Of all the hairstyles that could make you look rude, entitled, and mentally stuck in the year 2003, none beats the Karen haircut. We’ve rounded up the cringiest “Can I speak to your manager” Karen cuts we could find.
What Is the Karen Haircut?
The way we wear our hair says a lot about us as people. Someone with long, wavy hair might give off a relaxed and casual vibe, while a woman sporting a pixie cut may come off cool and self-confident.
But only one haircut strikes a mixture of fear and disgust into the hearts of retail workers everywhere, and that’s the “Karen haircut.”
You know it when you see it. It’s short, longer in the front, probably blonde or heavy on the highlights, and has a lot of layers. But in the wisdom of Shrek, this dated haircut is more like an onion than a cake. Not a lot of people like it.
- Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres Karen haircuts have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
- Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.
Think Lisa Rinna at the height of her soap opera days or Sharon Osbourne’s spiky shag when The Osbournes first aired on MTV. But Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame is sort of the unofficial poster child of the cut.
While there’s a lot of variation in Karen cuts, here’s what most have in common:
- Inverted (longer in the front) or asymmetrical (longer on one side) bob
- Tons of layers
- Volume and height at the crown
- Long, side-swept bangs
Some Karen ‘dos feature aggressive spikes in the back, chunky or excessive highlights, and choppy layers that give the cut a shaggy look.
Volume is almost always a key part of this hairstyle, with the shorter layers at the crown teased and sprayed for staying power. It’s important that a Karen’s hair won’t fall flat while she’s screaming at a 17-year-old cashier and wildly waving expired coupons around.
Something dark and mysterious draws entitled, loud-mouthed Mama Bear types to this Y2K-inspired haircut. We don’t really know why (it’s not a great look), but this hairstyle Just. Won’t. Die. Through the years, it continues “cropping” up in suburban areas everywhere.
From calling the police on birdwatchers to getting a lemonade stand shut down, the unexplainable continued existence of the Karen haircut means there are tons of examples to poke a little fun at. We picked 10 of our “favorite” Karen cuts to share below.
10 Shame-Worthy Karen Haircuts
These are the top 10 shame-worthy haircuts you might see coming to a Karen near you (but not if you see them first)!
1. The Classic Karen
This is the Karen cut that spawned thousands of memes. You can see why Kate Gosselin is still the poster child of this haircut. From the chunky highlights (hey, it was 2005 – anything went) to the blunt-cut side bangs, this one is classic in a bad way.
Draw your attention to the tousled short layers in the back, the deep side part, and the generally displeased facial expression. This isn’t a haircut – it’s an entire look.
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2. The Original Karen
It’s kind of surprising she didn’t just change her name to Karen after years of sporting these infamous haircuts, but whatever. This is the best representation of the original Karen look that actually started back in the early 00s.
Instead of the lazy, tousled waves in the back like the Classic Karen, aggressive spikes convey a subtle but very real threat. Which makes more sense anyway. This is a cut that says, “I’ll have every one of you fired if my son finds a pickle on his cheeseburger.”
3. The Leveled Up Karen
A short, spiky back, longer bangs in the front, and copious use of ill-placed color and highlights? Make no mistake about it, y’all; this is a Karen haircut. The wearer of this version is more likely to scream at the bartender in a goth club instead of the waiter at Ruby Tuesday.
Instead of the typical side-swept bangs, the longer front is brushed forward and styled in a swoop with a little gel. It’s a little more palatable than the typical spike-and-swoop, highlighted Karen cut. But not by much.
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4. The Lobster Claw
Raise your hand if you can think of a few people you’d like to picture with their head pinched in the claw of a giant lobster. Just me? No worries, because this thinly disguised Karen cut – the Lobster Claw – is close enough.
This is proof that Karens are getting more tactical. They couldn’t live without the layers, the intense blonde, and the deep side part. But they were catching too much heat with the spiky, short back and red flag choppy layers. So they adopted this cut to try and fly under the radar. It features blended long layers (not choppy) and sleekness instead of volume in a crisp A-line cut.
5. The Grey Karen
The Grey Karen is typically seen on aging Karens that may have grand-Karens of their own. Expect women with this cut to smile endearingly at their misbehaving grandkids, but chew your head off over a shopping cart mishap.
The side-swept bangs, all-over layers, and short length keep it in Karen territory. But if you’re trying to escape that look, you can always try a middle part or let your layers grow out.
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6. The Not-Quite-a-Karen
Don’t let this haircut fool you. At first glance, you might think this doesn’t quite look like a true Karen cut. But upon closer inspection, you’ll see that this is about as Karen as it gets.
