No one told me life was gonna be this way. No really—if you told Child Me that I’d be interviewing the co-creator of The Rachel ahead of the Friends reunion nearly 30 years in the making, I never would have believed it. As the world waits eagerly—desperately, even—for the most anticipated television event in recent memory, it's impossible not to notice how style and beauty trends from the Friends decade are coming back. As Michael Canalé, Jennifer Aniston's personal colorist and co-creator of The Rachel says, trends are on a 30-year cycle, and 90s makeup, clothes, and hair are more relevant than ever.
"The Rachel" never truly left—it just evolved. Though it's now an icon of the 90s, the truth is that the haircut took many forms over the years. The length, part, and color slowly changed throughout the show, but the idea endures today: signature layers, inward curl pattern, and that honey blonde shade are always a good idea (and have remained Aniston's signature for decades).
As a new generation discovers the show (and its style), influence from The Rachel's foundational highlight placement can be found in many of the most popular looks today. To celebrate what's arguably one of the most recognized and copied hairstyles in pop culture history, Byrdie spoke with the man who started it all. Ahead, celebrity colorist and co-creator of The Rachel, Michael Canalé, talks about how it all started, what to ask for at your own salon, and exactly how he maintains Jennifer Aniston's signature blonde.
On Co-Creating The Iconic Style
"Actually, Chris (McMillian, Aniston's hairstylist) and I had never met. The pilot was set up and sent to me, and we looked at the hair: it was sort of mid-length, you know, longer than the shoulder. It was that dark color, medium brown. And we looked at it, and I said, 'Why don't we try to make this look like the sunlight is hitting it?'
"That's when we started the original blonde," Canalé explains. "We did in two sets of highlights that day, then we deepened the root. We sort of shadowed the root in, and then we had the blonder tips. Then she went from me to Chris, who cut "The Rachel," then came back to me, and I decided to do the signature highlights around the face. That's the Jennifer Aniston signature: a highlight that brought out her skin color and her eyes."
How 'The Rachel' Kept Evolving With Aniston
"Jen let that Rachel grow out. She went for about six months without cutting it, and that's when we started getting the center part moving. You can see it sort of evolved three years into the show. It was sort of a side part but the longer version of The Rachel. And then more than five years into it, you see the center part, longer hair. It came from cut to color is what ended up happening—color took over the style."
"For the Friends reunion, it's more of what The Morning Show color is. It's sort of a cooler tone around the faces, more of a sandy blonde. It's still the golden girl, but the face frame was a little bit more sandy. And you can see it in The Morning Show, we didn't change the color for the reunion. But she did look great. I mean, 25 years later, she still looks like Jennifer Aniston—that's pretty cool."
How He Maintains Aniston's IRL Hair
"Her touchups are relatively easy. They're paper-thin highlights through the crown, and we continuously connect her root to ends, but we're actually connecting from roots to the last touchup. We randomly pull through. Sometimes I'll go underneath and drop some color. But because of The Morning Show being so popular, she's always getting her hair blown out again, so we have to take care of it differently, just for conditioning's sake. Not hot irons, but just the intense blow-dries for the show. That's probably the most damaging thing for her is when she's working continuously, and they're continuously blowing out that hair."
"25 years ago, I developed a gloss for her, and that's when it was the golden tone. Then we moved it into this cooler tone now, so I made this new gloss, sort of a highlighter, that goes over to cool down the entire hair. That's The Midnight Blue ($59) from the Canalé brand."
On His Inside-Out Approach To Hair Health
"You have to realize that hair is alive. People think it's a dead thing—it's not, you can actually rebuild it, and you can build it from the inside out. We made a topical vitamin that was the first of its kind, Dr. David Silver and I worked on this whole project together. It's pretty advanced to have a vitamin that's a balm that you put on your scalp and it absorbs into the hair shaft, actually swelling the hair shaft so it becomes thicker and thicker.
"People need to understand that hair vitamins, especially during hormonal times [are crucial]. It's really important to have something that supports your hair.
"We made oil that can be added to the Soften Conditioner ($42) and Soften Plus—it's a game-changer. People love the oil. If you use a tablespoon-sized conditioner and you put three drops of oil in it, it changes the game. It's the most amazing conditioner. That's probably our favorite thing."
Shop The Look
How To Get Your Own Version of "The Rachel"
"Balayage is moving out; foils are back in. Protecting the hair is the main thing: hair health, treating hair like it's alive, all those things. Try to stick with one hairdresser is probably the main thing. Find somebody you really like; don't be flopping around. You know who picks the best hair colorist? The best hair stylists. They're the ones who make the decision."