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Funny Flashback Haircut

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Flashbacks often give well-known characters stupid-looking haircuts (like a mullet, bowl cut, Funny Afro or Porn Stache) to intuitively communicate that we are in a different time and to make a quick visual gag on top of that. The haircut is also often funny because it's so far away from the usual look that we know from the character. It's the TV equivalent of laughing at the Embarrassing Old Photo of your friends on passports or in yearbooks. The trope is perfect for long-running sitcoms, but can be found in other media and genres as well.

A Sub-Trope of Expository Hairstyle Change. Overlaps with I Was Quite a Fashion Victim if the style was at least suitable for that time. Can overlap with Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow if a presently bald character is given a funny haircut to indicate the past. Compare Hairstyle Inertia, where a character's hairstyle remains exactly the same in flashbacks, but that can also be the joke.

See also '50s Hair, '60s Hair, '70s Hair, '80s Hair and '90s Hair.


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    Live-Action TV 
  • In a flashback in Better Call Saul the main character Jimmy has a dumb looking mullet when he is locked up because he defecated through a sunroof.
  • Subverted in Better Off Ted. A flashback to Phil's first day shows Phil with long hair and a tie-dye shirt and Lem with an afro and purple glasses. Then Lem says, "It's too bad your first day had to be during Sixties Week."
  • The Big Bang Theory has a flashback to the time when Leonard and Sheldon first became roommates in 2002. Leonard had long, wavy locks, Raj had a mullet, and Howard had a Jewish afro. A brief cut to Penny at the same time had her with borderline '80s Hair. Sheldon was the only one who remained almost the same, and even that was part of the joke.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • The usually bald and serious Captain Holt has a short and funky afro and a mustache in his 70s flashbacks.
    • Boyle had unflattering sideburns in the past.
    • Terry, famous for his big bald dome, had absolutely massive dreadlocks. In other flashbacks he has a way too tall hi-top fade.
    • When Jake and Amy first met, Amy had overly-long bangs and way-too voluminous hair, while Jake sported overly-long curls.
    • Back in high school, Jake had untypically flat and feminine shoulder-long hair that looked exactly like Gina's.
    • In an episode that rapidly covers 50 days of a tough murder case, Rosa's hairstyle changes from a big bouffant to braids, a messy up-do and a tight bob. She recalls she was dating a cosmetologist during that time.
  • Flashbacks in Everybody Loves Raymond are usually signaled by the characters wearing hair appropriate to the late years of The Eighties or the early years of The Nineties, up to a decade before the show's "present" in the early 2000s. Flashbacks to Debra Barone show her wearing hairstyles appropriate to an earlier time: restrained, well chosen, and on her they look good. Her husband Ray and brother-in-law Robert, on the other hand, go to comic extremes: Freddy Mercury moustaches, Afro hairdos, mullet perms...
  • Happens over and over on Friends whenever there's a flashback episode:
    • In "The One With All The Thanksgivings" we see Ross and Chandler in fall 1987. Ross's curly hair and mustache are less pronounced (he must still be growing it out for the Monica's prom next spring), but still very Seventies and out of date. Chandler's haircut is close to A Flock of Seagulls, again very Seventies.
    • In "The One With The Prom Video" Ross is seen with an afro and Porn Stache on the videotape, it being set in spring 1988. Joey explicitly calls him "Mr. Kotter", a reference to the late seventies show Welcome Back, Kotter.
    • Again from the Thanksgiving episode, Ross and Chandler visit in fall 1988. By now at least their haircuts are current, looking very Miami Vice and both having perpetual stubble.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • In a flashback to 40 years in the past the showrunners make no attempt to make Danny DeVito look younger. Instead they just slap an unkempt toupet on his head to cover his bald spots.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Marshall was very proud of his rattail as a teenager and even wrote a letter to his 30-year-old self to keep it forever, hoping it will at least hang down his knees at that age.
    • In College Ted sported ridicolously voluminous curls and Lily had untypical raven-black hair and unflattering bangs.
    • Barney wasn't always the notorious Ladies Man we know today. He used to have a ponytail and an ugly goatee.
    • Back in her days as Canadian pop singer "Robin Sparkles", Robin had a blonde, puffed up 80s mane in the late 90s.
  • The King of Queens:
    • In the episode where we see how Doug and Carrie first met, Doug has a mullet and Deacon a Funny Afro.
  • In The Nanny episode "The Kibbutz", the '70s flashback scenes show Fran Fine wearing 10-esque cornrows, Maxwell Sheffield wearing a Porn Stache, and C.C. Babcock with long, black Yoko Ono-esque hair.
  • Red Dwarf: When we see the teenage Lister in "Timeslides", he is sporting an Afro. Cat is depicted with a very similar hairstyle as well when the time wand reverts him to his teenage years in "Pete Part 1".
  • In Saved by the Bell, Balding Mr. Belding is shown to have a hippie-esque head of hair in a Flash Back to his student radio days.
  • Scrubs:
    • JD had a mullet in the flashbacks of his college years while Turk had a complementary hi-top fade that made his head seem 50% taller. After Turk learned that JD's scatter-brain cost him the chance to see Michael Jordan live, Turk ripped all his hair off out of frustration. This is the story of how he got his signature bald head.
    • Back in his days as a world-class hurdler, the Janitor sported the unbeatable mullet-mustache combo.
    • The short-haired Dr. Cox is shown in a flashback (or rather, one of JD's Imagine Spots) as having a blond Mohawk in The '80s, and an attitude to match:
    Shut up jackass, I rock!
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: In "The Ghost Of Suite 613", the clean-cut Mr. Moseby's flashback to his run-in with the titular ghost involves him having an Afro.
  • In British Edutainment Show Police, Camera, Action!, some Re-Cut / Edited for Syndication / George Lucas Altered Version episodes of the original 1994-2002 British series (occasionally Compilation Movie episodes that usually run to 50 minutes without commercials, but longer with commercial breaks) have used older footage of Alastair Stewart doing presenter links from the 1995-1997 episodes spliced into the later 1998 series and 2000-2001 series as flashback footage to expand the presenter links for time, and the difference is fairly obvious. While this is an unusual use of the trope, given the genre, it's done probably because they were trying to emphasise the "-tainment" part of Edutainment Show. Alastair went through several haircut changes with only the 1998 series and 2000-2002 season remaining consistent with his haircut.
  • Top Gear (UK) sometimes did this to pad for time when it was exported to European markets, with the older 1991-1994 clips of Jeremy Clarkson when he had '90s Hair in the pre-Continuity Reboot series (1990-2002) used in the new Continuity Reboot series, in its Soft Reboot series, 2011-present. Doubles as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, since it didn't add anything to the plotline.

