Last week, much to the delight of Team MR and the rest of the world, Jennifer Aniston finally joined Instagram—so we’ve definitely had “The Rachel” on the brain more than usual. Today we’re republishing this story from November 2017 in which seven people reflect on their decision to copy a celebrity’s hairstyle—featuring, of course, Jennifer Aniston’s mane.
More than a decade has passed since the final season of Friends, and people are still imitating “The Rachel,” Jennifer Aniston’s equal parts famous and infamous layered lob. Just a few months ago, Bella Hadid debuted what numerous publications referred to as “The Rachel 2.0,” and she’s not the only A-lister to pay homage. It is still one of the most widely-cited celebrity hairstyles of all time.
Falling in love with a celebrity hairstyle and copying it is a time-honored concept. I’ve been ripping out photos from magazines and bringing them into salons since the age of 13 when I decided I wanted long layers with side-swept short pieces in the front like Jennifer Love Hewitt. More recently, I showed my colorist a screenshot of this Instagram posted by Frederikke Sofie for highlights inspiration.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about “trying on” a specific look that’s been pre-vetted by someone whose job it is to experiment with different styles. It’s a risk, but a fun one, because whatever you do, it will grow out eventually.
To tap into that satisfaction and multiply it for my own (and hopefully your own) enjoyment, I asked seven people who copied famous hairstyles to share their experiences — and photos, obviously. Keep scrolling for the best collection of side-by-sides I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Stephanie copied Meg Ryan’s 90s shag
“In my early teen years, I was fully hypnotized by the siren song of trendiness. When Meg Ryan’s iconic 90s shag cut trickled down to the likes of Mary-Kate Olsen, I, too, had to have it. The intensity of my passionate love for it was rivaled only by the actual flips of hair that framed my face. I kept it for so many years, leaning into the fact that it wasn’t a 100% accurate copy, because I felt like I was ‘making it my own.’ While it’s easy to look back and cringe, I’ll always envy the confidence of my 15-year-old self — a person who made truly unique style choices with the conviction that they were iconic, and the belief that, one day, I would be too.”
Agnes copied Jennifer Lopez’s curly bob
“I used to have really long, waist-length, naturally curly hair and always wore it in a bun or ponytail, but I started to crave something different — a signature style. I was intrigued by the idea of cutting it into a curly bob after seeing a few fashion enthusiasts and celebs do so (namely J. Lo circa 1996). I was a bit scared to get a really short haircut because I was afraid my hair would shrink up too much like a fluffy pom pom, but I convinced myself to just go for it.
After figuring out how to style it, I loved it, and I’ve kept the short cut for the last three years. It has become a special part of how I see myself, especially as I’ve learned to embrace my natural curls more and stop straightening them altogether. I recently decided to grow out my hair again so I can donate it to cancer patients. I’ll cut it all off early next year, then I plan on sporting this curly bob for the rest of my life.”
JR copied Julius Caesar
“I was watching a documentary on The History Channel about Ancient Rome, and the actor playing Julius Caesar had a very interesting haircut which I found very chic. I wanted to bring my barber a photo of the actor with the haircut but couldn’t find one, so I just used one of the real Julius Caesar!
I’ve always worn my hair swept away from my face, so I thought the Caesar fringe cut would be a great way to try something new. I ended up loving the haircut and kept it for awhile until I eventually shaved my head. I’m now in the process of growing my hair back out so I can do the Caesar cut again.”
Alexis copied Zooey Deschanel’s heavy bangs
“Zooey Deschanel is the best friend I’ve always wanted but never had, because I’m far too vanilla for her taste. In all her acting roles, she conveys a sense of effervescent charm that is simultaneously chill but also inviting. Given that we have similar coloring, I thought I might borrow a bit of her charisma by copying her hair (a naive thought, I know, but I’m an optimist). I always thought of heavy bangs as a major statement — an indirect way of saying, ‘I’ve cut my hair this way to invite you to look directly into my eyes, and I’m not ashamed of it.’ That idea appealed to me, particularly since I’m not the type of person to overtly seek attention.
I loved the style on me at first. My hair was no longer a boring afterthought, and I also felt a tiny bit edgy, which sparked some unexpected sartorial inspiration. The novelty wore off after a few months, however, when I realized my propensity for forehead sweating. That, coupled with an unfortunate cowlick, meant the sleek bangs I left home with in the morning usually turned into a stringy mess by the end of the day. No amount of dry shampoo could tame them.
So I grew them out. As much as I loved them initially, and as much as I still love them on Zooey, they just didn’t work for my hair type or lifestyle. I’ve since opted for side bangs, which present their own set of challenges but are far more manageable. When executed properly, they draw attention to my eyes — a major godsend when you want to distract from crumbs on your face or coffee stains on your pants.”
Emmanuel copied Beyoncé’s braids
“I copied Beyoncé’s braids because I wanted a festive hairstyle for the holidays, and I loved how they look on her: dramatic but feminine at the same time. The braids were really heavy when I got them, and it took me a few days to adjust to not being able to feel my scalp. Once I got used to it, I started experimenting with how I wore my hair (different partings, half up, in a bun, etc.). I really liked how the braids complemented my features, but more importantly, I liked how they made me feel on the inside: empowered and strong. It’s amazing how hair can have that kind of effect. I kept them for three months.”
Kiri copied Agyness Deyn’s bleach blonde pixie cut
“I was 14 at the time, and I was growing out my hair from a short crop, and it was on the cusp of entering a very awkward growth stage. I remember discovering Agyness on Tumblr and coveting her carefree, messy and edgy pixie. I was due for a haircut anyways, so I asked my dad if I could bleach my hair like hers, too.
The actual day that I got it done is probably the best it ever looked, since I was and still am hugely averse to putting a ton of effort into my hair. After I came home, it never really looked like Agyness’ again since I didn’t know how to style it and I had no knowledge of toners or shampoos that helped manage brassy tones.
Being too apathetic to put effort into your hair is a problem if you’re trying to maintain a bleach job, let alone a cute pixie cut. I never got my roots touched up, and I rarely styled it, so it ended up growing out into a classic bowl cut. The color was a mix of bleach blonde and my natural hair color, layered kind of like candy corn. It actually had a nice ombre effect once fully grown out, but I don’t think the cut and color itself worked for me at the time.”
Stephanie copied “The Rachel”
“I decided to copy ‘The Rachel’ because my grown out lob needed a revamp and I wanted to try a hairstyle that framed my face. At first, I was scared it might not work on me for two reasons: 1) My hair is naturally flat and 2) I would look like a little girl. The results were surprisingly good; although my hair remained somewhat flat, the shorter pieces framing my face gave it more life. Most importantly I didn’t look like a little girl, or at least I don’t think I did. I thought I looked fun and quirky.
Best of all, ‘The Rachel’ cut made my hair look put-together without much effort on my part. I’ve decided to keep the style and even started integrating some of Rachel’s classic accessories, like the barrette in this photo.”
Okay! Your turn. Gather whatever celebrity head shots you’ve personally presented to hairstylists in the name of inspo, and deposit them below. Extra points if you include the “after” photo.
Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage via Getty Images. Photos via contributors and Getty Images.