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NBC Insider Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

All of Mariska Hargitay's Hairstyles Throughout the Years

Mariska Hargitay, who has played Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU for 24 seasons, has always had the best hair.

By Megan Carpentier
Bensler Get Steamy and Almost Kiss | NBC’s Law & Order: SVU

In 24 seasons of starring as Captain Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit, Mariska Hargitay's hairstyles have inspired an untold number of women to go into their hair salons with ripped-out magazine pictures or images on their phones, and ask an unsuspecting professional to recreate one of her iconic looks.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 26 premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Thursday, October 3 at 9/8c on NBC.

We may not know how many, but we know that it's a lot.

Like most of us, Hargitay (and her character, Benson) has opted for a new look here and there as her life and circumstances have changed, and she's clearly worked with great stylists to help her through those inevitable periods when her love of a great short cut gave way to the desire for long locks again. (Cue Shania Twain's "I Feel Like a Woman"...)

Take a look at some of her most memorable styles over the years, below.

Mariska Hargitay's Original Layered Long Bob

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2000

In Law & Order: SVU's premiere season in 1999, Hargitay sported one of the popular and flattering late '90s cuts: a medium cut with layers that framed her face. (This particular picture is from 2000.)

Mariska Hargitay's Pixie Cut

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2001

In Season 2, however, Hargitay chose more of a boss-lady short cut, lending her character gravitas, and leaned in it on Season 3 with a full-on pixie cut with blonde highlights. (She later said in a 2013 interview that the conversion to a pixie cut was an accidental error!) In the summer of 2001, seen here, she went full platinum blonde with her pixie and looked fabulous.

Mariska Hargitay Growing Out Her Hair

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2003

Every woman who has cut her hair short and then grown it out knows that your stylist is your best friend in this period, helping you look your best during that in-between stage. But Hargitay obviously shone all throughout her growing-out stage, as this 2003 picture of her with a strawberry blonde short 'do demonstrates.

Mariska Hargitay Gets Bangs

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2006

Who among the long-haired ladies has never decided they needed bangs? Of course Hargitay, who finished growing out her hair and then went with a layers-and-bangs look in 2006, looked fantastic when she did so.

Mariska Hargitay Cuts Her Hair Short Again

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2007

But, as anyone who has given into the allure of bangs knows, it's almost harder to look great growing out just your bangs than it is growing out short hair. By 2007, Hargitay had again chopped her hair into a short and glamorous bob, which foreshadowed years of long locks to come.

Mariska Hargitay Gets Extensions (For the Red Carpet)

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2009

But even as she spent Seasons 10 and 11 on the show growing her hair back out and looking fabulous, Hargitay clearly wanted something long and elegant at the Emmys in September 2009, and layered amazing extensions into her mid-length and highlighted hair.

She must have loved the look, because she grew her hair out to this length through the end of Season 14.

Mariska Hargitay Chopped Her Hair For Work

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2014

But in Season 15, Hargitay's character, Benson, cut her hair after being one of the shows special victim. Hargitay was thereafter spotted looking fabulous in a lob (a long bob, for the uninitiated) in 2014.

Mariska Hargitay's Long Straight Center Part

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2016

By Season 17, Hargitay had opted for a long, straight cut with highlights and a center part — four years before Gen Z declared the side part outdated, for the record.

Mariska Hargitay Shoulder-Length Waves

Mariska Hargitay Hair 2017

Just a year later, in 2017, Hargitay was rocking both softer highlights and a soft, wavy shoulder-length hairstyle. She'd stay in this zone — a great one for her — for several seasons.

Mariska Hargitay Long Hair

Hairstyles of Mariska Hargitay 2022

These days, Hargitay is rocking some of the longest hair of her tenure, in a gorgeous honey brown color, with layers to help frame her face. 

Watch Law & Order: SVU on NBC Thursdays at 9/8c and the next day on Peacock.