Stranger Things is dense with iconic hairdos: Eleven’s buzz and blonde wig, Will’s shaggy bowl cuts, Dustin’s curls, Steve’s glorious pompadour. Their hair is our constant reminder that this show takes place in a decade of mullets and too much hairspray — but for Sarah Hindsgaul, the head of the show’s hair department, hair is also a tool for communicating story, for revealing key character information and hidden ’80s references. Ahead, Hindsgaul walks us through some of the most important hair moments of Stranger Things 2.
Steve Harrington (Joe Keery)
“He did a fantastic job growing it. The only thing his agent was like, ‘Please, please, please, can we cut the back off?’ and I kept saying, ‘No! Cut the front, that’s fine, just don’t lose the back! Keep the mullet!’ Joe is an amazing sport, and we got it there just in time with just a little bit of maneuvering the first month to make it look a little bit longer than it was in the back.
He comes in with actually even more volume: It just stands straight up into the air. He had always been cutting it short before the show. I talked to his parents and they were like, ‘We just always told him to cut it off because it’s impossible to deal with. It’s too much hair.’ And I was like, no, a little more length —a little heaviness — will calm it down so we can control it. He’d come in and we’d have this whole routine: It had to be two days of dirtiness in there just to have a little natural grease in it so we could control it and get the top to maneuver back.
Me and Joe started talking last year, a year before, about how we were going to top the first season’s hairdo. Last year was more like a pompadour — it was very, very groomed on top and it laid down.
This year it has much more length in the back, and we really turned it into a mullet. This year we based it more on the singer from A-Ha. So we had all of these amazing pictures: We found pictures of Brad Pitt from high school — he has that beautiful mullet too, George Clooney, they just all had it, so we had lots of time just laughing. It’s also a lot looser this year — he has a lot more action stuff so we just figured last year he was a little more preppy, a little more uptight, part of that clique in school, while this year he’s removing himself from that, so he’s getting a cooler, more relaxed look with more movement. But still, we wanted to keep it in the Steve fashion.”
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)
“I think the hardest thing to figure out was what her hair would look like for this season, since she had the shaved head [last year]. And Millie has been in now so many photo shoots and she’s grown older and she looks more like a woman, and so I really wanted her to still look innocent and childish and wild and untamed. And so Millie has natural curls, so we ended up with the most natural thing we could find.
When I was a kid, I used to read Ronja Rövardotter, which is a Lindgren novel, so we based it on this cover of Ronja Rövardotter, this girl who lives in the forest. She’s a wild child. Ronja Rövardotter is one of my favorite books, so I gave it to Millie — I sent her the book three months before we started, and I was like, read this, let me hear what you think about it. I think they have a lot of similarities, these characters who have to survive in the forest. [Eleven] had to look like nothing had been done to her, just time had been passing. And I don’t think Hopper would groom that child at all.
Then we came to the big makeover! The whole thing with the makeover, that’s finally the time for her to start kicking ass and saving everybody, and I wanted to make sure we could see her face for that as much as possible. I wanted to bring it all out so it could all be in her acting and there’s nothing hiding her — like she’s opening up completely and now she’s completely available. So that’s how we came up with the slicked-back thing.”
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo)
“It was this beautiful moment in the script where they say he tries to do his hair like Steve’s, and it’s like this big afro, and we tried that, but it looked like he just put his finger into a socket. And I was like, I think it’s going to be a lot more emotional if we actually made it look just like Steve’s, just with curls. It’s so heartwarming that he puts so much work into it and he actually feels like he looks great — it’s not a look that went wrong. He fully executes it. It’s one of my favorite scenes, Dustin at the Snow Ball. I cried! I think that was my favorite hair moment of the show.”
Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery)
“It was another bad guy — last year we tried to make Steve look like a douchebag to enhance this bad boy thing. We found this amazing picture of Rob Lowe that we based Billy’s hair on. And then Rob Lowe retweeted the picture of himself, with Billy, which made my day. I can’t believe he found my reference photo! I was like, that’s a hole-in-one right there.”
Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen)
“The boys — Matt and Ross [Duffer] — and I talked a lot about what we were going to do to make this girl look kick-ass. And they were like, we’d like some green in her hair, like the goddess Kali. So we used 10 hours to very carefully change her hair to a very dark green. You could barely see it — it had a little bit of a glow to it. And they saw it, and we were 24 hours out from shooting her, and they were like, ‘We don’t really like the green. It’s too dead-on Joker.’ And I was like, s—t, are you guys kidding me? So we spent the next 12 hours trying to get the green out of her hair and putting purple into her hair. But purple and green are opposite colors, so we basically had to strip her hair all the way down and start over, and the poor girl just sat through it. That was pretty nerve-wracking. We wanted to go as slow as possible or her hair would fall off. You’re not supposed to terrorize people this much in that short of a time. So that was nerve-wracking, but Linnea was a trouper and sat through it. And we were happy with the end result, but it was definitely a full turnaround.”