This asymmetrical bob with a middle part is longer on one side. That’s not typical of a Karen ‘do. But if you create a side part and flip the long side over, you’re basically looking at Kate Gosselin here. Maybe this would be a great option for a reformed Karen who’s ready to change!
7. The Ellen Karen
Ellen Degeneres was dubbed “Talk Show Karen” for a reason. Her rude, toxic antics toward her show’s staff showed us what she’s really like. So we’d like to include her signature super-short crop with a long top as a version of the Karen cut.
The long top might be styled to the side or straight forward. The back and sides are kept short (much like the wearer’s temper toward staff members). Rock this cut with caution – you just might be called a Karen.
8. The Sharon Karen
Ever heard the phrase “Sharing is caring”? We think “Sharon is Karen” is way catchier. Because Sharon Osbourne has boldly worn different versions of her Karenesque shag for many years. She, in a way, is the very essence of Karen.
Sharon’s stacked, shaggy bobs have changed a lot through the years, but the main elements are always there: Lots of layers, bangs, a side part, and tons of volume. Part of us believes one would have to have some Karen-like traits to be Ozzy’s spouse for almost 40 years.
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9. The Side Karen
This sleek and clean-cut pixie crop is termed the Side Karen. Even relentless retail ramblers want to mix it up sometimes and try a different style. This is one of the most popular variations on the Original Karen.
In a Side Karen, all the hair is brushed over to the side and secured with a little gel. The gel works great for keeping all that hair locked down as the wearer calls the cops on a family barbecuing in the park.
10. The Bieber
Biebs, we mean no disrespect here. Lately, we’ve seen people donning this longer-in-front version of the Karen cut. The back is still shorter, but it’s not cut to crop length. There are no spiky ends, but the side part and long front are still very much in play.
This version of the Karen cut is just made for swinging around wildly as you go live on Facebook. You might be narrating your daily activities, threatening fellow HOA members, or detailing your recent encounter with “incompetent workers.” In any of these cases, this haircut will work.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean when someone says you have a Karen haircut?
A Karen haircut is shorter in the back than it is in the front, it's often blonde in color and it often resembles in inverted bob. When someone says you have a Karen haircut, they could be referring to the look of your hair or the fact that you're being high maintenance and demanding.
How to you make sure you don't get a Karen haircut?
As a rule of thumb, you can make sure you don't get a Karen haircut by avoiding brassy orange hues, the inverted bob style, teasing your hair, having overly styled layers, or getting contrasting highlights. The "lobster claw" haircut is a very karen-esque cut, so avoid that as well.
How can you tell if someone is a Karen?
Karens are typically demanding and talk down to others, they sport the inverted bob haircut with a long combover and harsh highlights, and they display public annoyance for seemingly trivial reasons. And they typically always feel entitled to speak to a manager.
What is an a-line bob?
An A-line bob (also known as the inverted bob) haircut is one worn by Karens all over the country. It features a style that's longer in the front than in the back, and this defining feature can be subtle or extreme.
How would you describe a Karen?
A karen is a pejorative term for an entitled and often angry middle-aged woman that speaks down to others and uses her brashness (and often the police) to get her way.
What is a Karen haircut called?
The Karen haircut's official name is the inverted bob, also known as the A-line cut, which is longer in the front than it is in the back. This creates a very sharp and harsh angle if viewed from the side, and if often accompanied by bold highlights.
What name is Karen short for?
Karen is short for the English name Katherine, which gained popularity in the mid 1940s.
Who is the most famous Karen?
The most famous person named Karen is Karen Blixen, though the most famous diva-style Karen is Kate Gosselin.
Is the Karen Haircut Going Away?
You’ve just seen 10 of the most infamous Karen haircuts we’ve ever witnessed. Style after style proved that Karen hair comes in more than one version.
There’s the ultra-short (like the Ellen Karen) and the longer front (like the Bieber). You’ve undoubtedly seen women walking around with versions of the Lobster Claw cut and the Classic or Original Karen. But are these styles sticking around? Or is it finally time for them to go?
Since the classic Karen-style cut was popularized in the late 90s to early 00s, we can’t imagine it’ll stick around much longer. The worldwide Karen mockery online is likely speeding the process up a bit.
But while this type of haircut may fall out of popularity with mean suburban moms, the underlying arrogance, selfishness, and sense of entitlement that powers a Karen isn’t likely going away anytime soon.
So when you visit a store, restaurant, or entertainment venue next, make it a point to be extra polite to the staff. They’ve been dealing with Karens for years – and thankfully, they can see this haircut coming from a mile away.