Kate Middleton's Gorgeous Hair Transformation Through The Years

Since joining the royal family over a decade ago, Catherine, Princess of Wales, has become a cultural icon for many reasons. From her passion for child welfare to her highly coveted style — a phenomenon that inspired the term "the Kate Effect" due to how often garments sell out after the princess is seen wearing them — the public regularly turns to Catherine for inspiration in all areas of life. In fact, since the beginning of her tenure in the British monarchy, the Princess of Wales has kept legions of people enthralled with one thing in particular: her princess-perfect head of hair.

While Catherine quickly became known for her signature milk chocolate color and bouncy blowouts, she's also dared to try new styles, cuts, and colors more than you may realize. The princess has rocked lengths both short and mermaid-esque; she's played with color with expert subtlety, and she's donned countless hairstyles that have left her mane flowing loose, pinned elegantly in a half-up fashion, or lifted completely off her frame in an intricate updo. Through every hair change and return to her signature look, Princess Catherine's gorgeous hairstyles have remained a hot topic since she first started dating Prince William all the way back in 2002 — and like a fine wine, the evolution of her glossy chocolate locks has only gotten better with age.

2007: Blowout 1.0 with lots of layers

Even in the earliest days of Princess Catherine's relationship with Prince William, she wore her chocolate-colored mane in a bouncy blowout. The couple met at the University of St Andrews in 2001, and they were initially nothing more than friends. Their dynamic took a romantic turn in 2002 after William saw Catherine walk the runway in a college fashion show titled "The Art of Seduction" — for which she wore a sheer slip dress that gave a peek at her black bandeau and briefs beneath. 

When the pair dated in the aughts, Catherine's go-to hairstyle was a head of cascading, medium-brown locks with long layers and modest, swooping bangs parted to one side. Though she's now known for her curly, billowing blowouts, the princess favored a more straight and sleek blowout in the 2000s. She frequently donned the casual style, including at her graduation ceremony in 2005 and the Cheltenham Festival in 2007. As the next decade neared, Catherine started adding a slight flip to the ends of her tresses, which gave her usual blowout a more feminine, piece-y look in combination with additional layers framing her face. She was commonly seen with her bangs pinned back in the later stages of the aughts, and around 2008, the royal began growing the swath of hair from cheekbone level to chin length.

2010: The birth of the signature blowout

In November 2010, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and William, Prince of Wales, announced they were officially engaged after eight years of dating. The major step in their relationship was not only a defining moment of the monarchy's future but also the launch of Catherine's signature royal look. For their engagement photoshoot and interview, the future princess looked radiant and regal in a deep blue dress that complemented the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that once belonged to Princess Diana. 

The hairstyle Catherine wore for her debut as a future member of the royal family has become just as iconic as the engagement frenzy itself. The princess' lustrous espresso-colored locks were blown out in what has become her go-to style in the decades since. The layered ends of her mane were curled away from her face to create dimension and bounce, and her side-swept bangs looked polished as ever, elegantly sweeping into her voluminous style while framing her face. The Blowout 2.0, if you will, was born from Catherine's preferred casual blowout of the aughts, but upgraded to a more sophisticated and enchanting style befitting a princess. 

2011: Sleek and sophisticated with a voluminous bounce

Princess Catherine's hair transformation continued in her first year as a royal family member. In the months leading up to Catherine and Prince William's April 2011 wedding — and in those that followed, for that matter — Catherine's tresses were lightened to a dimensional milk chocolate color, and her rich strands were routinely coaxed into curls. Though the styles slightly varied at each event and engagement she attended, the staple characteristics of the princess' hairstyles were volume, shine, and femininity. In addition to her polished clothing and natural makeup, Catherine's perfectly placed glossy locks helped to create her public persona as the dutiful and beautiful royal woman who would one day reign as queen alongside Princess Diana's eldest son.

