Layers are a divisive topic. Those of us who overdid flicky layered hair in the early noughties and spent the next two years trying to blow dry them into submission may, justifiably, think they’re not worth the hassle.
On the other hand, those who have seen the sultry, choppy, voluminous layers cropping up in every cool-girl haircut on social may well be wondering if it’s time for a do-over.
The thing is, even the most styling-phobic among us probably already have some form of layers (they come in all shapes and sizes, see). The trick is matching your aesthetic, your lifestyle and your willingness to get to grips with a round brush, to the layers you choose: for instance relaxed, invisible layers (more on those later) vs big ’90s layers, or bold shaggy layers.
“Layers are pretty much a part of any haircut unless you’ve got a sharp bob,” explains leading hair stylist, Luke Hersheson. “A grown-out fringe is an example of layers, as are some framing pieces that finish around your jaw or chin,” he says.
Over the past couple of years, notably layered haircuts have seen a massive revival. In fact, celebrity hairstylist, Larry King, reckons they’re pretty much the biggest hair trend for right now.
Beauty nostalgia has seen some of the headlining layered hair trends from the ‘60s, ’70s, ’90s and noughties return for a modern makeover. Take the ‘70s revival dominating TikTok. It’s brought with it the shag, Charlie’s Angels flips, swooshy curtain fringes and even (if you’re brave) a modern spin on the mullet.
Deliberately bold and choppy styles are back in, but they’re totally customisable, too – you can create softer nods to the trends by paring them back, like the “pretty shag” which leans into mussed-up texture, but keeps the layers in hair longer, so they’re easier to style.
Or for a more delicate approach to layered hair, internal and invisible layers are low-key but make all the difference offering longer layers in finer sections to give hair volume and movement without creating choppy, chunky layers that need a lot of styling.
“Internal layers create movement and air pockets inside the hair without necessarily changing the overall length of a hairstyle. The length stays and the movement increases,” explains LA’s coolest hair stylist, Sal Salcedo. “They exist to give the hair volume and shape it from the inside out,” he adds. “Invisible layers are really relevant for a softer approach,” explains Luke. They’re subtler, seamless and much more imperceptible. “You may have layers in your hair, but you don’t want them to feel like clumps or ledges. It’s less of an obvious layer,” Luke says.
For something in between, ‘90s layers, like the ones that give the supermodel blow dry its oomph, blend medium-length layers, that finish around the jaw or shoulder-blade. They’re statement in that the layers are an obvious element of the look, but they’re relaxed since the length makes them easier to style, or tie-back on off-duty days. Plus, they can can grow out seamlessly.
Tempted to get chopping? Before you make the cut, here’s everything you need to know about layering.
What is layered hair?
At its most basic, a layer is “hair that doesn’t reach the bottom of your hair,” says Luke. More specifically, “it is the lightest form of hair cutting,” explains Ryan Forsythe, senior director at Trevor Sorbie’s Covent Garden salon. “Sections of hair are held out and cut vertically from the head to reduce weight.
What are the benefits of layered hair?
“Layering hair not only removes weight but can also help to create shape, give volume, movement and texture,” explains Ryan.
Do layers make hair look thicker?
“Not necessarily thicker but they can add volume giving a fuller effect,” says Ryan. If you have very fine hair however, stick to longer layers, as shorter sections, like those in The Shag, can make it look wispy.
Can having layers in your hair help to transform or update a style without the need for losing length?
“Absolutely, if you have a heavy one length bob for example, a few layers can help you achieve more texture/movement,” explains Ryan. “Or if your long hair feels a bit flat on top, some layering around the crown will give it some bounce.”