Some celebrities only make it big once they're already adults, and though their style changes over the years, their general look tends to be similar year after year. However, there are also celebrities who get their start when they're just teenagers, and grow up right in front of the public's eyes — and Zac Efron is one of them.
Nowadays, he's a total heartthrob who frequently is called to take his shirt off for roles in order to showcase his chiseled physique. However, back in the day when he was just starting out, he was a slightly nerdy-looking teen just trying to make it big in Hollywood. He got his start on the Disney channel, in the hugely popular High School Musical franchise, and managed to move from that into a career as a successful film star — something that not many are able to accomplish. He's played everything from a frat boy to a lifeguard, and now he's playing something much darker: the very scary Ted Bundy. (See Efron as Bundy below!)
24 Bonus Entry: Zac Looking Sinister And Handsome As Ted Bundy
He's definitely shaken off his Disney roots! Though he's still close with many of his former co-stars, career-wise Efron has been focusing on far different kinds of roles, like in the rarely seen photo above, of his most recent role portraying Ted Bundy.
Here's a look at Zac Efron's evolution through the years.
23 Baby Zac On A Red Carpet In 2004
When Zac Efron first started walking the red carpet, he was just 17 years old. And though there are plenty of teen starlets nowadays who look like full-grown adults, that wasn't quite the case back in 2004 — he basically looked like a regular teenager who had just wandered into Hollywood. His tousled, shaggy hair isn't quite styled, he's just rocked a regular shirt and not some fashion-forward outfit, and how could we ever forget about that adorable gap between his teeth? Looking at this, we never would have guessed the kind of guy he'd grown up to be — and seriously, the man must have had some serious dental work!
22 Still In 2004, And Hadn't Yet Mastered His Posing
Thanks to the popularity of the Disney movie series he was in, Efron got plenty of invites to events. After all, he had a humongous teen fan base who loved to see him out and about in the industry. It's absolutely adorable to look back at old shots of him because he just didn't have the whole movie star thing mastered yet. His shirt is a little too big, and the sleeves are rolled up in a haphazard fashion. His stance and smile are trying desperately to communicate confidence, but there's just something missing. He's a red carpet pro now, but back then? Not so much.
21 2006 Was A Slightly More Emo Year For Zac, Who Went A Little Darker With His Look
While the Disney channel has been a launch pad for plenty of successful starlets, there's no doubt that the squeaky-clean image the channel has can cause many celebs to rebel a little bit. For some, it's just about changing their look — that's what happened with Zac Efron. After rocking the sweet shaggy blonde look for a while, he decided to mix things up and go a little bit darker with his locks. That, paired with the fact that he traded in his standard button downs for slightly more complex outfits, proves that he's starting to flex his style skills and figure out what his look really is.
20 Getting More Comfortable With His Heartthrob Status By 2007
It's crazy what a difference a year or two can make. In 2007, Efron officially entered his 20s, and you can definitely tell the difference between how he looks then and back when he was still a teenager. He's kept the overall shaggy vibe of his hair, but he's obviously working with a much more talented stylist who has cut it perfectly and showed him how to style his look. His entire face looks much more mature, and to top it all off, he's starting to really experiment with fashion and figure out what he likes (this look is so 2007 in the best possible way).
19 By 2008, His Hairstyle Was Becoming A Bit Of A Signature
It can be hard to remember because he doesn't have the same look now, but for quite a few years, the shaggy style was basically Efron's signature. Sure, he refined the look a bit over the years, but it was what people knew him for. While in his younger years, it just looked a bit untidy, as he grew older he learned exactly which products to use to create a look that seemed effortless, but likely took quite a while to perfect. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the swoop of his bangs perfectly draws attention to his eyes and makes them the focal point of his face.
18 He Was Finally Wrapping Up His High School Musical Years With High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Successful projects you're in when you're just starting out can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Disney movie series definitely made Efron a recognizable name in Hollywood, and likely opened many doors for him. On the other hand, it also kind of typecast him into playing a particular kind of character on a squeaky clean channel, so it may have closed just as many doors. It likely wasn't easy to move past his high school days, but we're so thankful he did — we love watching him playing diverse characters in all kinds of projects. Plus, who would have guessed he was so suited to comedies?
