Dolly Parton's Gorgeous Hair Transformation

For those who are unaware, country superstar Dolly Parton has opened up several times about the inspiration behind her iconic look: a sex worker from her hometown. "When I was little, I patterned the way I looked after the town tramp in our hometown... I thought she was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen," the superstar admitted during a 2023 Vogue interview. "She had the peroxide blonde hair piled up on top, with red lips and fingernails, the high heel shoes, the tight skirt. I thought she was amazingly beautiful," she added. Parton revealed that even as a child she would try to emulate the look, going as far as to create her own makeup and perfume. And, arguably, it's that totally over the top and oh so glamorous style that's helped to get her where she is today as one of the most instantly recognizable figures in the world.


One of Parton's most iconic attributes has to be her hair, because, well, she just wouldn't be the Queen of Country we know today without her super bleached, teased-to-the-Gods blonde locks. And while you may think this superstar has had the same hair ever since she burst on the scene decades ago, she has actually tried out quite a few different hair looks in her time. Albeit, all of them have had more volume than 10 industrial speakers.

In 1955, a 10-year-old Dolly rocked some stylish short locks

Back 1955, 10-year-old Dolly Parton was already proudly showing off her natural penchant for glamour. The star wore her hair in a short style very fitting for the times, with old Hollywood-style waves that prove glam was in her bones right from the very beginning. 


Though it's hard to see in the black and white snaps of the time, Parton was in fact blonde even as a youngster — just not quite as platinum as we know her to be today. She explained of her natural color while speaking to Interview in 2021, "I have blonde hair, but it just wasn't radiant, it's sandy blonde. It wasn't yellow and white and bright."

The 1960s brought the big hair we're used to seeing from the country queen

In 1965, the world got its first glance at the massive hair that would go on to become Parton's staple, big hair look. We're going to go out on a limb here and guess this seriously huge look has to be a hairpiece, as Parton admitted in her 2020 book, "Songteller: My Life In Lyrics," during her time on "The Porter Wagoner Show," she started receiving extra help with hair. 


Parton later shared in an interview with Vogue in 2023 that she was introduced to hairpieces and wigs by her first hairdresser (who also just so happened to be her aunt too), Colleen Owens. "They used to be called falls — that you could add to your own hair and give you extra bulk. And it was through her that we found wigs," Parton recalled, sharing that Owens then started creating custom wigs for her. "She was so creative. The wigs were wearing me — I wasn't wearing the wig! But I loved all the intricate little things that Colleen used to do. It was always the bigger, the better," she noted. To this day, Parton is one of many celebrities who remain open about wearing wigs.

But she wasn't 100% reliant on wigs and hairpieces just yet

Despite developing her love of hairpieces in the 1960s, that didn't stop Dolly Parton from still rocking her natural hair on occasion. And that's something she rarely does in public these days. The star shared a gorgeous throwback photo on Instagram in 2020 and in her book, "Songteller: My Life In Lyrics," which showed her rocking her natural hair while recording music in the studio in 1965. Though we can't see her exact hair shade in the black and white upload, she appeared to have darker hair than her signature blonde we know today, but with a few highlights. Obviously though, she still managed to get some epic volume with her hair pushed back with a heavy part. Hey, this is Dolly Parton, after all.


Parton later revealed that she'd started to dye her natural hair blonder around this time, admitting that as a child she couldn't wait for the day she'd be able to lighten her locks. "I was born blonde and couldn't wait to get it blonder. I started buying peroxide as soon as I could afford it!" she told WSJ Magazine in 2021. "I just am a blonde. That's just my nature. It's me."

Dolly Parton kept her hair big, but toned things down a little in the 1970s

Though Dolly Parton's hair was still very southern and big in the 1970s, she did tone it down from that huge look we saw from her a couple of decades earlier. Instead of a gravity defying totally huge bouffant, she opted for something a little more manageable (for her, at least). She rocked a shorter, round cut with big, glamours curls in a more white, ashy blonde shade, a few shades lighter and cooler than the more yellow blonde she seems to prefer today.


