As a younger millennial, I think most of the common jokes thrown around about my generation are kind of warranted. I mean, we once thought it was revolutionary humor to put mustaches and bacon on every possible piece of merchandise — in hindsight, that was pretty stupid of us. The Gen Z crowd on TikTok, particularly, seems to get a thrill out of roasting their slightly older peers like this, and usually, I'm down to laugh along with them. But I have to draw the line now that our beloved side-parts have become part of the slander.
For a hot minute now, a contentious TikTok feud has been brewing between Gen Z and millennials over whether it's better to part one's hair to the side or down the middle (huge partisan issue, I know). As far as anyone can tell, it all began when user @missladygleep made this bold statement last July: "Prove me wrong, but I don't think there is a single person who looks better with a side part than they do a middle part."
We all know how short the life cycle of a TikTok meme can be, but it's been about seven months and my For You page is still accumulating videos of people arguing for or against this. I've watched countless TikTok teens (who we all know are fond of center-parted mullets and shag haircuts) part their hair to the side and scoff in embarrassment. I've also seen more than a few 30-year-olds part their blunt cuts down the middle and realize they look more like Lord Farquaad than they do Kylie Jenner.
Skinny jeans and the laugh-crying emoji, other staples of "millennial culture" have also been touted by the youths as lame in recent months. And truly? I would just like for Gen Z to please stop giving a fuck about how we're not as "cool" as they are. I know I sound like I'm whining (this is all in good fun, and I know that not all teens are judgmental), but I have a point, I promise.
For people within a certain age range, the side-part had a distinct role in self-discovery. We were raised primarily by baby boomers who considered middle-parts the standard because they grew up at a time when that was extremely popular. In the 1990s and 2000s, before some of y'all were even born, we looked for little ways to make ourselves stand out, or, in other words, rebel, from our folks. Maybe it's just my experience, but having big, swoopy side bangs with the part to match used to enthrall me specifically because it wasn't what my parents were into. And I guess, for lots of millennials, that look just stuck. We finessed it over time, but I guess most people my age just got comfortable seeing themselves with that specific hair.
It's clear as day to me that Gen Z's obsession with middle parts is the exact same thing. We millennials wanted to do the complete opposite of what Boomers and Gen X were doing — it only makes sense that the generation after ours would have the same knee-jerk reaction to us. Young people rebel, it's just what they do. But let's be honest, here, neither of our generations can claim to be more "original" or "cool" than another.
Beauty trends (including the way we part our hair) are entirely cyclical — they go in and out of style over and over again. New York City hairstylist Luis Miller has seen it play out before his very eyes. "I definitely agree that beauty trends circle back. I have everyone asking for curtain bangs currently," he laments. "Those were from back in, what, the '70s? Farrah Fawcett had them." In his opinion, most hair trends he encounters are just recycled ones from decades past. "The shag is another example… now it's back and combined with curtain bangs," he laughs. "It all comes back to the 'new age' in one form or another; they just put the word 'modern' in front of it."
To give the youngin's credit where it's due, their iterations of these retro hairstyles do look amazing and quite fresh. That might be because, as veteran runway hairstylist Guido Palau once told Allure, recycled trends benefit from upgrades in technology. "When we see hairstyles redone, they're taken from another era, but they're always done in today's hand," he explains. "Hair is cyclical in a way, but it will always take on the [current] period of time because we have new products."
Still, side-parts and middle-parts alike have both had their heyday in beauty history. Icons from the 1920s through the 1950s loved side-parted hair. Just Google pictures of Ginger Rogers, Josephine Baker, or Marilyn Monroe for reference. Middle parts obviously got their fill of iconism in the decades that followed from folks like Donna Summer, Cher, and Joan Jett before the side-part returned once again in the 1990s. If that's not proof that this whole side-parts-are-dead thing is bullshit, I don't know what is. Maybe middle-parts are so commonplace now that, in the next few years, side-parts will start to be considered cool again because they seem different to us.
And then we have to consider that middle parts don't actually look good on everyone. "I don't think side parts have been in for a while, however, every trend isn't made for every person, and ultimately, what you do with your fashion and style should be what makes you look and feel your best," says Los Angeles hairstylist Justine Marjan. "Middle parts are also much less forgiving. Something super-centered can make imperfections and asymmetries more apparent than a side part — and most of us do not have perfectly symmetrical features."
Miller concurs: "It all comes down to what works best for your face shape, not what these unlicensed TikTokers say," he says. "Beauty professionals are licensed for beauty, and consultations are the first step to creating a look customized for that specific client. We look at the eyes, the nose, the cheeks the chin — it all plays a part in our professional opinion on what would look best for that individual."
This all goes without mentioning that hair parts aren't permanent. It's possible for someone to do both on a regular basis. So if your child or little sibling or a younger colleague (or even a stranger on TikTok) ever makes you feel silly or old for still rockin' a side-part, you can now present these expert opinions as proof that you're doing just fine with the hair you have, thank you very much.
I'm only 26 but am just old enough to understand how infuriating it must've felt for my parents to watch teenage me scoff at their tastes for being stale… in reality, they were just following the trends of their times. As do I. As does Gen Z. So, can we just drop this whole thing now? Awesome, appreciate it.
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