From her sleek blowout for the June 2011 Absolute Return for Kids gala to the bouncy, girlish mane of large-barrel curls for a visit to comfort victims of a UK riot in August 2011, Catherine's hair became an integral element of her image as a high-ranking royal family member. With not a hair out of place or spot of frizz to be seen, Catherine's sleek and sophisticated hairstyles helped to position her as a fixture in the monarchy to be admired for her physical beauty and poised demeanor — the ideal traits of a queen in waiting.

2012: Foraying into fringe

Catherine, Princess of Wales, made the first major change to her gorgeous head of royal hair in 2012. While stepping out for the opening night of a new exhibition at London's Natural History Museum, the princess debuted glamorous curtain bangs that had been swept into a lush style that was very '70s. The retro-inspired look was a significant change for Catherine — though she'd rocked bangs before, the face-framing strands previously served as more of a complement to her lengthy tresses than the statement characteristic of her look. Catherine's curtain bangs were a physical representation of the royal's growing confidence in herself and her position as a global figure, and they gave a glimpse of her personality beneath the trappings of the role she agreed to fulfill when marrying Prince William.

In addition to suggesting Catherine had become comfortable enough with her royal status to play with her personal style, many fans speculated the princess' bangs were a strategic move to distract the public from the huge news she would soon announce: her first pregnancy. The art opening Catherine attended took place on November 27, and not but a week later on December 3, she and William shared that they would be welcoming the next heir to the throne in a matter of months. 

2013: Long locks with honey highlights

Those who thought Princess Catherine's hair couldn't possibly get any more stunning were proven wrong in 2013. Throughout her pregnancy with Prince George, Catherine let the hormones work to her advantage by growing her glossy strands longer than ever. When she and Prince William made their first appearance on the steps of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital following their eldest child's birth, it wasn't just the baby Catherine was debuting. 

According to Hollywood Life (via Romper), the expecting mom made a visit to the Rosa Ferreti salon a month before George's arrival, and she treated herself to a $1,500 cut and color. Catherine premiered her new look on those iconic hospital steps, showing off a mane of cascading honey-highlighted hair styled in loose waves. The relaxed look was jaw-droppingly gorgeous, especially considering its debut followed her first-ever labor and delivery.

Catherine kept the subtle blond tones and mermaid-esque length in her hair throughout the rest of the year, and in the final months of 2013, she attended an engagement with her tresses styled in a more bohemian fashion than usual. While the princess typically opted to keep her look pretty classic up to this point, she rocked loose, tumbling waves parted down the center of her head for a charity visit on Poppy Day. Like her feathered fringe from the previous year, Catherine's boho Poppy Day look suggested she's partial to glamorous hair trends from the 1970s.

2014: Milk chocolate mom hair

By 2014, Catherine, Princess of Wales, had gone back to her signature rich chocolate color — but she continued to grow her locks longer than ever. One of her most mesmerizing moments of the year was an appearance at London's Northolt High School for the opening of their ICAP Art Room. Catherine looked every bit a princess while chatting with students and faculty, her voluminous blowout elegantly blowing in the wind to create an effortlessly ethereal effect. 

Though she stuck to the long look for the first half of the year, the princess trimmed several inches off her mane in the height of summer — perhaps in an effort to save her strands from baby Prince George's grabby hands. While attending Wimbledon and the Tour de France that July, Catherine showed off her freshly cut 'do, which grazed the top of her bust. The new mom also began straying from her usual classic curls of years past in favor of polished blowouts with a slight flip at the ends of her hair — a look that emphasized her role as a busy working mother, with George nearing toddlerhood and her second pregnancy with Princess Charlotte announced that September. 

2015: Return of the fringe

Princess Catherine was pregnant with Princess Charlotte for the first half of 2015, and she didn't change her hair too much while she awaited her second child's arrival. Her medium-length chestnut locks from the latter half of 2014 stuck around through Charlotte's birth in May 2015, but a few months later in the height of summer, Catherine premiered a fresh look reminiscent of her vintage 'do of 2012. 