Of course, this look still certainly packs a punch, but for Parton, it is a little more understated than some of her other looks. And Parton has admitted that it was a more toned down look she was often told she should be going for to make a success of things in the music industry. "The main advice that people wanted to give me was to change my look, to go simpler with my hair and the way that I dress. Not to look so cheap. Nobody was ever going to take me seriously, they would say," she admitted on the "WorkLife with Adam Grant" podcast in 2022. Thank God she didn't listen!

She embraced the perm life in the 1980s

If there was one trend that was never going to pass Dolly Parton by, it had to be the huge, permed hair of the 1980s. Showing the haters who told her to change her style that she was always going to be true to herself, in that decade, she began wearing her signature big hair with tighter curls — and plenty of volume all over her head.


It goes without saying that a look like this would probably be pretty damaging to natural hair, particularly if someone was undergoing a perm time and time again in the '80s when we didn't know as much as we do today about keeping hair healthy. But that wasn't exactly a problem for this star. Because her hair started to get damaged with all her teasing and dying (she had a lot of events to show up at as she became more famous, after all), Parton told Vogue in 2021 that she came to rely on faux hair to get the big looks she loves without the damage. "I started wearing wigs because I quickly realized that bleaching and teasing my hair every day would cause breakage and not look good," she explained.


Dolly Parton's hair then got shorter (and somehow even bigger)

Also in the 1980s, Dolly Parton ditched the longer, past shoulder locks we'd seen from her. Instead, she kept it big (of course) but decided to go for something shorter to create a huge, round cut. This wig is so big, we don't even know how Parton managed to fit it through the door! There's no doubting it still suited her to a tee though and is one of the most fun looks she's rocked over the years. This hairpiece is one of her lighter ones too, as it adopts a more cool toned blonde than the golden blonde wigs she's probably most famous for.


In "Songteller: My Life in Lyrics," Parton explained that she realized quickly in her career how useful wigs like this could be, particularly as she became busier than ever and needed her hair to look good all the time. "I was the first to get my hair all poofy. Then, as soon as I could buy those hairpieces and wigs, I wanted them," she wrote in the book. "For one thing, they were so handy. Plus, my hair would never do exactly what I wanted it to do. So the wigs became kind of my trademark." They certainly did.

By the 1990s, she'd developed more of a signature style

In the 1990s, we started to see the hair we probably associate most with Dolly Parton today. She wore her blonde hair down, letting it fall just past her shoulders. She also cut flattering bangs into the look and made sure there was still plenty of volume at the top (her signature!) with glam curls cascading down in all directions. And this is the kind of style the "Her You Come Again" hitmaker would keep on reverting to, just tweaking a little over the years.


We've seen Parton rock countless versions of this voluminous look since this shot was taken, and it sounds like that was probably intentional. Parton told The Hallmark Channel (via People) in 2021 that it was just innately in her as one of the biggest stars in country music to keep her hair big no matter what. "I like the curls. I like the different ones. Gospel singers and country singers just have to have that big hair. It's just a thing," she admitted.

She wowed with a spiky look next

Dolly Parton continued to change up that classic style over the next few years, but it was in 2006 when she made it clear she can literally pull off any and every look going. And that even includes blonde spikes. While reuniting with her "9 To 5" co-stars for a DVD release party celebrating 25 years since the movie's release, she had her signature piece-y bangs and face framing layers down either side of her head — plus spiked up hair on the top of her head!


This look definitely appears to have been created using a wig or extensions, so you'd be forgiven for thinking the star only ever wears hairpieces. But that's not exactly true. At least when she's in the privacy of her own home, at least. Parton has admitted that although her natural hair is almost always covered in public, she still likes to it looking its best. "I keep my own hair about the same length, and I keep it bleached, and my roots done up. When I'm around home or whatever, when I'm comfortable, but I still pull my hair up. I still like it to look [nice]," she told Entertainment Tonight in 2023.

Dolly Parton returned to her updos in 2011

In 2011, Dolly Parton was back to rocking up-dos and piled her hair up onto her head with the help of some rhinestone covered bow clips (what else?) while attending a VH1 Divas event in New York City. Her blonde locks were just as shiny as ever, and adding the clips really helped her bring some extra volume to her tresses (and we're sure she had to love that). The style was perfect for the more rocker-esque look she was going for at the show, as she rocked a sheer black dress with leather and studs.


