As *NSYNC makes the media rounds this week to promote the band’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony, there has been something of an elephant in the room—or perhaps more of a wild-maned, unbridled stallion. It’s the hair. It’s JC Chasez’s hair. A spectacle so all-consuming that it was able to entirely derail an important Jezebel Slack conversation about which Spice Girl Justin Timberlake had hooked up with. As Ashley Reese put it, “He pivoted to Snape.”
Then I was down the rabbit hole of a “JC *NSYNC hair” Google Images search in an attempt to understand what had happened to the band’s clean-cut, well-shorn member. And the weight of the photographic evidence forced me to realize: he was rarely clean-cut or well-shorn.
Suddenly, it became clear: JC’s questionable hair decisions have historically been upstaged by his bandmates’ superiorly questionable hair decisions—until now. Justin’s golden ramen locks. Chris’ multicolored braids. Joey’s bright-red poof. Lance’s Guy Fieri spikes. JC’s hair was there all along, but we could not see it through all the personality-seeking manes jockeying for the spotlight over the years. An apt metaphor for JC’s career.
Things started out well for JC’s hair in the late ’90s when *NSYNC premiered: short on the sides and mildly spiky up top. He was the strong-jawed, blue-eyed heartthrob featured at the center of their debut album—and his hair’s job was simply to not fuck it up. Between Chris’s ponytailed braids and Justin’s tight yellow curls—and then cornrows—the bar was pretty low. JC could kick back in his chunky turtlenecks and bedazzled jeans and relax in the knowledge that he was the normal-slash-hot one.
Then the early 2000s happened. In 2002, both Justin and JC attempted solo careers. Justin ended up with a chart-topping hit and JC got, well, this forgettable music video starring Tara Reid. Right around this time, JC’s hair went big and blow-dried and vaguely blonde. But we couldn’t see this cry for help beyond Chris’s forked beard. It’s only in hindsight, having been fully inured to the sight of said devil-horns goatee, that JC’s voluminous mop even becomes visible to us.
Fast-forward to 2003 and, oh dear, we’ve got a mullet. Sometimes he wore it curly, sometimes slicked back and stringy, sometimes combed emo-like over his forehead. Meanwhile, the rest of the boys were sporting relatively unremarkable hairstyles. Justin had transitioned to a buzzcut. Chris had late ’90s JC hair. Joey same. Lance same. But not JC, who tried to take his mullet pop-rock—just as Justin had gone R&B—with his solo music video for “All Day Long I Dream About Sex.”
Perhaps he was taking a page from Justin’s early playbook. Perhaps he was hoping his hair would finally be the one doing the upstaging—but, alas, he had lost his moment. The band’s late ’90s coiffures had already been fully cemented in our brains. Then in the mid- to late-2000s JC experimented with a lil’ European mohawk situation before returning to his roots—nay to himself. Back came the closely cropped pretty-boy cut. He did experiment a bit with a sleaze-ball beardo—I’m not hating it—but mostly he was back to heyyy.
Then this week JC reappeared with his Snape-y tresses and we saw him, we really saw him, for the first time. After all these years, he and his hair were able to break through to center stage. There is only one solution to end this exp-hair-imentation: Finally recognizing JC as the more deserving recipient of the solo career that Justin, and his once-mesmerizing ‘do, stole. As I am sure JC sings every day in the shower while conditioning those luscious locks: “It shoulda been may.”