Kate Middleton's Hair Transformation Through The Years Is Seriously Stunning

It's safe to say Kate Middleton has an iconic style. Over the years, Catherine, Princess of Wales has carved out a name for herself in the style world, with people from every corner of the globe interested in her fashion choices. While much of that interest is in Middleton's clothes or her favorite beauty products, her hair has also been under the microscope. Yep, the world just can't seem to stop wondering what she's going to do next with her super glossy and bouncy locks. It's no wonder that she was once crowned Britain's ultimate hair idol in a poll conducted by Kérastase (which is reportedly her favorite shampoo brand, by the way).

One of the reasons Middleton has mostly stuck with her hair look is because it's so classic and timeless. "This kind of polished, glossy look — whether on short, medium or long hair — will always be on trend, as many women love that very groomed, healthy look," her longtime hairdresser Richard Ward explained to Hello!

To the untrained eye, it may seem like Middleton hasn't changed up her hair much since she rose to prominence as the other half of Prince William, but she has actually has switched things up quite a few times. Just, in a subtle way. We're taking a look back at Kate Middleton's stunning hair transformation from an adorable almost 1-year-old to the sophisticated mom of three we know today.

Kate Middleton was a little girl with short, glossy dark hair

Recently, the world got a glimpse of the hair frenzy Kate Middleton would eventually create with her luscious locks. In an adorable throwback photo posted to the Prince and Princess of Wales' Instagram, which was taken in late 1983, Middleton was only 11-months-old and could already be seen growing the glossy brunette hair that's become her signature today. Clearly, great hair is just in her DNA.

The super sweet snap showed a (very!) young Middleton at Christmastime sporting a short, cropped 'do as her hair began to grow into the long tresses we've come to expect from her as a royal. She had short wispy bangs developing over her forehead, while the longer parts of her hair appeared to have a slight curl at the ends (a look we've seen from her many times as she's grown older).

Many fans took to the comments section to share just how much they thought Middleton looked like her son, the Prince Louis of Wales, in the cute snap. "A little version of Louis Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your Royal Highness," one person commented. Another wrote, "That's literally Prince Louis if he was a girl."

She wore string strands in her hair in 2002 (for a good cause)

String may not be the most regal option when it comes to hair accessories, but that's exactly what Kate Middleton once wore — albeit long before she knew her destiny was to marry a member of the British royal family. And it was for a good cause, too. Middleton appeared in a charity fashion show at St. Andrews University in 2002 where she walked the runway in a sheer dress and with tight curls in her long, brunette hair, which she wore down. Some strands of her tightly curled locks appeared to be wrapped in string — yes, string — for an edgy fashion statement.

The whole look caused quite a stir when the photos later resurfaced in the media, but, luckily, Middleton saw the funny side of the fashion and hair faux pas. She returned to St. Andrews' for the university's 600th anniversary charity event in 2012, and, according to Harper's Bazaar Australia, poked fun at her misstep while chatting with a fellow attendee. "I hope you weren't involved in the fashion show. You never know what you are going to be asked to wear!" she jokingly told them. And we can safely say that's the last time we saw her with string in her tresses.

We got an early taste of Kate Middleton's love of hair accessories in 2006

After a few years had passed and Kate Middleton was firmly in a serious romance with Prince William, we started to see her more regal side come out in her hair and hair accessories. Middleton is never one to shy away from an accessory like a stylish fascinator or a hat, and we got one of our first glimpses of what was to come back in 2006. At the time, she rubbed shoulders with the royals at the wedding of Laura Parker-Bowles (the daughter of her future mother-in-law, Queen Camilla, Queen consort of the United Kingdom) and Harry Lopes.

For the big family event, Middleton wore a very dramatic hair accessory in the form of a large headpiece with cream and brown feathers, including several thinner strands that cascaded off the headpiece. She wore her brunette locks down for the event and seemingly treated herself to an early version of her now signature bouncy blow-dry. She wore the bottom parts of her locks curled and rocked a dramatic side part that gave her tresses an extra dose of extra volume, a look we've come to see from her quite a few times at royal events.

