While wet-look gel really came into its own in the 80s, lacquered looks were also in the spotlight in the 1920s. Think Josephine Baker’s super short crop, worn shellacked and slicked with high-shine brilliantine, for a glossy finish that catches the light on stage. Flappers around the world favoured a similarly shiny finish, lending an androgynous, groomed polish to their daringly short cuts, inspired by men’s polished, slicked syles of the time.
It’s impossible to talk wet-look without mentioning the Jheri curl; a chemical process created as an alternative to the relaxer and invented by Jherri Redding in the 1980s. Popular with Black men throughout the era, it left hair with a high-shine gloss – and the chemicals notoriously left marks on every cushion, pillow or outfit they touched.
In the 90s, wet-look gel was every teenage boy’s grooming must-have, with giant pots of blue gloop giving hair a shiny, sticky finish.
These days, wet-look hair is a fashion favourite for creating summery, swimming pool style or fresh-from-the-shower looks; although as with any effortless hair, it inevitably takes work to look more ‘done’ than drenched.