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Style & Living Beauty

Dolly Parton's Hairstyle Evolution: The Looks (and Wigs!) That Defined Her Career

"I don't trust people who do their own hair."

By Tamara Palmer

Her first country song ever may have been called "Dumb Blonde," but Dolly Parton has proven to be one of the smartest and most beloved artists in show business. She has just released her 43rd studio album Pure & Simple, a modern classic which includes updated versions of songs she sang in the Seventies as well as a lyrical shout-out to Adele, and is currently out on her biggest concert tour in a quarter century. 

That blonde hair though, and Dolly's witty quips about her mane, have together formed a not-so-secret weapon in her enduring career. Let's take a trip down memory lane with the best styles and sass that the self-styled Backwoods Barbie has served on the top of her head:


“I never could get my hair to do what I wanted it to do, so I started wearing the wigs. It all came from a very serious place. I wanted to look a certain way.”

A promotional portrait taken for Goldband Records at age nine provides a rare glimpse at her real roots—which appear to be blonde! (This will become important in a minute.)


"I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb. . . and I also know that I'm not blond."

Even if she's not a natural blond, there's no doubt about it: Dolly Parton is a natural born entertainer.


"If anyone tells you that your hair is too big, get rid of them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."

Dolly developed her archetypal look in the Seventies, when her voluminous curls matched her overall buxomness. The bigger, the better!


"I hope people realize that there is a brain underneath the hair and a heart underneath the boobs."

She shocked her fans by posing for Playboy in 1978. She appeared on the cover and in a photo shoot spread inside, but she kept her bunny costume on.


"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."

She kept the cute cropped curls look that she cemented in her scene-stealing role in 9 to 5 throughout the eighties, making secretaries chic in the process.


"My husband says I look like a Q-Tip."

The bubble hair look did get a little severe before the end of the decade, though, but that only made Dolly poke fun at herself even more!


"Someone once asked me, 'How long does it take to do your hair.' I said, 'I don't know, I'm never there.'"

Dolly's hair pieces got featherier in the Nineties, but no less blonde, a midpoint between her Seventies and Eighties styles.


“I don’t trust anyone who does their own hair. I don’t think it’s natural.”

Dolly went full metal '80s in the oughts for the 25th anniversary press day for 9 to 5. She looks amazing in this platinum ode to Mötley Crüe. 


"If I hadn't been a woman, I'd be a drag queen for sure. I like all that flair and I'd be dressing up in them high heels and putting on the big hair. I'd be like Ru Paul."

She brought out her fanciest hair yet for a 2014 live performance on TODAY. We have no idea how this wig was styled, but it's a fascinating collection of mini braids, flower clips and follicular waterfalls. Brilliant!


A photo posted by Dolly Parton (@dollyparton) on

“Home is anywhere I hang my hair.”

For now, Dolly's keeping it Pure & Simple, with just enough big hair to remind you that she's still here.

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