“Stranger Things” hair department head Sarah Hindsgaul, along with wig maker Rob Pickens and the hair team, introduced some major volume and frizz to the fourth season of the hit Netflix series.
From Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Karen Wheeler’s (Cara Buono) matching perms to Eddie Munson’s dusty rocker look, Hindsgaul — who recently earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding period and/or character hairstyling — estimated that there were over 250 wigs this season.
“The ’80s is all about movement,” Hindsgaul said. “I find [the ’80s] so interesting and so freeing, but it’s also very difficult to not make it [look] stuffy.”
As the children navigate their way through the intimidating world of high school, Hindsgaul believed it was crucial that each character’s hairstyle reflects their emotional state and growth throughout the years. “It is part of being that age and you look up to people, you’re trying different things, and that’s how you figure out who you are,” she said.
Lucas’ (Caleb McLaughlin) high-top fade, she pointed out, is an expression of his “eager[ness] to fit in” with the popular students at Hawkins High and “trying to break off from his group.” Meanwhile, Mike’s (Finn Wolfhard) longer hairdo this season is primarily influenced by his new role model, breakout favorite Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). “The Hellfire Club is its own look, so I have both [Mike] and Dustin trying to fit into that, but they’re not quite there.”
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) tends to “[melt] into her surroundings,” so to emphasize her adoption into the Byers family, Hindsgaul gave Eleven the signature “Byers bang cut” that closely resembles Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) style.
“It’s funny sometimes when people come into the trailer and we have their continuity pictures on the walls,” Hindsgaul said. “One time, Winona [Ryder] came in and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s me,” and then she was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Millie!’ It’s really cute because they were so similar in their continuity photos.”
While several characters have retained the iconic looks they’ve donned since Season 1, such as Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) bowl cut, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) sports a completely shaved head in “Stranger Things 4.” The Hawkins police chief — who was presumed dead after the Starcourt Mall explosion in Season 3’s finale — is imprisoned and tortured in a Russian prison camp in the latest season.
During a 20-second scene, Jim’s shaggy locks and mustache are shaven off by a fellow inmate, which Hindsgaul revealed the crew only had one shot at filming. In preparation for the single take, the hair department spent a full day showing the extra playing the “gulag barber” how to properly hold the razor and where to begin shaving Harbour’s head.
“He did a lot of shaving on [about 25] inmates, and that is how we practiced it,” Hindsgaul explained. “I was scared he was gonna get nervous, but he was really into it. I think it helped that we spent time on [the shaving] to get him comfortable with it.”
“Stranger Things 4” also reintroduces one of the series’ most iconic looks from its first season: Eleven’s buzz cut.
After the fifth episode, most viewers were left wondering, “Did Millie Bobby Brown shave her head again?” Turns out, the short hairdo is actually a wig.
“Nobody has done a wig like this before,” Hindsgaul said. “It had to match something that everybody has seen. If the buzz cut suddenly looks very different, it would just feel like a wig, and we didn’t want that.” According to Hindsgaul, a hairstyle this short would traditionally be done with prosthetics. However, since Brown was still a child actor at the time of filming, Hindsgaul had to come up with a plan to achieve the iconic buzz under a restricted time frame.
She studied Brown’s hairline and head shape, noting that she didn’t want the actress to look like she was wearing a “bulky, old hat.” Hindsgaul then spent months experimenting with application techniques and collaborating with wig maker Rob Pickens to perfect the illusion.
“We built in these different layers of silk to give [the wig] transparency,” Hindsgaul explained. The entire application process required three hair stylists and took approximately 30 minutes each time, with nearly half of that time being used to wet, slick back and tightly wrap Brown’s hair.
Despite the monumental challenge Hindsgaul faced with the extremely fragile wig — which had three variations that rotated throughout filming — she still considers the buzzed look her personal favorite this season. “I had to push myself to my limit,” Hindsgaul said. “That doesn’t happen that much where you’re like, ‘Is this possible?’”
“Stranger Things” Season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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