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Hair History: 10 First Ladies and Their Famous ’Dos

With all of the recent media attention paid to President Obama’s noticeably darker hair, it hardly compares to the amount of coif talk that his wife, Michelle, sparks. More than her organic vegetable garden or sculpted arms (or, sadly, her impressive law career), Mrs. Obama’s hair has been the talk of the nation since her husband stepped into the political limelight. But that's par for the course in this country, for behind every new president stands a First Lady with one soon-to-be-iconic hairdo.

Louisa Adams

1 / 11

The wife of the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, had light-brown ringlets that she swept up (save a few face-framing pieces) into lacy bonnets and ornate hair pieces.

Ida Saxton McKinley

2 / 11

By the time Mrs. William McKinley entered the White House, she had taken quite ill and would remain so for the duration of her husband’s presidency. Even so, she would still dress to the nines on special occasions, adding adornments like diamonds and egret feathers to her short, graying hair. 

Eleanor Roosevelt

3 / 11

As a young woman, she piled her long locks into one looming bun on top of her head. In later years, as her family increased and her hands-on role as First Lady required more attention, she became known more for fabulous hats and minimalistic hairstyles.

Mamie Eisenhower

4 / 11

It turns out that the side-bun trend we usually associate with Princess Leia actually has roots in the Eisenhower administration. Well, perhaps that’s a stretch, but Mrs. Eisenhower’s barely there bangs, known as “Mamie bangs,” did start a national trend. 

Jackie Kennedy

5 / 11

As a member of a family that’s as close to American royalty as this democracy will ever get, Mrs. Kennedy defined an entire generation’s style, from her perfectly tailored dress suits to the matching pillbox hats to, of course, her lovely bouffant hairdo.

Lady Bird Johnson

6 / 11

The wife of Lyndon B. Johnson, who ascended to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Lady Bird favored the same hairstyle as her First Lady predecessor.

Nancy Reagan

7 / 11

“Nancy Reagan fell down and broke her hair,” Johnny Carson famously quipped during her reign. He was referring to her full, hard-as-a-helmet hairstyle. She clearly never said “no” to hairspray. 

Barbara Bush

8 / 11

It’s said that the senior Bush’s wife turned gray at a young age due to her baby’s death, but that’s a myth. Even though some saw her hair as too grandmotherly for a First Lady, according to the book Barbara Bush: Matriarch of a Destiny, it actually helped her and her husband stand out while campaigning.

Hillary Clinton

9 / 11

Her hair has gone through many changes throughout her husband’s presidency and into her own political career. When she first came into the public eye in the early ’90s, she had a conservative, highly shellacked bob.

Hillary Clinton, Part Two

10 / 11

As a former Senator and the current Secretary of State, she’s moved toward a short, sassy ’do with a voluminous side part.

Michelle Obama

11 / 11

Sometimes her hair is pulled back into an elegant bun or ponytail; other times it’s a subtle flip that nicely grazes her shoulders. Only time will tell what she does with her hair next.

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