The Male Perm Is Having a Moment

The '80s trend is making its comeback among teenage boys

Break out the curlers and chemicals.
Break out the curlers and chemicals.
Sony Pictures

From hair transplants to center parts, TikTok is the place to go for the latest male hair trends, and recently, a rather surprising old-school style is making a comeback: perms.

If you search the hashtag #perm and #boyperm on the video-sharing app, you’ll find an endless list of teenage boys and grown adult men filming themselves getting the chemical treatment in search of longer-lasting curls or waves, with some videos accumulating millions of views. These perm videos feature the classic “before and after” format TikTok loves so much, with users showing themselves with their flat, sad-looking hair before the treatment, then after, often smiling or smoldering with their new head of curls. And it cannot be understated how quickly the trend has spread, particularly among young men.

“I went to a frat party not so long ago and so many people had the exact same perm as me,” Gabriel Feliciano, a 22-year-old college student in Seattle who posted a video of his perm journey to TikTok told TODAY Parents, adding that “everyone from jocks to the theater kids” is sporting the style of semi-permanently set waves. Other teens told TODAY donning a perm is just “the cool thing to do” right now.

As GQ Australia notes in a piece published in July on the male perm resurgence, a lot of the perms men and teens are getting now aren’t reminiscent of the piled high curls of the ’80s, nor even the long ringlets of the early aughts. Rather, the perms are “relaxed and tousled” like actor Timothée Chalamet’s loose, luscious curls. Though, instead of going for a full head of lasting curls, most guys are opting for the “permed mullet” or with short or shaved sides and just a mop of curls on the top and front.

One pro of the perm is that the style is easy to care for, which might be why so many teenage boys and athletes have undergone the treatment. “They take off their helmet and still have a style even if they’re sweaty,” stylist Cass Pinder explained to TODAY. “Nothing is truly wash-n-go — but a boy perm is very low-maintenance.”

These perm videos are also quite similar to the hair replacement videos that went viral on the app last year, not only in terms of their same before-and-after formats but in the apparent confidence-boost the style is giving users. The top comment on a compilation video of boys getting perms on TikTok reads: “What I like is that everyone feels more confident when they got a perm.”

Surely, these viral TikTok videos are encouraging teens and men to go forward with the treatment, one that might be negatively viewed as weird, outdated or even feminine. Wanting to improve your appearance is one of the rare things more widely afforded to women than men — and while the trend may make Gen-Xers roll their eyes — it’s nice to see young men, in particular, rock the style unapologetically.

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