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What Is Avant-Garde Hair? | & How to Style It

Avant-garde hair is large, fun, unique, and beautifully artistic. If you’re looking for direction on how to style true avant-garde hairstyles for your next photoshoot or just for fun, you’ve come to the right place. 

What Is Avant-Garde Hair?

Woman with wild avant-garde hair

Dan Rentea/Shutterstock

Avant-garde hair refers to any hairstyle that is highly stylized and looks outrageous in some way. You’ve probably heard the term avant-garde thrown around before, usually around fashion or the arts, so you probably have some idea of what it means from context clues. 

If you’d like to be precise, the literal dictionary definition of avant-garde says the term refers to new or experimental ideas and the people who introduce them.

The translation from French means the advance guard or vanguard, which is the forefront of an army. Now, we mainly use it when talking about an artistic movement. Part of the point of avant-garde looks is that they aren’t made for everyday use.

Avant-garde describes bold, over-the-top looks that are part of a collection or artistic expression. Usually, you won’t see these hairstyles outside of editorial shoots or a runway show. 

The Rules for Crafting an Avant-Garde Hairstyle

The fun thing about avant-garde hair is that there are no rules. However, avant-garde hair can get messy fast. You want your hairpiece to look intentional rather than a mess of too many ideas. 

If you want to create your own avant-garde look for your next artistic project, video, or photoshoot or to attract attention while you’re out and about town, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind. 

Often, big avant-garde hairstyles aren’t made of genuine hair. There are some practical considerations to remember if you’re constructing a hairpiece to wear for an avant-garde style. 


Your hairstyle is going to be worn by you or another person. It can’t be so heavy that you injure their neck. That seems obvious, but as you think up ideas for your look, you may keep adding hairpieces, clips, jewelry, and other items to hold up the shape of the style. 

You may want to add more fake hair to create the look you want. When it is all together, that will get heavy. Make sure you use lightweight items and structural components. 


Speaking of weight, let’s talk about hair structure. If the piece you’re building relies on height then you’re going to have to think about the internal structure. Again, you need a lightweight form to put your piece on.

Foam, wires, and rollers will work, or you can even try things like straws or pipe cleaners. You can get creative with it, but it can’t be too heavy. It also needs to remain hidden under the hair, so the final result doesn’t look messy. 


Even for a short photoshoot, balance is crucial. You’re going to need to test the balance of your piece if you’re creating a huge sculptural hairstyle. If you’re styling a hairpiece on a mannequin head, that’s no guarantee that your hairstyle won’t fall off you or your model. 

If your model is walking, talking, or moving, a poorly balanced piece will come tumbling right off with one wrong tilt of the head. Make sure you test as you construct your hairdo. 

Simple Avant-Garde Looks to Style Yourself

Fashion model with a wild avant garde hairstyle

Subbotina Anna/Shutterstock

The terms “avant-garde” and “simple” don’t go together. But, there are hair styling tricks that aren’t too difficult to execute but will still achieve an avant-garde look. There are several ideas to remember when creating your look so it pops on camera.

You can style these directly on your model most of the time without creating a big sculptural wig or hairpiece. The key to keeping a hairstyle avant-garde doesn’t have to be complexity; just keep visual interest. You can typically achieve this by shaping.

An avant-garde hairstyle is usually sculptural, and even the simplest ones have a distinct shape. Let’s look at how you can make a well-defined hairstyle without being a professional. 


A well-defined look doesn’t necessarily mean sharp angles or big sculptures. You can achieve an avant-garde look through the simplicity that is over-teasing your hair. It will create a dramatic silhouette that you can choose to add additional style elements to or leave on its own.

A giant mass of cloudy, teased hair is statement-making all by itself and will give you or your model a larger-than-life appearance.

You can add details as you like. For example, you can tease the back of your hair but keep the front neat for framing. Let it go wherever your imagination takes you; all you need is a brush and some hairspray.

Read Next: How to Tease Your Hair

A Wet Finish

Adding a high gloss finish to any look will catch the eye. Most people don’t walk around with glossy hair that looks like it’s dripping. This is another styling element that’s easy enough to achieve at home.

Apply a finishing oil to your hair to make it look like it’s dripping wet without ruining your styling. This idea is excellent for a photo shoot look. Under the correct lighting, the gloss will shine. 

Bold Faux Bangs

You can create big, beautiful, and dramatic faux bangs to frame your model’s face with their natural hair and some bobby pins. It will be easiest on a model with long hair. Sweep your actual hair to the side, like you might for a side part. 

Use bobby pins for shaping, though this will vary for the look you want. You can create more extreme shapes and textures with different pining methods or by clipping short extensions into just the area of the bangs.

Ensure you hide your clips to keep it looking like a real haircut. You can use hair oil on this look, too, to give it that shiny finish or leave it more natural and wild. It’s all up to your artistic sensibilities. 

Exaggerated Victory Rolls

The 1940s victory roll hairstyle isn’t that hard to do yourself, but it looks like it is. That is why it’s so great for creating a base look for a more avant-garde style.

Once you know the basics of the classic look, you can build on that knowledge to create a more sculptural avant-garde hairstyle. Create big swooping rolls as high as your model’s hair will go or use one roll with other avant-garde elements. Try out different combinations. 

Big Updo

There are many different ways to pile a bunch of hair on top of your head and make it look cool. A big bun surrounded by teased hair creates the ever-so-popular bird’s nest look you often see on runway models. 

You can go as big and crazy as you want with it. Take any 80s inspired look and run wild. Lots of hairspray will be your friend. There are so many ways to make an updo the star of the show.

Make a giant fauxhawk, add in interesting knots, ties, braids, or whatever works best for the look you want. The fun thing is you can’t go wrong; you just need to make something that wows the audience.  

Avant-Garde Inspired Haircuts

Man with crazy avant-garde hair

Vladimir Salman/Shutterstock

You can tone down any of the ideas above for an everyday look that turns heads. Since avant-garde is about creativity and pushing boundaries, the only rule for an avant-garde haircut is that it does at least one out-of-the-ordinary thing. 

Short Hair Ideas

Rely on strong shapes, like sharp lines in a short style. Get a sharp fringe, or other geometric cuts, like an asymmetrical bob cut. Choose what’s best for your face. A highly layered pixie cut can create a bold shape with lots of volumes, and you’ll never have hair in your eyes. 


You can use bold color choices like color-blocked hair or money pieces to create a unique look from otherwise un-styled, straight hair. Once it’s done, no further styling will be required, your bold hair coloring will make a statement.

This can be rainbow hair, high contrast colors, a concentrated spot of color if you’re bold (like only dying your bangs and nothing else), or whatever your preference is. The brighter and less natural the color is, the better.

Upgrade Your Updo

Don’t want to get more than a trim? You can use your long hair in interesting ways when you’re bored of wearing it loose. Use any large updo inspiration you can find and make it easy. 

Put your hair in an exaggerated messy bun, put it in many buns, or put it in an oversized French braid for an easy yet bold hairstyle. Colorful accessories are an excellent tool to use if you want to turn a basic haircut into a highly-stylized look. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman with crazy hair for a piece titled what is avant-garde hair


Do you still need to know more about avant-garde hairstyles? Here are the most commonly asked questions and their answers at a glance.

What does the word “avant-garde” mean?

Avant-garde is a French word that refers to a vanguard or advance guard in English, which is the section of an army that moves ahead of the rest. In art and fashion, it means you’re apart from or ahead of the pack, which is like saying you’re avant-garde.

What is an avant-garde hairstyle?

As mentioned, avant-garde refers to experimental, edgy, and new ideas. When it comes to hairstyles, it refers to interesting and over-the-top styles that are most often seen in magazine spreads and on the runway. Ultimately, it means pushing your hairstyle to the limit of what you can do with your hair.

What are the rules for creating avant-garde looks?

Avant-garde is about creativity and doesn’t have many rules. When creating a hairstyle for photoshoots or modeling purposes, it can be good to avoid putting too much into one image.

Let your avant-garde hair be the focus so that the eye doesn’t have too much to wander over, or you’ll have a muddy image. Of course, sensory overload may be the point of your project, so always go with your gut.

What are the characteristics of something avant-garde?

If you want something to be avant-garde then the following words should apply to it: modern, progressive, bold, experimental, or innovative. Avant-garde means you’ve set yourself apart from what’s typical. Push the limits of your art, fashion, or in this case, hair.

How do you get avant-garde hair?

Creativity is key. Use bold colors, shapes, textures, multiple lengths, many clips, no clips, whatever you can think of, to create something visually striking.

So, What Is Avant-Garde Hair?

Avant-garde hair is hair that achieves a bold and progressive appearance, and it should do something interesting, make a splash and turn heads.

Take any of these ideas and tone them down for an everyday avant-garde inspired look. Otherwise, create a style that will only last as long as a photoshoot. Remember, there are no rules when it comes to genuine avant-garde hairstyles.