How 'The Rachel' Haircut from Friends Became a Global Phenomenon Influencing Stars like Jessica Alba

PEOPLE's Pop Cultured looks back on moments when Jessica Alba, Debra Messing and even Ashlee Simpson gave 'The Rachel' a try

"The Rachel" was the haircut seen 'round the world.

PEOPLE's new Pop Cultured show is looking back on one of Jennifer Aniston's most famous roles, and the iconic hairstyle it inspired.

When Aniston, 53, took on the part of Rachel Green in Friends, she quickly became a style icon from her wardrobe as a buyer for Ralph Lauren to her character's signature haircut, which came to be known simply as "the Rachel." Over the years, plenty of stars tried to put their own twist on the style, including Jessica Alba, who tells Pop Cultured she tried out a similar cut "before Friends," when she was 13 years old.

"I was doing a TV show called The New Adventures of Flipper, and I played a character named Maya, and given the circumstances, I was quite coiffed," Alba, 40, recalls. "She was like an island kid, bohemian — definitely had a blowout every day."

She adds, "The look didn't necessarily go with the character so much."

Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Friends
Jessica Alba. Arnold Jerocki/WireImage; Inset: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

In response to Alba's story, comedian Annie Lederman quips, "You can't have a haircut that does the thing that's the name of the project you're working on. Flipper? With a flippy haircut? No."

While Alba's 'do was a bit of a reach for her boho character, she wasn't the only actress to try a Rachel-esque look back in the day.

Entertainment Weekly's Gerrad Hall recalls that Debra Messing had her own take on "the Rachel" while on Ned and Stacey, which aired at the same time as Friends.

"The producers, they thought the key to Friends' success was 'the Rachel,' so they had Debra try it out as well," he says.

But, it didn't work out so well — Hall explains, "Debra said they literally tried for three hours to straighten her hair like 'the Rachel,' but it was so full and poofy that it just looked like a mushroom."

Rachel Green
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green. NBCUniversal via Getty

"The Rachel" extended far beyond the TV screen and took over Hollywood, PEOPLE Style & Beauty Director Andrea Lavinthal says, exclaiming, "Oh my God, I feel like everyone had 'the Rachel' now that I look back!"

Drag queen Alaska proves the point, reading off a string of celebs who tried out "the Rachel" over the years, including Tyra Banks, Christina Aguilera, Kerry Washington, Kelly Clarkson and even Ashlee Simpson.

Alaska quips, "It turns out she wasn't actually doing 'the Rachel,' she was lip-synching," in reference to Simpson's infamous Saturday Night Live performance.

SNL writer Sudi Green points out that even celebrities with their own famous styles gave 'the Rachel' a try, like Meg Ryan, but Green says she took issue with Ryan's look being lumped in with other takes on 'the Rachel.'

"Meg Ryan had her own iconic haircut, which was like if 'the Rachel' had just stopped here," she says while gesturing to her cheekbones, "and then they let it do its thing … Maybe the Meg Ryan cut walked so that 'the Rachel' could soar."

For more on Jennifer Aniston's legendary "The Rachel" Haircut from Friends, check out the full episode of PEOPLE's Pop Cultured on PeopleTV and YouTube below.

Comedian Dewayne Perkins chimes in with his own set of rules for 'the Rachel,' explaining, "If we're going to call these haircuts 'the Rachel,' they need to contain three things: layers, highlights and the weird bang opening."

Green concludes that Kelly Ripa and Kelly Clarkson were "the two celebrities that embody 'the Rachel' the most."

"It's a very Kelly thing to do," she jokes.

Related Articles