It’s been more than 60 years since Marilyn Monroe left the earth, but she remains the eternal icon. The Hollywood legend’s image continues to be plastered over T-shirts, beauty products, fake quotes she never said and now, TikTok. Marilyn has always been a popular cultural touchstone, with everyone from Madonna to Nicki Minaj paying homage to the actress, but Kim Kardashian wearing her “Happy Birthday” dress to the Met Gala and the controversial, fictionalized Netflix movie Blonde brought Marilyn and her life to a whole new generation of fans—and they’re paying tribute to the icon via beauty tutorials and “Monroecore.”
Influencer Jasmine Chiswell first gained popularity via her 2020 TikTok tours of Marilyn’s short-term home and her retro pinup look, and the #marilynmonroe hashtag on the platform has over 4 billion views. Over on Pinterest, searches for “Marilyn Monroe aesthetic” rose 117% following the release of Blonde according to We Thrift, and Google searches for "Marilyn Monroe Hair" are up 270%.
Marilyn Monroe-core isn’t a new thing; this very writer has been setting her bleached platinum hair with foam and hot rollers and slicking on red lipstick for literal decades in pursuit of a Marilyn look. Her signature look is instantly recognizable: pale blonde hair, a curled bob with lots of volume, often worn parted to one side; red lipstick; a subtly defined crease, dramatic black liner and the final finishing touch, a beauty mark.
But for true #monroecore, it’s all in the hair. You can modernize Marilyn’s timeless beauty look all you want, but that classic tousled throwback bob, not too smooth and not too tightly curled, is key to channeling her spirit. Think Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-era Marilyn with a shining blonde pageboy, The Seven Year Itch Marilyn in her summer curls, or Marilyn cooing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” into the mic in the iconic glittering nude-and-rhinestone dress with a cloud of platinum hair.
Yearning to channel the ultimate Old Hollywood icon for the holidays, a special occasion or just whenever the Marilyn mood strikes? Here’s what to know about getting a Monroe-worthy hairstyle of your own.
The Monroe bob is never too polished, and that’s the magic that keeps it feeling modern. “To me, Marilyn Monroe’s hairstyle has always resembled a more effortless, undone version of the Hollywood wave,” says Redken celebrity stylist Kiley Fitzgerald. “Signature aspects of the look are that it’s a little messy, has body and texture, and is definitely very sexy. In my opinion, this look never goes out of style. I always see people doing their own versions of it!”
For the most part, Marilyn’s hair was always cut in a short- to medium-length bob. The Marilyn look can be replicated on a variety of lengths, but a shorter cut will give you the tighter curl, more Marilyn than Veronica Lake’s equally popular loose, peekaboo waves.
The beauty of the Marilyn bob is that it works for a variety of hair textures and is super versatile; if you already have short hair, you’re practically golden! If you’re thinking of making the chop, let your stylist know you’re interested in retro styling and ask for a chin- to shoulder-length cut, depending on your natural texture. Marilyn-esque styles also work well on a French bob and a long bob, as well as layered cuts. Since the magic of the look lies in the heat styling, you have options when it comes to the cut.
How can you pay homage to Marilyn’s curled bob without looking costumey? It’s all in how you set and curl your hair.
“The most accurate way to achieve this is with a pin curl set or hot rollers. You can also use a curling iron to get the look,” advises Fitzgerald, adding that she always starts with Redken’s Thermal Spray High Hold ($22) for heat protection and long-lasting hold, then primes with One United Multi-Benefit Spray ($27) for frizz protection and shine.
Creating your Marilyn Monroe curled bob takes both practice and patience. Start on dry hair if you’re working with hot tools and make sure you have an adequate supply of pins nearby, as well as a boar bristle brush and a few styling products.
"When you begin to set the hair, try to section it in ways that flatter your face shape. I recommend experimenting and manipulating your hair to see what looks best,” says Fitzgerald. (There are a plethora of Marilyn setting pattern tutorials on YouTube and TikTok; this is a great one to get you started.) “Pin the hair section by section and let it sit for at least 20 minutes; the longer you have curlers in, the more shape your hair will take.” Let the hair fully cool before removing pins or clips and remove them starting from your first curl, ending at the final piece.
Once your curls are cooled and released from their pins, you’ll need to brush out the spiral ringlets for that tousled texture. “You’re going to want to make sure you really run your fingers through it. Brushing out curls can also help them take a more natural shape. My best advice is to simply shape the hair the way you like it,” says Fitzgerald. Depending on how you set your hair, your curls may want to be parted a certain way or curl in a specific direction; pinning and brushing can help shape them into your desired style. The more you brush, the more the curls will relax. Shaking out your hair or using your fingers can give the curls a more modern, undone vibe.
Once you’re happy with the look, seal it in place (but don’t shellac it!) with hairspray. “After you get your curls the way you want, use a light hairspray like Redken’s Brushable Hairspray ($24) to finish off,” says Fitzgerald. “This hairspray will ensure that the look stays all night, but your curls keep that sexy Marilyn motion.”