17 Achieving Maximum Flow With His Hair in 2009
By this point, after roughly five years in Hollywood, he definitely had the red carpet mastered. He knew how to work his angles, how to find the cameras for the perfect shot, and how to deliver a smoldering look. This is probably the longest we've ever seen his hair, and somehow, it still works for him. Although, he probably feels grateful that it doesn't take him nearly as long to do his hair now as it did back then. Seriously, did he have to blow this out? How much product did he have to use? It definitely seems like a pretty high maintenance style.
16 He Returned Back To High School For 17 Again
One of the first big box office movies he starred in was 17 Again, where he appeared alongside Matthew Perry in a body swap comedy. You can see that he's obviously entered his 20s, and is starting to look more like a man and less like a gangly teenager. And, he also proved to audiences that he wasn't just the kid from the Disney channel, that he could hold his own alongside other actors and actresses in a real box office hit. Sure, he was transported back to his high school days for the role, but hey — he's in his early 20s, which is basically still a teenager in Hollywood casting.
15 Trading His Signature Shag For An Entirely Different Look On The 2010 Oscars Red Carpet
This look was a total style shake-up for Efron, and a major departure from his trademark shaggy look. Hey, sometimes you just need a major change, we get it! Efron stepped out on the 2010 red carpet rocking a shorter look with some great texture in the front, and though it's a bit strange to see his entire face after having it half-hidden behind bangs for so long, we definitely like it. Actors often change their looks for roles, so maybe this was his way of signaling to Hollywood that he was open to all kinds of roles — not just ones where his signature shag style would work.
14 A Whole New Look — With Way More Product And Texture — For Charlie St. Cloud
This is right around the time that Efron was really starting to build his career in the movie industry, snagging more and more leading roles to add to his body of work. And, he proved time and time again that he definitely had the chops to make it in the big leagues. Charlie St. Cloud was definitely a bit of a tearjerker, and it allowed him to prove that it wasn't just musicals and comedies he was good at — he could also tackle more dramatic roles. It definitely showed his range as an actor, and the shorter textured hair proved that his look was malleable as well.
13 Sitting Courtside In An Oversized Beanie (They Were Super On Trend In 2011)
Ah, sometimes looking at older pictures of celebrities is like going through a total time warp. They're usually super on-trend thanks to their stylist and super-sized clothing budget, so you know this was all the rage at the time — looking back, though, it's not necessarily the best look for him. We love a good oversized beanie, but this one is a little too oversized and makes him look like a kid who is borrowing his dad's too-big hat. Nonetheless, we love the casual jeans and fitted black tee look he's got going on here — plus, being photographed courtside at some point is basically a celeb requirement in Hollywood.
12 Changing His Hair Again In 2011 — This Time, Chopping His Famous Locks Off
So much of Zac Efron's overall look is impacted by his hairstyle, and in 2011, he made another drastic change by cutting his hair off almost entirely. The look definitely brings out his features and makes him look a little bit older, which may be exactly what he was trying to do. He's also swapped out his button-down shirts and trendy pieces for a classic black suit, which we're totally into. It takes a while to find your true red carpet style, and he's definitely moving in the right direction by 2011. Everything from the crispness of the white shirt to the skinny black tie is perfect here.
11 Mastering The Suave, Smoldering Look By 2012
Another major change when it comes to Zac Efron's look is the stubble he started rocking in his mid-20s. The hair here is effortlessly textured and perfectly styled, the stubble definitely gives him a steamier look, and the casual scarf and jean jacket outfit work as well. This is around the time period that he really starts coming into his own and defining his own style, rather than just putting on whatever is trendy to complement his shaggy 'do and heading out to an event. It just goes to prove how much can change in a few years, especially when all your looks are documented on camera!
10 Rocking The Red Carpet With His Former High School Musical Co-Star Ashley Tisdale
Back when they were first starting out, both Efron and his former co-star Ashley Tisdale were likely totally intimidated by red carpet events. After all, it was entirely new territory for them, and they were both still just teenagers. By this point, they had both been in the industry for several years and were totally at ease on the red carpet. They headed to the premiere of a movie together because that's just what friends do — and they're clearly having a blast on the red carpet. From her sequin-studded dress to his patterned shirt and tousled hair, they look casual and super cute.
9 Taking The Stage With Rebel Wilson At The 2013 MTV Movie Awards
Even though any outfit would look boring next to Rebel Wilson's leather extravaganza, we have to admit, there's just something about this look that we don't totally love. And, it proves that even when you have a better-defined sense of your style, you can still make mistakes from time to time. His hair looks good, his eyes are piercing, we love the fit of his jeans, but there's just something about the shirt that seems like it would be better suited to someone way, way older. I mean, can you imagine this look with a great long-sleeved tee? So much better.