While attending Wimbledon in July, the princess' honey highlights returned, and a modest curtain bang framed her face. A few months later, Catherine had swapped the blend of blond for auburn tones — fitting for fall — and her '70s-style fringe was even more pronounced. She revealed the full comeback of her blown-out bangs in September during a visit to the Anna Freud Center, and the polished retro look was an instant hit with fans — and one that has remained a favorite in the years since. Catherine committed to bangs for the rest of the year, growing them out slightly but very much keeping the face-framing swaths as a defining feature of her hairstyle. However, come December, the princess would make her most dramatic hair change to date — one that would stick around for the next several years.

2016-2017: Shorter than ever

In December 2015, Catherine, Princess of Wales, shocked the world by chopping several inches off her beloved chocolate mane. Her new look skimmed her décolletage and featured a shorter fringe that framed one side of her face — a slight deviation from her curtain bangs. The royal's short locks stuck around through the first half of 2016, and in the last few months of the year, she let it grow back in a return to her signature medium-length, long-layered, bangless look. 

Catherine's mane largely stayed the same through the beginning of 2017, though the princess made another major change to her 'do after her sister Pippa Middleton's wedding that May. Once again, Catherine debuted a new hairstyle at Wimbledon: yet another dramatic chop, this one even shorter than her previous crop. Her tresses were just a bit longer than shoulder-length, and she swapped her usual side part for one down the center. The playful style included long layers, face-framing pieces, and a slight angle for a long bob effect — no bangs this time around. 

The princess continued to favor her short, bouncy style and middle part through the rest of the year, with a visit to Germany that July being a stand-out moment. She let her hair get slightly longer before announcing her third pregnancy that September, and in October, she freshened up her cropped cut once again. One thing she didn't change? That dimensional, deep chocolate color.

2018: Golden-hued head of hair

During her pregnancy with Prince Louis, Princess Catherine opted to keep her low-maintenance, relatively short mane. At the beginning of 2018, she seemed to have two go-to styles: perfectly coiled curls with a side part, which boasted plenty of girlish bounce, and a more polished blowout style with voluminous curls only gracing the bottom few inches of her locks. After Louis' birth in April, Catherine was ready for yet another change to her flowing head of hair — and she debuted just that at Wimbledon in July. Her hair had grown out slightly by summer, and for the sunny season, Catherine had golden highlights woven into her chestnut strands.

The princess flew under the radar for the next few months, enjoying time with newborn Louis and making few public appearances until mid-fall. In October, she and Prince William attended their first joint engagement since welcoming their third child, stepping out at the inaugural Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit. For the event, Catherine's hair was a tad longer than it had been at Wimbledon, though it was styled a similar bouncy blowout with honey and caramel tones still peeking through her tresses. By the end of the year, she had begun to return to her signature royal hairstyle of warm brown coloring, long layers, and no bangs — a factory reset, if you will, as she grew out her mane again ahead of her next style change.

2019: Warm, bouncy, and tinged with caramel

When Catherine, Princess of Wales, stepped out for her first engagement of 2019, her hair's factory reset had been completed. The length returned, the bangs were grown out, and the milk chocolate coloring was rich as ever. Catherine's return to her classic princess hair lasted the entire year with minimal changes; in fact, the only noticeable difference to her mane was a slightly warmer, more caramel-colored hue to her locks during summer and fall. The rich coloring was most noticeable during Wimbledon that July — seemingly the princess' favorite event to hard launch changes to her hair — where the sun caught on the glistening gold and copper tones in her tresses.

Throughout 2019, Catherine seemed to favor three styles: her no fuss, no muss blowout with flipped ends, her bouncy, large-barrel curls, and her effortlessly undone waves that felt polished but very mom-on-the-go. Her go-to hairdos were strategic as usual, positioning Catherine as the idyllic princess while maintaining an air of relatability through her identity as a mother.

