Pop Quiz: What lives in the ocean, flaunts a mushroom-shaped top, radiates a plume of tentacles from angel hair, and gave the internet trendy haircut its name?
Last week, a flashy photoshoot featuring Nicole Kidman sparked discussion of the so-called ‘jellyfish’ haircut on social media. Some argued whether Ms. Kidman’s haircut was a real jellyfish, while others learned about the style for the first time.
Not really. Like a lot of things on the internet, the definition of a jellyfish cut seems to be constantly changing. Evanie Frausto, who did Ms. Kidman’s hair for the new issue of Perfect magazine, said he didn’t intend to give the actress a jellyfish haircut, but acknowledged that the final result has many similarities. “Honestly, I didn’t even know it was called a jellyfish,” he said in an interview.
In the pictures, the actress has a straight red haircut that frames her face, and longer strands go down to her torso. Mr. Frausto said he created several looks for Ms. Kidman, inspired by the precise style of hairdresser Vidal Sassoon and fringed haircuts from the 1960s (specifically Cher).
He chose red as a tribute to Satin, Miss Kidman’s character in Moulin Rouge! And because working actresses like Ms. Kidman can’t drastically change their real hair, Mr. Frausto said, “I bring wigs for situations like this.”
Some have suggested that Miss Kidman’s appearance is more reminiscent of the Japanese hime haircut. According to the W magazine, the hime haircut can be traced back to the Heian period in Japan, starting around the ninth century. Megumi Asaoka, a Japanese pop star, popularized the hime haircut in the 1970s. In recent years, this image has been associated with many anime characters.
Visually, the medusa haircut sits somewhere between a mullet, a shag, and a hime cut: a 360-degree bob with longer hair at the bottom, towards the back of the head, with strands of varying lengths to create a layered look.
According to celebrity hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai, the jellyfish haircut is a “modern, artistic and clean” version of the mullet. He said it reminded him of Mr. Sassoon’s pioneering work with bold and asymmetrical hairstyles.
“It’s almost punk in a way,” Mr. Fekkai said. For him, the jellyfish cut says, “I don’t care what you think.”
The anime inspired Marie Trombley, a 23-year-old artist from Portland, Oregon, when she decided to get a jellyfish hairdo in May. Ms. Trombley is a strong proponent of this look on TikTok, with the hashtag #jellyfishhaircut hitting 10 million views on the platform, and many of the most popular videos are from Ms. Trombley.
“Growing up, I had the character Yuna from Final Fantasy and I always liked her hair,” Ms. Trombley said. “She has a straight haircut and a long braid down to her ankles. Being half Japanese and part time working in Japan, I grew up watching other anime characters get their hair styled.”
When she first cut her hair in this style, Miss Trombley didn’t know there was a name for it. It was just “a haircut with kitchen scissors over the sink.”” she said. When a TikTok commenter told her the look was called a “jellyfish haircut,” she embraced the term.
Ms. Trombley said that the medusa haircut is different from the hime haircut because it is only short in front, around the face. The jellyfish haircut is a bob around the head. So from the back, the cut of the jellyfish looks like a jellyfish.
“Get creative in customizing your avatars”
TikTok and Instagram are powerful engines when it comes to hair trends, but they are as fickle as they are fast. Mr. Fekkai said that TikTok is simultaneously accelerating and exaggerating hair trends, favoring those who can create the most daring and eye-catching looks. But hair trends like jellyfish often disappear as quickly as they appear, he said.
One of the reasons the jellyfish haircut has caught the attention of some people is its versatility. It can be styled one way to suggest short hair, or the other way to accentuate long sections with curls, extensions, color, pendants, or experimental braids. (Miss Trombley braided her long hair into star-shaped braids.)
For her part, Ms Trombley said she simply enjoys the fun and personality of her image. She added that she gets a lot of messages from strangers on the internet saying they cut and dyed their hair to look like hers. And personally?
“I get weird looks from older women, for example, and a lot of compliments from younger people,” she said.
In one of her most popular videos on TikTok, Ms Trombley highlights her top tip: “Get creative with customizing your avatars.” She repeated the message in her interview.
“I live my life every day like it’s a video game,” she said. “While working as a waiter and things like that, I dressed, did my hair and makeup exactly the same.”
“You may not see how other people do it, but why not break those boundaries in the same way you can change your avatar in a video game?” she continued. “You can change your look tomorrow if you want, and it’s entirely up to you.”