The Rachel: The Most Iconic Haircut Of All Time, Explained

The 1950s had the Lucille Ball poodle haircut, the 1970s had the Farrah Fawcett feathered haircut, and the 1990s simply had The Rachel. Throughout all of its 10 seasons, "Friends" consistently drew in an average of more than 20 million viewers per episode. Many of those viewers had their eye on Jennifer Aniston's beloved character Rachel Green for fashion and beauty inspiration. Green was a fashionista who eventually landed a job as a buyer for Ralph Lauren, after all.


When Aniston-as-Green revealed a new shoulder-length, ultra-layered lob cut with rounded face-framing tendrils and frosty highlights in Season 1, the fire for The Rachel was lit. Millions of women across the globe would go on to request The Rachel haircut — or an iteration of it — between then and now, and many of today's most popular hairstyles can be traced back to the 1994 'do. Join us on a deep dive into the most iconic haircut of all time. 

The Rachel's origin story

The Rachel started out as a situation most women have faced at some point in their lives: regrettable bangs. When Jennifer Aniston met with hairstylist Chris McMillan during the first season of "Friends," he encouraged her to grow out her forehead fringe and transition into a more modern look. Then, McMillan recounted to Behind the Chair, he went to work designing a layered haircut that would disguise the bang-growing process. The result? The Rachel.


The inventor of The Rachel, of course, had no idea when he created the cut that it would catapult him from a budding celebrity hairstylist to solid "hairdresser to the stars" status. In the years to follow, the stylist would go from charging a mere $65 for his haircutting services to a top-of-the-line price tag of $750, all thanks to the massive success of The Rachel. Aniston and McMillan are still close friends nearly 30 years after the now-famed haircut brought them together. They even posed alongside each other in a topless embrace on the cover of Allure magazine in 2014. 

The perfect cultural storm

The Rachel wasn't the first time a celebrity haircut had become a mainstream trend. However, it is arguably the most widespread, pervasive instance of the phenomenon, considering that the cut is still fairly popular nearly three decades after its television debut. In order to understand why The Rachel soared to such staggering heights, you have to examine the general success of "Friends" in the 1990s. The show was a massive hit largely because of the relatability of its characters. As psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly told NBC's Better by Today, "When people feel like they can see themselves in another person, they feel that they are not alone."


"Friends" also provided audiences with a daydream version of life where waitresses and struggling actors could afford to live in spacious Manhattan apartments. This created the perfect combination of fantasy and reality that allowed everyday people to see themselves and their loved ones in the show's characters while still pining over their lives. Rachel Green was a powerful woman who rejected the idea of marrying for money in favor of working in a New York City coffeehouse — and she looked absolutely fabulous. Who wouldn't want her haircut? 

Jennifer Aniston's views on The Rachel

Jennifer Aniston only sported The Rachel for about a year, which makes its continued popularity even more awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, it wasn't Aniston's favorite year, haircut-wise. More than a few times the actor has lamented her experience living with the famed style and has even joked about resenting Chris McMillan for creating the high-maintenance cut. Not only did Aniston find The Rachel too fussy for her liking, but she also referred to it as "the ugliest haircut" she has ever seen in a 2011 interview with Allure (via People). 


You can't really blame Aniston for becoming frustrated with The Rachel. In a 2013 interview with Marie Claire, the actor revealed that properly styling the cut required juggling three different hair brushes and a hairdryer, meaning there was no way she could complete the task on her own. Unfortunately, many everyday women without stylists at their fingertips also learned this lesson the hard way.

Recent iterations of The Rachel

The Rachel inspired many of the layered haircuts that remain popular in the 2020s. The Brachel is a version of The Rachel that incorporates the very feature the cut was designed to phase out, bangs, while the TikTok-trendy wolf cut features a range of top-heavy layers that mimic Rachel Green's beloved style. Also owing its popularity to the original 1990s 'do is today's "butterfly cut," a more modern iteration of the choppy, shaggy lob. Chris McMillan himself even created an updated version of The Rachel on actor Yvonne Strahovski for the Allure YouTube channel in 2012.


As younger audiences are exposed to "Friends," women of all ages continue to find themselves inspired by Aniston's most-hated haircut. In fact, popular Los Angeles hairstylist Sal Salcedo of Nova Arts Salon has debuted a cut he's deemed The Rachel 2.0 on Instagram. At this point, it's safe to say that The Rachel and all its spinoffs will not be disappearing from the world of mainstream hairstyle trends any time soon. 

How to find the right haircut for your features

While there's certainly nothing wrong with trying trends like The Rachel for fun, if you're looking for a more timeless style, it's important to opt for a cut that accentuates your natural features, so you don't end up known for a haircut you hate. The first step to decoding which type of haircut is likely to look best on you is determining your face shape: round, oval, heart, square, rectangle, or diamond. Once you have this information, it's easy to figure out how to shape your hair to either enhance or counteract the shape of your face.


Layered haircuts like The Rachel tend to look best on square, diamond, round, or rectangle shapes, as they can help to soften corners. Heart-shaped faces are best complemented by a bob that creates the appearance of more fullness at the jaw, while oval face shapes can get away with a short crop, the long and luscious look, and pretty much anything in between. Just make sure you don't make the same mistake Aniston did: Always ask your stylist about the maintenance level of a haircut before you commit to the chop.