And everyone wanted her engagement bouncy blowout four years later

One of Kate Middleton's most famous hair looks has to be the effortlessly healthy and elegant blowout look she sported in 2010 to announce her engagement to Prince William. Her signature dark locks were effortlessly shiny and curled towards the bottom, all while offering us plenty of volume at the roots. And it's safe to say this look quickly became iconic. The look was bouncy and glamorous, but without being over the top. So, classic yet still modern for a royal, right?

Hairdresser Richard Ward was the one who helped Middleton achieve the look, and he explained why people across the world were so in awe of her stunning locks. Because it was attainable. "[It's] natural, achievable and looks so healthy and glossy. It's become an iconic style which is easily accessible for everyone," he told Elle Canada.

The glossy and bouncy look was dubbed the "Chelsea Blow Dry," Ward told People. But he noted that it's not just a case of getting a simple blow dry when it comes to Middleton's locks. "It's not just about Kate's hair — it is beautifully finished, frizz-free, shiny hair. It's a hairstyle that is well finished," he said.

Her 2011 wedding look was all about romance

While she's certainly worn some enviable hair looks before tying the knot, Kate Middleton arguably never looked more glamorous than on her wedding day in 2011. For the April event, the bride wore a stunning tiara on her head (a Cartier tiara dubbed the Halo, which belonged to Queen Elizabeth II), while her head was adorned with curls that were all about elegant romance. She wore the front part of her locks pulled back and tucked away under her 16.5-foot-long veil.

Hairdresser James Pryce did Middleton's hair on the very important day, and he told The Telegraph that her uber-glamorous look was chosen specifically with a romantic vision in mind — that included her hair. "She was very keen to have a romantic theme throughout the whole look so that involved lots of soft waves and curls and but then still obviously keeping the back down and showing off those luscious locks," he shared. 

Pryce also told the outlet that he was happy Middleton chose to have just a little bit of her hair pulled back rather than having her locks down, which has become her signature look. "I'm glad she didn't want to have it all down. I would have thought that personally that would be a little too relaxed especially when you're using the tiara," he said.

And she tried out bangs in 2012

About a year and a half after officially joining the royal family, Kate Middleton caused a royal hair firestorm by cutting bangs into her tresses. She showed off the gorgeous new look during an appearance on the balcony of the Guildhall in Cambridge in November 2012, where the wind blew her freshly cut locks around as she and her fellow royals waved to well-wishers. Her hair also appeared to have a slightly warmer tone, with subtle highlights all over.

But it seemed Middleton was a little unsure about her new 'do, which was one of the most dramatic hair change-ups we'd seen from her since she entered the royal spotlight. After a fan complimented her on her fresh cut, Daily Mail reported that she told them, "I'm not sure about it. It's a bit windy today."

Still, the world clearly was sure about her cut. That same year, Middleton won quite the prestigious honor thanks to her always immaculate tresses. The new royal was bestowed the title of Most Iconic Hair Of 2012 in a poll conducted by haircare retailer Fabriah.com.

All eyes were on Kate Middleton's ringlet curls in 2013

The following year, we saw another look from Kate Middleton that she hadn't tried before. Though we know her best for her softer, more casual waves that fall at the ends of her hair, Middleton opted for ringlet-style curls in November 2013 when she attended the annual Remembrance Sunday event. Gone were the heavier bangs she debuted exactly one year earlier, and in their place was one of her curliest looks ever. Middleton wore her tresses in dramatic large ringlets, which stretched all the way up her scalp. The then Duchess of Cambridge was clearly a little concerned about her tight curls dropping, as she was photographed attempting to twist the coil curls back into shape using her fingers after they began to blow in the wind.

And it was that same year when the public made it clear once again what they really thought of her hair. Middleton announced in December 2012 that she and Prince Harry were expecting their first child together, and she then came out on top of a Fabriah.com poll which asked 350 British women to choose the pregnant celebrity they thought had the best hair during their pregnancy. Middleton landed herself 21% of the votes to come out on top, beating out the likes of Hollywood stars Penélope Cruz and Halle Berry.

