Nobody messes with Olivia Benson—or her hair, for that matter. For more than 17 years, Mariska Hargitay has played the most badass detective in recent memory on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Sure, Benson—who now serves as a lieutenant at the department—has experienced her share of ups and downs since we first met her, but the character's fierce dedication to her job has never wavered. And neither has her willingness to try out a new 'do.
As anyone who’s ever spent a day watching an SVU marathon can tell you, Benson’s hair has gone through an evolution all its own over the course of the series. From pixies and layers to bangs and center-parts, there’s nothing this detective shies away from when she’s ready to switch up her look. You can practically pinpoint the year an episode aired just based on Benson’s hairstyle alone, which leaves us wondering when she even has time to hit the salon. Seriously, catching bad guys is a full-time job—and it’s one that she does without so much as a single hair falling out of place.
Scroll down to see 17 times that Olivia Benson’s hair was the true star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
1. When she rocked the ultimate late '90s half-up ponytail.
In Season 1, Episode 3.
2. When she meant business with a dark layered face-framing lob.
In Season 1, Episode 8.
3. When she surprised us all with a short new pixie.
In Season 3, Episode 3.
4. When she grew out her locks, adding a side-swept bang and some highlights.
In Season 5, Episode 1.
5. When she went full-on blonde with her layered look.
In Season 5, Episode 9.
6. When she accessorized her bulletproof vest with a short-and-sweet blowout.
In Season 6, Episode 2.
7. When she added a little feathered texture to her strawberry-blonde look.
In Season 6, Episode 16.
8. When she and her straightened lob headed to the precinct in earrings and a LBD to solve a case.
In Season 7, Episode 3—which helped Hargitay win an Emmy Award in 2006.
9. When she added blunt bangs and channeled her inner '90s detective.
In Season 8, Episode 11.
10. When she chopped her darker strands into an edgy angled pixie.
In Season 9, Episode 5.
11. When she matched her coat to her shoulder-length mane.
In Season 12, Episode 18.
12. When she added tousled waves and highlights to her fully grown-out mane and knew it looked killer.
In Season 14, Episode 8.
13. When she switched things up again by losing the highlights and cutting off a few more inches.
In Season 15, Episode 4.
14. When she took the stand and knew that both her testimony and her layers would command attention.
In Season 16, Episode 9.
15. When she went for a dramatic center part with some body to it—and Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba couldn't look away.
In Season 17, Episode 4.
16. When she took a flat iron to her strands for a super-sleek shoulder-length look.
In Season 17, Episode 16.
17. When she gave us the total "modern-day Benson:" an effortless wavy lob.
In Season 17, Episode 22.