8 Playing A Race Car Driver In The 2013 Flick "At Any Price"
Maybe it's because he rocked such a clean-cut look for so long, but we have to admit, there's something about a slightly dirty, gritty Zac Efron that we're totally into. For this film, he played a race car driver, and everything from the messy, textured hair to the five o'clock shadow he's got going on is totally working. He clearly spends a lot of time on his physique, so it only makes sense that he'd get his fair share of roles where he plays some kind of an athlete — he definitely looks the part! And, he seems like the type who would be cool with doing his own stunts, which is always a bonus.
7 A Behind The Scenes Shot Taken On Set In 2014 That Shows Off His Amazing Eyes
In 2014, he was hard at work on We Are Your Friends, a movie in which he played a DJ. So, naturally, he'd take to social media to share plenty of behind the scenes shots of himself at the DJ booth while the crew was getting all set up. He did a great job in that role, and who knows, maybe he got bit by the music bug and will try his hand at the DJ game at some point. Other celebrities have done it, why can't he? We have a feeling he'd be good at pretty much anything he set his mind too, though.
6 Trying Out An Entirely Different Facial Hair Look At A Game in 2014
The simple look of the black jeans and black tee, with a great watch to accessorize? Love. The perfectly cut and styled hair? Love. The mustache? Not so much. On the one hand, we love that Efron isn't afraid to experiment with his style and try out new looks. On the other hand, it's kind of tough to pull off a mustache, and it just isn't something we love on him. However, thankfully, he didn't rock this look for too long — and who knows, maybe this was all because he participated in Movember or something like that. Fingers crossed he never decides to rock the mustache full time.
5 Bro-Ing Out With Andy Devine
At first glance, you wouldn't necessarily think of Zac Efron as a fit for comedies — he looks more like a jock than a comedian. However, he's proven time and time again that he can hold his own alongside plenty of comedic talents, including his former co-star Andy Devine. This behind the scenes shot from Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates proves that he's a pretty chill guy behind the scenes, and is down to goof around with costars on set. In fact, he kind of seems like he'd be the biggest goofball of them all, even with Andy Devine by his side.
4 Taking A Beach Selfie, Because Why Not?
Efron definitely isn't shy when it comes to showing off his physique, and honestly, if you spent so much time in the gym, wouldn't you want to show it off? He's gotten his fair share of movie roles where he plays a character that ends up going shirtless, but if you follow him on Instagram, you'll also get a peek from time to time. This shot was taken during a beach day he took on a day off when he was just looking to rest and relax a little bit. Hey, Hollywood can be stressful — you've got to take some time for yourself every now and then!
3 Looking Super Fit On The Set Of "Baywatch" — Getting Tips From The Hoff Himself
Zac Efron has always been in good shape, but he took his physique to an entirely different level for Baywatch. After all, he'd be required to play a professional pro athlete turned lifeguard, and to make matters worse, he had to stand alongside Dwayne Johnson, who basically looks like he's sculpted out of marble. So, he put in a ton of extra effort at the gym and dramatically switched his diet to a super clean meal plan. It certainly didn't sound easy, but the results speak for themselves — his body in the movie was absolutely incredible. It's definitely not a look that's easy to maintain, though.
2 Showing His Love For Netflix Favorite Stranger Things
It's always fun to see what shows celebrities are fans of. After all, even if they're in the entertainment industry, they love to binge-watch things on Netflix in their spare time — they're only human! In between his long hours on set, Efron managed to find time to join the Stranger Things fan club and even got a shirt to rock on social media. Movies with a bit of a sci-fi/horror twist are one of the few genres he hasn't really worked in before, so who knows — maybe we'll see him starring in an unusual project that has the world enthralled sometime soon!
1 Rocking A Rustic Look In Iceland To Celebrate His 31st Birthday
Zac Efron recently shared this shot on his Instagram account from a trip to Iceland to celebrate his 31st birthday, and we have to admit — if this is any indication, Efron will only continue to get more and more steamy as the years go on. He'll be playing a a very dark role in his upcoming flick about the notorious Ted Bundy. As off-putting as it may be to see Efron portray such a creepy character on-screen, we're sure his fans will love him none-the-less. And as for his off-screen style, we're totally obsessed with the super bearded, more rustic look he's rocking here. We're not sure if this is a vacation beard or a new full-time look, but we're crossing our fingers it's the latter — the beard really, really works for him.