While she tried a slightly different bang style in 2015

For a couple of years, Kate Middleton slipped back into her classic glossy and well-blow-dried style — but one of her most dramatic hair change-ups came in 2015. That year, Middleton decided to give bangs another go and, this time, she got even heavier bangs cut into her hair than the look we saw in 2012. We saw her sporting thick curtain bangs at a number of events from September onwards, including while stepping out with an up-do at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London.

The second coming of Middleton's bangs proved to be one of her most intriguing looks ever, too. Hair expert company Longevita told OK! that this bangs look was 426% above average when it came to online searches for Middleton's hairstyles over the years.

The cut was done by her longtime hairdresser Richard Ward, who spoke to Hello! about what adding bangs did for Middleton's look. "Fringes are really versatile — they are a great way of updating your look without doing anything too drastic, and there's a style to suit every face shape," he said. "A fringe makes an instant style statement. It can add structure, soften the face and highlight or define features, and is a very youthful look."

But she was growing her bangs out by December 2015 (and she gave her locks another chop)

Kate Middleton didn't appear to be the biggest fan of her bangs — or at least she wasn't exactly looking to keep them too long. Middleton seemed to be growing out look out by December 2015, as her bangs were much less dramatic when she attended a Christmas party at the Anna Freud Centre. By that point, her bangs were blending in more with the rest of her locks and appeared less choppy than earlier in the year.

But while her bangs were getting longer, the rest of her hair was getting shorter. She'd once again gone for the chop, as Middleton's hair was flicked inwards at the ends in a more rounded cut. Her tresses fell just past her shoulders at a practical length we've seen a few times from the now-princess over the years.

For anyone who had spoken to Middleton about her hair, it probably wasn't much of a surprise she was ready to grow her bangs out after just a few months. According to The Sun, Middleton had (just like the first time we saw her sporting the cut) made it clear to a fan she wasn't loving the curtain bangs. She reportedly told a well-wisher who had mentioned the cut, "I was a bit unsure about it. I call it my mum fringe." After that, she appeared to grow out all of her hair for a while.

2017 was the year of short hair for Kate Middleton (well, short for her)

The next time we saw a notable hair change from Kate Middleton was a couple of years later in 2017. Though she's not exactly known for dramatic changes, this one was pretty drastic for the royal as she chopped off her usually long locks to just past her shoulders. And there wasn't a bang in sight! Middleton debuted the look while attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament in July 2017 and The Sun estimated the royal may have lost as many as six inches from her usual length. The look was so talked about that Ireland's Evoke even dubbed the look the Kob (aka the Kate lob). 

But that wasn't the only change in her tresses. As well as going shorter, Middleton also lightened her locks a little for the summer months. Fans noticed she'd added chocolate brown highlights to her locks, with plenty around the front to frame her face.

Hair stylist Roi Nadin couldn't help but gush about Middleton's new look to Good Housekeeping because of how versatile the length can still be. "The style is also great for those, including the Duchess, who opt for wearing their hair up now and again," he said. "A one-length bob is a trendier haircut than she had before but given the fairly unique needs of her role it is still easy to put in an updo and keep off her face for visibility at events."

The same year, she got a little more daring and faked a bob

2017 was the year of different looks from Kate Middleton. After cutting her hair a little shorter for the summer, Middleton took the chance to try something new with her slightly shorter tresses. She attended the yearly Remembrance Sunday Service with the look we'd not seen from her before — a faux bob.

Though some royal watchers believed the royal had cut her hair from a lob (that's a long bob) into a full-on bob, it turned out she'd actually just pinned her hair up under her glamorous black hat to give the illusion of a voluminous bob. Some outlets even speculated that Middleton's hairdresser may even have gathered her hair in a net to give the voluminous effect at the bottom of the locks.

Hairstylist Yusef Williams dished on the stylish look to E! News, and it sounds like Middleton may have opted for the style as a way of testing out a bob without having to actually chop off her locks any further. "The wonderful thing about doing faux looks is that you don't have to commit," Williams shared.

