This year's biggest prom trend isn't the dress. It's the tress.

Literally.

Local hairstylists are predicting big hair - à la the boobalicious and bodacious raven-haired "Snooki" from MTV's Jersey Shore - will be the hottest trend on teens on prom night.

"Our prom girls are coming in and they want messy buns and tousled hair with bumps," said Tiffany Nurick, a stylist at Heaven and Earth in Lafayette Hill.

"It's all about big, loose and not overly styled hair. And you aren't just seeing it in women, you are seeing it in men as well. That gelled, sleek, perfectly styled look is over."

Blame the popularity of the pouf on a perfect fashion storm combining Jersey Shore emulation with an '80s fashion resurgence.

And we cannot forget the Bumpit, out of Hawthorne, N.Y., an oblong hair accessory advertised on late-night TV that's helping scores of limp-tressed women achieve a millennial bouffant do.

Not to mention, if big hair is going to be popular anywhere, it would start in South Philadelphia, travel over the Walt Whitman Bridge, and land in South Jersey. Along this corridor, the standard is high-volume - voice, vice or vanity - so too much is never tacky.

The height of hair has its roots in the 1960s, and some might argue that it got its stylish start right here in Philadelphia on American Bandstand, when celebrities Connie Stevens, Connie Francis and even Diana Ross and the Supremes teased their hair like a rat's nest and into a beehive.

In the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy adopted the look, but salons called it a bouffant style, and the tease terminology was upgraded to a "backcomb." In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the look was reborn, but the hair was pulled into a tight French twist. Think the members of R&B group En Vogue, in their '90s days.

The modern-day bump was ushered into style about two years ago thanks to celebrities known for fashion irreverence such as Rihanna, who shaved her hair on the sides to create amazing volume at her crown - resembling a pompadour - and even Lady Gaga. Instead of a tight orderly look, it's a looser, half-up half-down style.

But high hair isn't reserved for rock stars. Politicians like it, too: Tea party darling Sarah Palin sports a bump, as do the less-famous Orie sisters of Western Pennsylvania - State Sen. Jane Orie and State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who've found themselves in a tangled legal mess lately.

In February, the fall fashion runways were awash with big-haired models from designers such as Oscar de la Renta. In this month's fashion magazines, Derek Lam's spring collection featured a blond bouffanted model.

And now, instead of teasing, the popularity of extensions allows all women - white and black - to bring their hair with them to stylists who can deliver looks that soar to the highest heights.

But at least one stylist, Kevin Gatto of Verde Salon in Collingswood, is shaking his slightly gelled hair. Gatto understands why people like the statuesque profile that results from the sheer volume, but the Snooki look is just "too extreme," he says, sighing.

"I'm planning on doing modified versions of it," said Gatto, who is no fan of the Bumpit. "I plan on making it more sophisticated and softer. I want it to be, well, more red carpet and less Boardwalk."

We wonder what Snooki would say about that.

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Follow her on twitter ewellingtonphl.