Television actress Jennifer Aniston (1969–) sparked a worldwide style craze in 1995 when her distinctive shag hairstyle was copied by women everywhere. Dubbed the "Rachel," after the name of her character, Rachel Green, on NBC's long-running hit sitcom Friends, the popular hairstyle helped Aniston emerge as the breakout star of the show's ensemble cast.
Friends debuted in 1994, steadily building a large and faithful audience, particularly among young, college-educated women. During its first season on the air, Aniston's charming coffee bar waitress Rachel Green was but one of six leads contending for the attention of viewers. Style trendsetters began to take notice in the second season, however, when Aniston unveiled a new hairstyle. A fresh variation on the shag haircut invented by New York salon legend John Sahag a generation earlier, Aniston's Rachel hairstyle fell just a bit below the shoulder and featured long layers all over. It was created especially for her by stylist Chris McMillan of Los Angeles' Estilo salon, who also created the stylish cuts for the show's other female casts members. McMillan later revealed that inspiration for the Rachel came about by accident as he worked to grow out Aniston's bangs over a series of cuts. The stylist then employed Velcro rollers to give her hair a full look.
The Rachel soon became the must-have hairdo among stylish women across the United States and also in Great Britain, where Friends was immensely popular. Not since Farrah Fawcett's blonde wings of the 1970s had the public reacted with such fervor to a hairstyle. Aniston eventually grew out the look and returned to a less trendsetting hairstyle but variations of the Rachel haircut were still popular in 2003.
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Mendez, Teresa. "Off the Small Screen and into the Closet." Christian Science Monitor (March 26, 2003).