21 years have passed since GHD first got us hooked on poker-straight hair. Now the cult Original Styler is back and better than ever
We’re all about throwbacks these days – and who can blame us for romanticising simpler times, after two of the most trying years ever? The Euphoria characters flutter around in clothes I was wearing in 2004, Lancôme Juicy Tubes are once again a handbag essential and mini Uggs are back in a big way. Now GHD is getting on the retro bandwagon, relaunching its first-ever styler, which changed the entire hair game when it launched in 2001.
The revived version of this cult straightening iron launches on 7 February. Called the GHD Original Styler, it looks just the 2001 version (called the GHD Styler) but has modern tech you’d expect from a hair gadget in 2022. The price, £119, is pretty much as it was in 2001, when 11-year-old me (or rather my parents) bought my first pair for £109.
Trying it out has hit me in the feels harder than any other retro resurgence. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say GHDs changed my life when I first tried them in 2001.
My first GHDs and the latest model
I was 11 when I first laid eyes on GHDs, a brand new invention from Korea that could smooth your hair poker-straight in seconds, in the bedroom of some older (read: 14 or 15-year-old) cooler family friends. I was down about my curly hair and for a long time, I'd felt that only straight, silky hair was attractive. I blame Britney and Barbie for this, as well as the occasional school bully who’d try and come at me with hairbrushes to tame my unruly mane. I had straighteners but they were lukewarm and clunky and I struggled to create that mirror-sleek finish I so desired.
GHDs were heaven-sent. They heated up in 15 seconds (I was used to waiting at least five minutes!) and made my hair as straight as Rachel from Friends in the 1999 Series Six, with one swipe. I received my own pair shortly afterwards and so began a 20-year love affair.
They were the ultimate status symbol at school too. “I’ve got GHDs” was one of the coolest things you could say. People loved coming over to mine for sleepovers to try them and when my first pair broke a few years later, I insisted on being driven to a friends house so I could use hers before school.
I would straighten my hair within an inch of its life every day. It wasn't in the best condition back then, but that didn't concern me. GHD was an acronym for 'good hair day' and that was my new life. I was known to cry at school after swimming because my hair had got wet and curly (if only cordless straighteners were a thing back then!) and was *so* upset if someone told me I'd missed a bit of hair at the back of my head.
But as I learned to care less what people thought of me, I started to embrace my natural curls more and instead just used GHDs to tame certain areas or add extra waves to strands that had lost their bounce. Who could blame my ringlets for rebelling after what I put them through?
Now I mainly blow dry my hair with a hot brush and save my GHDs on my fringe – because, even at 32, it's still a calamity if my bangs are not as straight as actual curtains.
Not a day has passed since 2001, when I haven’t used my GHDs, aside from a dalliance with air drying in that first lockdown in 2020. While there were three revamps of the Original Styler between 2001 and 2007 (you can still buy the 2007 version) my OGs kept going strong.
I've dallied with other GHDs since: the Platinum+, the white Pure in 2008, the Wonderland and the Cordless from 2021 (I've kept them all, below). But the Original Styler kept a special place in my heart and so I felt well placed to review the revamped GHD Styler and compare it to the OG.
GHD Original Styler revamp review
Visually, the new GHD Original is similar to the actual OG. Matte black, discreet with tan-coloured ceramic plates and a subtle GHD logo on the side. That's not to say that GHDs haven’t been flashy over the years (see above) but the new Original Styler is definitely the coolest of the lot. It’s like it’s saying, “I know I’m the best, I don’t need to be dressed up” like Kate Moss wearing jeans and a T-shirt to a party when everyone else is in gowns; understated and undeniably better than anything else.
The biggest difference in looking at the two straighteners is the ‘on’ switch. The OG had a switch like you’d see on battery-operated toys, with a flashing red light next to it to indicate when it was heated. They took 15 seconds to heat. The new ones have a ring light that pulses while it’s heating, then stays lit once they’re at temperature. They take 20 seconds to heat.
What they lose in heat-up time, they make up for in weight. The new ones are far lighter than the OGs and have a much softer closing mechanism when you clamp them down. You need to use some force with the original pair. I’m surprised 11-year-old me didn’t get RSI.
The new GHD Original is more curved than the inaugural pair, so they’re more comfortable to hold. It comes with what GHD calls ‘single-zone technology’, meaning it has a sensor system across both plates to keep the tool at the optimum styling temperature of 185 degrees.
GHDs have always heated to 185 degrees, but the first pair back in 2001 only had a sensor on one plate, which meant your hair could actually get hotter than that because it absorbed the heat. The new technology means a combined sensor system across both plates controls the optimum styling temperature of 185 degrees consistently across both plates.
If you want more sophisticated heat control, then other straighteners in the GHD range are a better bet; those with dual-zone technology and ultra-zone technology (e.g the Platinum+ styler , £189) are designed to control the heat more effectively and predict your personal hair needs. This technology means that the plates read your hair 250 times a second to ensure you receive the perfect amount of power your hair needs.
The revamped GHD Original Styler does everything you need from a straightener though, all wrapped up in a nostalgia-inducing form that makes me smile just as much as the first-ever pair. My new pair might not get the usage my first ones did (and I'm sure my stylist will thank me for not doing that heat damage) but the new pair certainly has a place in my heart and staying regime for many years to come.
Buy GHD's Original Styler, £119 from 7 February