This appeared to be another one of the country music superstar's multiple wigs. She's admitted she has so many hairpieces to choose from that she could literally wear a different one every day and still have some to spare. She told Entertainment Tonight during a 2023 interview, "Once somebody asked me, 'How many wigs do you have?' I said, 'Well, I must have at least 365, because I wear one almost every day.'"

The country star rocked a rare ponytail after that

Three years later, Dolly Parton tried something a little different with her hair. If there's one style you probably don't instantly associate with the country music superstar, it's probably a low maintenance, loose ponytail. But that's exactly what she sported during "QVC Presents: Dolly Parton Q Sessions Live from Nashville". The star wore her hair wavy with several strands down at the front to frame her face. She also kept plenty of volume on the tip of her head (because, of course) while the rest of her locks cascading down her back in a low ponytail.


We're guessing this was another wig from Parton, and may even have come from one of her wig cabinets that morning. Yes, she really does have a collection of cabinets for her hairpieces — all thanks to her hairdresser Cheryl Riddle. "I have little wig cabinets that Cheryl sets up everywhere, and I can always say, 'Okay, yup, I feel like that today,'" she said in 2021, while speaking to Allure. "Wigs are just so handy. I would love to do a wig line next."

Dolly Parton gave us a throwback look in 2016

While accepting the SAG Life Achievement Award in 2016, Dolly Parton said goodbye to the ringlet curls and perms we'd seen from her and instead seemed to return to one of her most classic looks. She stepped out with a bombshell blow-dry and a side fringe with plenty of height as it swooped over the left side of her forehead. The country star kept her hair high on the top and at the back too, stunning with more glam waves than tight curls which stretched down just beyond her shoulders.


And this may well have been a throwback to one of the star's favorite wigs ever. Parton admitted to Harper's Bazaar that her very favorite hairpiece is the one she wore for the cover of her book, "Songteller: My Life In Lyrics," which was a black and white photo taken years earlier. "It's probably the most famous [wig]. My aunt Colleen Owens, who was my hairdresser at the time, came up with that look," she said. Though the 2016 look doesn't appear to be the exact same wig she'd held to for years, the more toned down take on the classic sure does look pretty similar to her favorite hairpiece.

And 2022 saw the return of the up-do

We may be used to seeing Dolly Parton rocking every version of big curls and volume going over the years, but in 2022 she went a slightly different route. She wore a chic up-do on the red carpet of the 57th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which included long, straight strands either side of her face. Parton without glam curls or waves? Consider us shocked! There's no doubting there was still a nod to her more typical styles though, as she clipped a sparkly butterfly onto the top of her head.


Again, we're going to assume this one is a wig seeing as it was a pretty big event, but it may surprise you to know that she doesn't actually rely on hairpieces when she's not in front of her millions of adoring fans. "I don't always wear [wigs] in my daily life, but I always still pouf up my hair. I still like to have that flashy hair," she told Elle in 2019 of her behind the scenes style. "When I'm around home, I wear my little scrunchies, but I always put on some makeup and fix my own hair as cute as I can fix it."

Rockstar hair was in when 2023 rolled around

Dolly Parton released her inner rockstar in 2023 when she dropped a rock album, aptly titled "Rockstar." And a rockstar she was. For a photoshoot for the album, Parton sported her hair as high as we've ever seen it piled on top of her head, but with a couple of unexpected addition. Alongside her signature volume and side swept bangs were pink and green strands, marking one of the first times we've seen Parton rock (literally!) anything other than all blonde tresses.


We're guessing this look was just as practical as glam though, as Parton has admitted she has a secret inside her wigs that's perfect for a rockstar. "My wig cap has a little pocket on it in the back because my clothes are so tight, my mic pack don't fit nowhere, there's only room for me in my clothes," she told CMT in 2022. "So I have it to where the mic fits in my hair because I wear wigs all the time and so it goes right over it and we just kind of mic it around."

But while she may have sported a few different dramatic styles over the years, of course, it's all about what's on the inside when it comes to this uber glam bombshell. As she told The Guardian in 2016, "I've been around a long time. Long enough for people to realize that there's more to me than the big hair and the phony stuff."