The future princess showed us how to bring volume to a ponytail in 2019

Kate Middleton never did give the bob a go, though. At least not between 2017 and 2019, anyway. Instead, 2019 was more about a return to the longer locks we've come to expect from her. In 2019, Middleton proved again just how versatile she can be when it comes to her hair when she showed off a stylish and full low ponytail.

In March 2019, she made an appearance with Prince William in the British town of Blackpool with a bouncy ponytail that had plenty of volume at the roots. Though ponytails may not be the first thing we think of when we think of glamorous royal hairstyles, this royal proved otherwise as she kept things super classy by hiding her hair tie by wrapping a section of her locks around the base of the ponytail for a seamless look. She also kept her locks curled despite the more casual up-do, to add a little extra glam to the pulled-back style.

But she chopped it off again in 2020 for a trip to Ireland

Just when royal watchers were getting used to seeing Kate Middleton with long hair again, she went ahead and put the scissors to it once more. In March 2020, mere weeks before the world was thrown into chaos due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Middleton was in Ireland showing off some of the shortest cuts we've ever seen on this royal. Her hair, which fans were used to seeing stretch down her torso, now only just passed her shoulders.

But while we'd seen the then Duchess of Cambridge rocking shorter locks before, this was one of the first times the world had really seen her sport it this short and straight at the same time. Though she styled her hair a few ways during the trip to England's neighboring country, one look that grabbed the most attention saw her wear her glossy tresses down and straight with the ends curled under slightly towards her face.

And the shorter look was super popular for the time. "Something like this cut — a long bob — is very on trend right now. It's a quirky, fashionable style, similar to styles worn by models like Bella Hadid," celebrity hair stylist James Johnson told Daily Mail.

While bronde was in for the royal in late 2020

One of the ways Kate Middleton passed the time during the COVID-19 lockdowns? Playing with her hair. Clearly, Middleton made the most of her time shut away from the rest of the world as the pandemic took hold, as she re-emerged via video in November 2020 rocking a new hair look.

It appeared the royal had undergone a bit of a hair transformation during the lockdown period, as she decided to ditch her very dark brunette locks. Instead, she brought a little light to her hair in a video posted to her and Prince William's official Instagram account. The clip showed Middleton discussing the difficulties of the time and highlighting how communities have come together to help each other, all while rocking significantly lighter hair that included caramel highlights. In the clip, Middleton's hair almost shone blonde in the light for a stunning bronde effect.

But while she may have changed up her hair tone a little, Middleton had returned to the classic style we've come to know from her. Her locks had grown back to her signature chest length and fell in loose, glamorous blown-out waves.

And she proved she wasn't afraid to rock a sporty ponytail a year later

As we mentioned, classic ponytails aren't exactly a royal's go-to hairstyle for a public event, but that didn't stop Kate Middleton from wearing the practical style during a sporty appearance in September 2021. The royal, who has a sporty background herself, showed off a casual and practical side to her hair as she took on a tennis match with British tennis player Emma Raducanu by her side. The two even played a quick doubles match at London's National Tennis Centre.

But, proving you can never really take the royal out of the girl, Middleton made even the most casual of ponytails still look elegant. She pulled her hair back into a super high, perky ponytail, with the ends of her locks still showing off her signature bouncy curls. She also managed to keep plenty of volume at the roots, with not a single hair out of place even as she grabbed her tennis racket.

Early 2022 brought plenty of poker-straight looks from Kate Middleton

Though Kate Middleton is most famous for her bouncier, high-volume curls and waves, 2022 was full of much straighter looks when it came to her healthy, glamorous locks. Fans got a glimpse of her style in February when she stepped out with her children in London for a rugby match, and the year that followed was full of straighter styles.

Middleton kept on rocking the no-fuss hairstyle into March during a visit to the Caribbean. Though Middleton sported a few different looks during the trip (which did include her signature curls), she seemed to rely a lot on straight tresses — even for glam events! Middleton tucked the front parts of her hair behind her ears and let her straight locks fall naturally behind her back while attending a reception in Belize.

