Power Coifs: 5 Iconic (and Impactful) Hairstyles of Leading First Ladies

Updated 02/28/18

Women in politics face entirely different challenges than their masculine counterparts. Men are rarely critiqued for how they dress or style their hair. Women, on the other hand, must convey equal parts strength and femininity in their political appearances or risk negative judgment (double standard, anyone?). Before, we’ve analyzed the history of makeup in politics. Now, we’re concerned with hair, particularly, that of our nation’s first ladies.

Here at Byrdie, we think it’s impossible to overstate the role of the FLOTUS. The president may hold the highest executive office in the U.S., but the first lady is our nation’s support. She’s the behind-the-scenes adviser and policymaker. Her beliefs and actions shape the country just as the elected executive’s do—just in a subtler way.

Speaking of subtle, we’re interested in how these women styled their hair at the intersection of trendy and traditional throughout their time in the world’s spotlight. After all, crafting a public appearance is essential to the world of politics. Keep scrolling to see the best hairstyles from five first ladies over the past 50 years!

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will forever remain one of our greatest beauty inspirations. This curled bob makes for an insanely pretty ’60s look when paired with natural makeup and a mint-green shift dress. Take a page from Jackie’s book and go for sky-high volume next time you’re styling your hair. We like Living Proof’s Full Dry Volume Blast ($29) for soft and flexible hold.

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Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter went for a pared-down yet elegant vibe with both her hair and makeup. Her natural russet-red color is truly enviable, rather reminiscent of modern-day Emma Stone, no? We never thought we’d be showing our hair colorist a picture of a former FLOTUS for inspiration, but here we are.

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Dirck Halstead/Getty

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan, pictured here at her husband’s Inaugural Ball, kept it classy with an embellished updo, finally proving that too much sparkle isn’t possible. We have a special place in our hearts for hair accessories; they’re the perfect mix of eye-catching and unexpected. If the thought of adorning your hair leaves you a little hesitant, start small with these Sephora Collection Beaded Hair Ties($9).

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David Hume Kennerly/Getty

Hillary Clinton

Here we pause to applaud Hillary Clinton’s use of accessories. Pearl earrings, pearl necklace, and blue velvet headband? She is the picture of ’90s political perfection. Channel your inner Hillary with a Cara Velvet Head Wrap ($22) in navy blue. You’ll feel as strong and confident as Clinton herself.

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Jewel Samad/Getty

Michelle Obama

With a history of wearing designs from Zac Posen to Atelier Versace, Michelle Obama somehow always manages to keep her hair and gowns equally stylish. When she appeared at the 2013 Inaugural Ball with bangs, we collectively sighed in admiration. Inspired by Obama or otherwise, if you’ve taken the big chop, read about eight lifesaving styling tips for bangs.

Interested in beauty and how it affects your career aspirations? Next up, read what your co-workers really think about your makeup!

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