigs, a tool on which the ‘Queen of Rock’ n Roll’ relied on for versatility, though the original choice was born of necessity.
The beginning of Turner’s career was marked by soft, of-the-moment hair, ’60s styles that oozed glamour and a certain amount of demureness—think banged blowouts, pin curls, and bouffants. But after an unfortunate (or fated) salon trip left her natural lengths damaged, Turner turned to wigs, a decision which helped to shape the bulk of her career.
“I’m not surprised when people think my wig is my own hair because I’ve always considered it an extension of myself. In a way, it is my hair,” shared Turner in her memoir, Tina Turner: My Love Story. The performer constructed and styled many of her own wigs, the natural-looking results contributing significantly to her image—and her confidence. “As she stepped into her own in the ’80s and left behind the toxicity of her past, the hair provided the perfect visual shorthand that something had changed,” says Gibson, referencing Turner’s rockstar resurgence after split with her notoriously abusive husband Ike Turner. “Gone were the smooth styles, sweeping bangs, and flippy ends, replaced with a wholly unique, frizzed-out mega mullet. It’s hair that’s all about power—it’s hair as armor.”
Turner’s blonde and barbed wigs were an exaggeration of a decade already defined by over-the-top hair, the better to pair with the era’s heavy, sculpted makeup and oversized suiting. “Tina’s hair took the idea and turned it up to 11,” says Gibson. “The fact it’s so removed from traditional ideas of femininity gave it edge and marked Tina out as a true individual who isn’t afraid to challenge stereotypes.” Gibson and Turner also note the movement that the wigs brought to the stage, an amplification of Turner’s own energy and kineticism.
Though the final decades of her life saw a quieting of her more exuberant hair looks, Turner will forever remain something of a phoenix, a woman who rose from the turmoil with the kind of fire born of faith and offered embodiment through beauty. “If you are unhappy with anything—your mother, your father, your husband, your wife, your job, your boss, your car—whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it,” wrote Turner. “Because you’ll find when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue