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Karl Lagerfeld Hair Lexicon

By Tara Young

Imagine doing your hair the same way day in and day out – for decades. Would you not get bored? What would you do after a breakup if you couldn’t abruptly cut and colour your hair?

Karl Lagerfeld is one of those people whose aesthetic is so singular that when you think of him, you visualize the same recognizable silhouette each time; black boots, tight jeans, starched white shirt with oversized collar neatly tucked in under a tailored jacket, dark glasses and, his famous powder white ponytail.

Much like the late Queen Elizabeth || and her symmetrical, soft curls, or Anna Wintour's infamous bob, committing to a uniform hairstyle that goes beyond viral trends is a symbolic move, or is it clever marketing? It must save so much time in the morning at the very least.

Karl Lagerfeld had an expansive career spanning 65 years; from interning under Pierre Balmain to designing for Jean Patau, Chloe, Valentino before being appointed Creative Director of Fendi and Chanel, as well as his own namesake brand. He leaves a legacy responsible for the double C's, 90's supermodels in Chanel chains, his famous cat Choupette, extravagant show sets that are out of this world and down supermarket grocery aisles, and an everlasting imprint on the fashion industry.

But who was Karl before his hair was swept back in that iconic ponytail - the man before social media and virality?

Karl Otto Lagerfeldt was born in 1933, in pre-war Germany. Here he is age 5.

Karl, age 21, won the International Woolmark prize. Looking dapper in a suit with voluminous shiny hair.

A Balmain boy. The year following his Wookmark Prize win, Karl was offered a position as Pierre Balmain's assistant and intern, launching his career.

A tidy slick-back look and flouncy scarf, freelancing for Chloé in 1964. Whose collections he designed from 1964 to 1983 and again from 1992 to 1997.

So Italian, so 60s. The year is 1965 and Karl is nestled amongst the five Fendi sisters where he would stay until his passing in 2019, producing more than 100 collections for the brand over his 54-year tenure.

Waves, sideburns and tweed. Mid Century modern man.

Short wavy hair, loosely swept back off his face. Karl with his glamorous squad in 1970, Antonio Lopez and Pat Cleveland.

Karl by Andy Warhol in 1972.

Before the iconic ponytail, Karl embraced a thick head of hair and a manicured beard during his memorable Chloé era of the early 70s.

St. Tropez Karl is our favourite Karl.

Max Delys and Karl Lagerfeld star in Andy Warhol's 'L'Amour'.

Karl at home

Letting his hair down, Karl Lagerfeld at the scandalous Moratoire Noire party Saint Tropez in '77.

The Joker is Karl. It's all razzle-dazzle and sky-high pointy hats at Loulou de la Falaises party in 1978.

Portrait taken at the Pierre Hotel in Paris.

Salt 'n' pepper, and rouge 💋

By Helmut Newton on the mirrored staircase at 31 Rue Cambon in 1983. This was not long after Karl Lagerfeld began his most influential tenure at Chanel, transforming it from a grand old lady to a global brand while becoming an icon himself.

During his first year at Chanel - the not so humble beginnings of his signature ponytail

Photographed by Irving Penn

The most clothed person ever to cover a spread in Playboy, in 1987.

Greying hair slicked back into a ponytail forever more.

With his girlies; Claudia, Christy and Linda for Chanel Haute Couture Fall 91/92.

Karl in his fan era

Giving away Kristen McMenamy at her wedding in '97. Still accessorising with a fan...

Photographed with Hedi Slimane backstage at Dior Homme show when Hedi was at the helm and Karl was lusting after a suit.

“The signature white finish also seemed to reference the historical use of hair powder, which was used by most people in the 18th century. While hair powder was available in an array of shades, white was considered the most desirable for creating a stately, sophisticated finish.” - according to the Hair Historian

Switching up his body con jeans for a kilt during a Scottish-themed show in 2004.

A friendship originally solidified by their love of 18th-century French fashion, Karl Lagerfeld joined backstage by lifelong friend Andre Leon Talley at Chanel SS 2007.

With Blake Lively at the Met Gala

One of his most exorbitant runway sets, the Chanel supermarket of AW 2014

Desk clutter, mind clutter. At home in Paris, with Choupette. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue US, September 2018.

Choupette and her daddy.

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