2020: Dabbling in blond

Princess Catherine carried her classic look into 2020, that warm chestnut mane and its perfect medium-length serving as a staple accessory to her every look. Just before the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the royal cut a few inches off her ends in March, transforming her bust-length hair to graze her collarbones instead. Then, alongside the rest of the globe, the royal family followed lockdown procedures, making far fewer appearances than usual. As summer approached, Catherine began attending a couple engagements here and there while following safety protocols, and during an August visit to Wales with Prince William, the princess revealed the slightly more experimental look she was rocking under the radar. Her ends fell a few inches below her shoulders, and the style featured lots of piece-y layers and warm gold highlights.

As summer gave way to fall, Catherine once again let her tresses grow back out, and her color returned to her staple milk chocolate hue — but the reset was a very brief one. By the middle of fall, the princess debuted her most experimental hair color to date: a sandy bronde (a sun-kissed blend of blond and brown). The Princess of Wales must not have loved the look, however, since she was only seen with her lighter mane during an October engagement at the University of Derby. Before the end of the year, Catherine had once again undergone a factory reset, with her long chocolate strands making a return.

2021: Longer and looser

As the coronavirus pandemic raged on in 2021, Princess Catherine and the rest of the royal family continued with their abbreviated schedule of appearances. Catherine's hair philosophy for the year seemed to be "less is more" as well; the princess refrained from altering the color of her brunette tresses and focused on growing it long and strong. Catherine resisted the temptation to add layers, bangs, or trim off her length altogether, letting her lustrous head of hair grow back into a mane reminiscent of a Disney princess.

While lengthening her locks, the royal favored hairstyles that emphasized the soft beauty of her rich brown hair. Catherine frequently donned voluminous curls that billowed around her shoulders and tapered toward her ends, creating shapely structure that emphasized the thickness of her hair. The princess also rocked many a ponytail in 2021, wearing her hair up during both casual and formal appearances — always looking sophisticated and stylish while sporting the practical updo.

2022: Ultra modern and sleek

Princess Catherine's commitment to growing out her mane paid off in 2022; her rich brown hair was even longer than it was back in 2013. The royal's shiny strands reached the bottom of her bust, and she began parting her hair down the center of her head much more frequently than usual, which emphasized her length even further. While Catherine's hair M.O. up to this point had seemingly been to create an image of the idyllic princess, her sleek hairstyles in 2022 felt like a strategic move to help position the royal family as relatable and in touch with the modern era. 

The Princess of Wales, known for her curly, voluminous hairstyles, began wearing her hair blown out very nearly straight with minimal volume — a look that was aided not just by styling tools, but also by the fact that her layers were so very long. In March, she donned the sleek style several times, first during a visit to a Ukrainian cultural center, then on numerous days during a tour of the Caribbean with Prince William.

While Catherine continued to favor straight locks throughout 2022, including at London's "Top Gun: Maverick" premiere, she also wore her signature curly blowout many times. Additionally, the princess played around with half and full updos more than usual, incorporating various hair accessories such as her stunning boucle hairband at an Anzac Day service and her elegant purple pillbox hat for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's UK visit.

2023: Curtain bangs and cascading curls

Modernity continued to be a theme for Princess Catherine's hair philosophy in 2023. The royal wore her hair much the same as the previous year, favoring a straight, sleek style or a loosely curled look when she wasn't rocking an updo. And when the royal was ready to mix it up just a little bit? She got curtain bangs once again. She debuted the stunning change in September during an engagement with a criminal justice charity. While her bangs swept into her mane along her cheekbones, the rest of Catherine's strands remained extremely long, landing below her bust even in curls. 

The Princess of Wales carried the retro-inspired look through the rest of the year, and her gorgeous length stayed a key characteristic of her appearance as well. While Catherine may have made extremely subtle color changes to her hair, lightening it a tad for summer and going slightly darker for winter, her tresses remained some variation of rich, molten chocolate throughout the year.