    Comic Books 
  • Flashbacks to the past in Love and Rockets show that Fritz and Khamo went through punk phases when they were younger, with Fritz sporting a long side cut and Khamo having a mohawk. Both ended up having to settle down soon afterwards; Fritz barely managed to avoid an arrest for underage drinking, which inspired her to get her act together and go to college, while Khamo ended up severely burned and decided to marry Luba because she was the only one of his lovers who would stay with him after he was disfigured.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Eight Crazy Nights, Whitey, who is currently bald, goes into a flashback in the 70s, where we see that he had a ridiculous-looking afro.
  • In Turning Red, Mei is shown through old photos to have had a bowl cut at one point among other hairstyles as a young child.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult: Frank Drebin flashes back to a murder case at a disco in the '70s. He sports an (already white) mullet, the Captain has a Peter Frampton-esque head of blond curls, and Nordberg's Afro is so big he has trouble fitting through a doorway.

    Video Games 
  • In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, flashbacks show that the super-gentlemanly and businesslike professor, of all people, had a giant Funny Afro in his school days. It's downplayed though, as Lost/Unwound Future reveals that he still has a respectable amount of hair in the present.
  • Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy: in the present, Edgar Barrett normally keeps his head shaved. However, in flashbacks to Nick Scryer's psychic training sessions at Mindgate, Barrett (who presides over each test) sports a progressively more ridiculous array of haircuts, including flat-tops, afros, dreadlocks, mohawks, and many more.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

  • One flashback strip in The Petri Dish shows that Thaddeus (who's now nearly bald) had a mullet when he was in college.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In “The Deepening”, a young Teddy is shown with shaggy blond surfer hair in a flashback to his time as an extra in a shark movie.
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • Flashbacks to the 1990s show that Princess Carolyn had a Rachel-inspired haircut. This is particularly funny because she's an anthropomorphic cat who is usually drawn without a human-like hairstyle.
    • The flashback to 2007 in "The Bojack Horseman Show" shows Todd's Emo hair peeking out from his beenie.
  • Western Animation/Clarence, a rare female example. In “Jeff Wins”, one of Jeff’s moms, EJ, tells Clarence about Jeff’s fear when entering the Anual Cook-Off, most notably in the flashback sequence, EJ has had wild haircuts in the past.
  • Family Guy: In "Death Lives", Death takes Peter back to the night of his and Lois's first date. He then sees his younger self collecting the soul of a truck driver who died in a crash the young Peter and Lois unknowingly caused. The younger Death not only wears a psychedelically-colored robe, but an afro over his hood.
    Death: Look at all that hair. I can't believe I thought that looked good!
  • Futurama: Professor Farnsworth is almost always shown with hair in flashback, even when he's as old as 130. In "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles", where the entire cast starts to age backwards, Farnsworth is shown with a bodacious Funny Afro.
  • Human Resources (2022): In "Rutgers is for Lovers," Emmy flashes back to the 1970s to explain why she and Rochelle nicknamed Pete "the Chugger." In the flashback, Emmy has longer hair while Rochelle's hair is more voluminous, and most amusingly, the normally-hairless Pete has windswept hair and a 70's-style mustache (or at least rocks sculpted to look like such).
  • In Pepper Ann, Jamie has a short bob but is shown to have been a hippie with long hair when Pepper Ann was a toddler.
  • The Simpsons:
    • This trope is a Running Gag with Doctor Hibbert. Whenever he's shown in flashback, he has a different hairstyle, including a Funny Afro in The '70s, dreadlocks with beads and a Mr. T-style Mohawk at different points in The '80s, and a high-and-tight in The '90s.
    • A flashback to Mr. Burns' childhood shows him with enormous golden curls, a visual reference to a stereotypical image of a wealthy boy in The Gay '90s.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, the flashback to Jim's time being the fry cook at the Krusty Krab (which seems to take place around the '70s) shows Mr. Krabs with sideburns and Squidward with gorgeous flowing blonde hair. A later flashback shows that Squidward lost all his hair on the night that Jim quit, while Krabs' sideburns were fake.
  • The Venture Bros.: A flashback in "Past Tense" to Rusty's college years shows him wearing a really ugly mullet and trying to explain to his father that "the kids wear it long these days." "These days" of course being the '70s or '80s. In a much later episode there's another flashback to a slightly older Rusty who still has the same haircut but is already starting to go bald.
    • Lampshaded in the boys' various clones' Death Montage in the episode "Powerless in the Face of Death", where Rusty and Brock laugh about having grown cheesy mustaches during one death scene, and Rusty having hair plugs during another.