Celebrity stylist Tom Smith suggested her decision to sport so many straight styles may have been a conscious choice because of how busy she was. "Long smooth hair with a middle parting tucked behind the ears is a really good way for the hair to look tidy, tailored and polished," he explained to Daily Mail. Smith also speculated Middleton may have opted for a keratin treatment before jetting off to ensure her hair stayed so straight for the trip. "A game changer within the hair industry, it keeps looks like Kate's locked in for as long as possible and perfect as we approach summer," he said.

Though summer 2022 was more about the classy up-dos

After returning home from her trip, Kate Middleton was more about the classy up-dos than the straight looks. The royal wore several sophisticated up-dos during a very busy summer (in which Queen Elizabeth II marked her platinum jubilee), including when she attended Royal Ascot in June 2022 with a sleek updo under a wide-brimmed hat perched on the side of her head. Middleton had her hair pulled up in a very glamorous low bun. Middleton then rocked a similar hair look under a blue fascinator for the Order of the Garter Ceremony that same month.

But that was far from the only pulled-back number we saw from the royal that summer. While attending the Trooping the Color parade, also in June 2022, Middleton rocked an uber elegant up-do which saw her hair bundled up on the back of her head for a gorgeously glamorous look.

She even tried out a low ponytail later that year for one of her most low-key hair looks ever

After moving on from the sophisticated up-dos of summer 2022, Kate Middleton moved on to try a low ponytail that marked quite a different look for the star compared to what we'd seen from her throughout the year. While the few months that preceded her low pony had been all about glamour and letting her hair take center stage, she essentially hid her locks from the world view in November 2022.

While attending the National Service of Remembrance in London alongside her royal family members, Middleton's hair was barely visible. She wore it in a low ponytail that draped down her back, but covered her head with a very large black hat. Her dark locks pretty much blended into the accessory in photos, meaning her locks were pretty much invisible during the somber event — something we're not exactly used to seeing from the now Princess of Wales.

Kate Middleton brought back the bangs with a side part in the latter half of 2023

By September 2023, Kate Middleton returned to a darker tone and ditched the highlights we'd been seeing from her. Middleton wore her locks in a middle part while attending the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, and also appeared to have chopped some subtle bangs into her hair (yep, again). The royal appeared to be trying out long curtain bangs this time, which draped down either side of her face for a framing effect. The Princess of Wales was very much on trend too, as curtain bangs were certainly a popular choice in 2023.

"Kate's timeless style and bouncy blowdry has had a revamp in 2023," hair stylist Hollie Rose Clarke told Glamour UK of Middleton's modern twist on her classic hair look, which appeared to be a little less, well, big than we'd seen before. "Her signature bouncy blowdry has evolved. Though still timeless, the new Kate blowdry is slightly less voluminous with a looser wave and a mirror-like shine," Clarke explained. 

She also discussed the royal's decision to darken up her locks and add softer bangs.  "We've seen the addition of some face-framing curtain bangs which are a great way to change your style without losing length," she shared. "The Princess of Wales debuted a chocolate brunette color for winter. She's waved goodbye to those sun-kissed babylights in favor of a glossy, darker mane."

But that bombshell volume was back by the end of 2023

Though Kate Middleton's hair was a little less va-va-voom in September 2023, that didn't seem to be the case two months later. In a photo posted to Instagram in November 2023 that showed her posing by a Christmas tree, the royal was sporting gorgeous bombshell volume with bouncy waves fit for a red carpet. She again opted for the side part we've seen on her for years, but pushed her curtain bangs back to create volume. "I think it's added a softness around her face and a lift to the hair," hairdresser Michael Van Clarke, who previously worked with Princess Diana, told People of the look. "Fringes do need a bit more styling maintenance, but they're very versatile."

Middleton's 2023 hair upgrade hair look came after she adopted a new royal title, Princess of Wales, the year prior — and she appeared to be changing up her look and style somewhat alongside her new moniker. Middleton showed off a few different outfit choices in 2023, as fashion experts noticed she'd been wearing more pantsuits than we'd seen her in before. Some believed the move was very much intentional, just like her hair change may well have been. Royal historian Jessica Storoschuk explained to Page Six of the royal's evolving look, "As we are now firmly in the king's reign, Catherine is now starting to establish herself in her new role as Princess of Wales."