Chicago is a city known for bringing us deep dish pizza, Ferris wheels, and skyscrapers. But one of the city's key historical innovations that often gets overlooked is the beehive hairstyle.
Made popular by Chicago salon owner Margaret Vinci Heldt, this hairstyle broke the low-volume norms of its time. Page boy cuts and flipped-out styles were all the rage until Heldt, who won the 1954 National Coiffure Championship, was asked to create something entirely new for the editor of what is now Modern Salon magazine in 1960. The inspiration behind Heldt's ideation was to create a style that could fit under her beloved fez hat. It was on the set of the magazine's shoot—while photographing the tall, towering shape of hair secured by a bee's pin—that the name "beehive" was coined.
Meet the Expert
Anna Lyles-Gots is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist that has worked in fashion and advertising for over a decade. She specializes in high-design and wearable styles for all hair textures.
"Beehives are known for their gravity-defying height and structure," says LA-based hairstylist Anna Lyles-Gots. "The style is characterized by its top volume, and a very solid silhouette with the sides pinned back." These infamous silhouettes became impossible to miss in the 1960s, with leading ladies like Audrey Hepburn, Brigit Bardot, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Streisand, and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy all taking a liking to them.
And while it defined the era of the early 1960s, this style has remained a classic staple in hairstyling ever since. Modern-day starlets including Amy Winehouse, Adele, and the Queen Bey herself (Beyonce Knowles), have all worn this look on the red carpet in the last twenty years.
We've rounded up a handful of our favorite celeb-worn beehives, plus an expert-approved breakdown on how to achieve the style from the comfort of your own home.
How-To Create A Beehive
- Begin with dry hair: No matter your texture, always start dry. "The goal is to turn your hair into a workable fabric that you can sculpt," according to Lyles-Gots.
- Back-brush the top: At the front of the hairline, just behind the bangs or desired parting, "take a two-inch horizontal panel of hair," says Lyles-Gots, and lift it up to a 90-degree angle from the head before backcombing or back brushing with a boar bristle brush. Continue this all the way down your mohawk section until you've reached the nape of your neck.
- Back-brush the sides: Continue to backcomb your hair, using vertical sections on each side, all the way around the head. This preparation will create a bit of a hair nest but stick with it. "Afro or brushed out kinky hair should skip the backcombing," notes Lyles-Gots.
- Sculpt your shape: "Use your fingers to pull your shape back and/or up into the desired height and silhouette," says Lyles-Gots. You can also apply a light layer of hairspray onto your hairbrush and gently brush your sides back for a sleek contrast to your volume up top.
- Twist and secure: Once you've found your desired placement for each of your three main sections (top and sides), "twist your ends in at the back and pin to secure," says Lyles-Gots. Hairpins work great, but for heavier, more stubborn hair types, keep a few reliable bobby pins on hand as well for extra security. Lyles-Gots recommends misting your style all over with a solid-hold hairspray such as Bumble and bumble's Does It All Spray ($32) or L'Oreal Paris's Elnett Extra Strength Unscented Hairspray ($12).
For fine hair: "Mist each section with a dry texturizing spray before backcombing to offer your strands extra hold and height," says Lyles-Gots.
For wavy or curly hair: To keep your natural texture intact, "set curly hair with a moisturizing curl defining gel."
For afro or kinky hair: "You can use a bit of water or softening leave-in conditioner to help shape the hair and lightly blow dry on low heat to keep the hair in place."
Using pre-existing shapes like hair donuts or vertical hair shapers can help thicker hair types avoid the headache that may come from such a top-heavy style. These cushions give a lightweight base frame for the hair to pin into which avoids any irritation at the scalp.
It's only natural that Rihanna would take a bold and edgy approach to the classic hairstyle. The bright red color and wispy bangs bring the beehive into the 21st century.
While it is possible for anyone to sport this trending hairstyle, "hair cuts above the shoulders can be trickier to put into place," notes Lyles-Gots. "As a general rule, if your hair can reach into a half’s topknot, you can also achieve a half-up beehive." And for even shorter lengths, a classic bouffant-style volume at the crown is a lovely beehive-derived option.
We love this Aretha Franklin-inspired, deeply side-swept front worn by Beyonce. Leave it to Queen Bey to take hair advice from another legendary queen, inspiring a whole hive of fans to continue wearing this timeless look.
Aside from prepping your hair with a full-bodied blowout, giving it a tousled texture to finish provides a very lived-in, Bridget Bardot-inspired vibe. For a similar bedhead take on the beehive, use Oribe's Dry Texturizing Spray to finish your look and give a gentle "zhush" to any noteworthy flyaways, embracing them like Christina Hendricks.
To give your tower of volume a little extra distinction, try adorning your style with a headband or other accessory right before the hair begins its sky-high efforts. Janelle Monae's thin headband at the base of her hive highlights the contrast between her noteworthy volume and side-swept bangs.
Using the right brush for your hair type goes a long way when creating that classic high dome for your beehive style. For straight or wavy hair types, Lyles-Gots recommends a teasing boar bristle brush, and for afro or kinky hair types, she recommends The Ultimate Teaser from Tangle Teezer.
Weber B. Margaret heldt, hairdresser who built the beehive, dies at 98. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/margaret-heldt-hairdresser-who-built-the-beehive-dies-at-98.html. Published June 14, 2016. Accessed December 2, 2021.