The Evolution of Olympic Gymnastics Beauty Trends

From beehives to glitter and everything in between.

The much-discussed Rio Olympics are just around the corner, and there's a ton of excitement surrounding this year's women's U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. They're going to kick ass while they break barriers (for the first time ever, half the team are women of color)—and they just might do it in metallic scrunchies. Here, a look at the hair and makeup history that led up to this very sparkly, spandex-y, historic moment.

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1936: Short Hair and Pin Curls

The first nationally televised gymnastics team debuted during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin (shortly after Hitler took power in Germany). The women's team exhibited dominant '30s trends in their television debut, with short hair still reigning. Most of the athletes styled their hair into pin curls and even accessorized with a headband or bow to hold the hair in place.

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1964: Big Hair with Volume

The '60s of course brought us big hair in the form of bouffants and beehives, and the gymnastics team of 1964 somehow maintained that volume through their routines. This feat deserved a medal in its own right, but the team (competing in Tokyo) unfortunately ended up in 8th place all-around.

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1976: The Introduction of the Ponytail

Romanian Nadia Comenci truly stole the show during the 1976 Olympics—she was awarded the first perfect 10.0 score ever in the Games and then proceeded to get an insane *seven more* perfect 10's during the competition. At the same time, ponytails also made their play during the '76 games, and have become a staple ever since. The slicked-back style clearly makes the most sense for competitors, but up until the '70s, athletes were still abiding by "ladylike" styles while they competed—thankfully the freedom of the '70s also ushered in more sensible competition styles.

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1984: Signature '80s Cuts

In one of the most nerve-wracking vaults in Olympic history, Mary Lou Retton needed a perfect 10 in the final round in order to secure the gold—and that's exactly what she got. As for her look, Retton and a few of the other team members rocked iconic '80s short haircuts. As for the rest of the girls, the ponytail (with side-swept bangs) was still holding strong.

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1992: The Scrunchie Reigns Surpreme

When the '90s rolled around, we were introduced to Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, and Kerri Strug, who would become Olympic icons. To coordinate with their outfits, the '92 team opted for white scrunchies—perfect for the early '90s. Most of the girls wore their hair in ponytails, but a few pulled it up up into a bun before securing the scrunchie around it so everyone matched. Each gymnast also had bangs that they curled across their foreheads—another oh-so-'90s trend.

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1996: Slicked Ponytails

The '96 gold-winning Olympic team was nicknamed the Magnificent Seven for good reason. If you don't remember the Atlanta games, the U.S. team was barely ahead of Russia when Dominique Moceanu fell on her last two vault events, and Kerri Strug also fell, injuring her ankle. In order to win, Strug had to nail her last vault, and that she did—ignoring her injured ankle and winning gold for the team. As for the beauty trends, they were pretty on par with the time—most of the girls wore their hair slicked back into a ponytail with a white scrunchie, while others, like Strug, sported short, cropped cuts.

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2004: Pastels and Metal Clips

During the 2004 Olympics, the makeup personalities and individual styles of each athlete really began to shine. Pastel shadow was a staple, with Carly Patterson rocking a white shimmer and Annia Hatch a light blue throughout the competition. Hair was still slicked-back in tight ponytails and buns, held in place with metal snap clips, a style that later became a gymnastics competition staple.

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2008: Twists and Ribbons

The '08 gymnastics team brought us Shawn Johnson, Alicia Sacramone, and Nastia Liukin, along with a silver team medal, and the introduction of hair ribbons. While many of the athletes still wore white scrunchies (yes, in 2008) Johnson went with ribbons, bringing a bit of a cheerleader vibe to the classic gymnast ponytail. Another new addition was the front hair twist. In the past, gymnasts would shellac their hair with hairspray, but the '08 crew opted for a little more height with this twisted style. And of course, the makeup had progressed too. Instead of pastel shadow, the girls opted for just a little black liner or soft brown shadow.

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2012: Smoky Eyes That Stay Put

The 2012 Olympics in London brought together the aptly named #FabFive gold-winning team: Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Wieber. The team wore a mix of scrunchies coordinated with their leotards, and slicked-back ponytails or buns. Douglas got major props for how she responded to haters' comments on how she styled her natural hair for the games—stating that she had more important things to worry about (like winning). The #FabFive were also talented in the makeup department, opting for bold smoky eyes (that actually stayed put)!

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2016: Glitter Comes for Rio

While of course the Rio Olympics have yet to get under way, we've gotten a peek at the team's beauty style during the trials—and let's just say we're sure they're going to bring it. With the return of Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, as well as the addition of Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez, there is plenty to look forward to. And beauty-wise, the trials had the athletes rocking a ton of glitter on their faces, both with eye makeup and even on their cheeks. Tune in on August 5th to see if they translate the sparkly looks to this year's Games.

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