This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things 3. Consider yourself warned.
The third season of Stranger Things brought us many things: a nostalgic trip back to '80s mall culture, Steve in a sailor suit, gross disintegrating rats, a heartbreaking (possible) loss, and some most excellent hair. In the world of TV, characters' hairstyles can show more about the character than initially might meet the eye—hair truly can be full of secrets!—so it's worth doing a little deeper dive into what exactly a certain look might mean. (Game of Thrones is an excellent example of this.)
In a show as full of twists as Stranger Things, we're definitely curious about what our favorite characters' hairstyles might reveal. So to find out, Glamour talked to the show's talented hairstylist, Sarah Hindsgaul, who filled us in on how she created the hairstyles for Eleven, Max, Nancy, and Joyce this season—and where she drew inspiration from for her '80s looks.
Max (Sadie Sink)
Last season "Mad Max" moved to town from California—and she didn't exactly bond with El right off the bat. Thankfully, they're now total besties who love to shop at the mall and talk about the guys while flipping through the pages of teen magazines. Like her friend, Max is growing up and taking more interest in her appearance, which Hindsgaul reflected via small tweaks to her hairstyle.
"[When Max arrived in Hawkins] she was very skater, very relaxed, very tomboy, middle-parted [hair], very 'I don't care at all'," Hindsgaul says. "But this year they're both [Max and Eleven] figuring out boys and all that comes with that, looking yourself in the mirror a little bit." So she decided to change up Max's style, keeping her loose and casual, but using mousse (Kevin Murphy Body.Builder Mousse is an on-set favorite) to scrunch up her natural curls and add texture.
"They're still too young to be getting perms, but we still wanted to have that summer vibe of what the hair does in humidity when you just run around outside. There's still that kid aspect [to their lives]," she says. But she did cut Sink's hair shorter and add layers to give the look more movement, along with a bit of a flip to one side. "I think it's super cute, and it makes sense for that year," she says. "It's more styled and a little cooler, without being done."
And, naturally, Max has a technicolor scrunchie collection to match her colorful wardrobe. "We found some greens and yellows that look beautiful in hair," Hindsgaul says. "It's the most stunning hair, ever."
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)
No character on the show has gone through a greater hair—or life—transformation than El. When we first met her, her head was shaved, she hadn't been exposed to the world, and she didn't have much control over her powers. Now, she's a full-blown teenager having sleepovers with Max, aggravating her new "dad", Hopper, and continuing to save the world.
Hindsgaul and Brown started talking about the length of her hair for this season early on because they wanted to make sure it felt right for how much time had passed within the show. She gave the actress a really blunt cut so that there was a thick bottom layer to show off her natural curls. Texture was really important to Hindsgaul for '80s authenticity, so she used Kevin Murphy Powder.Puff at the roots for a little lift. She also gave her some highlights to reflect the season's summertime setting and indicate that El was spending a lot of time outside.
As for the style, Hindsgaul used Max's character (and look) to inform what she wanted to do with Eleven. "Max has obviously been out more," she explains. "She's more worldly, so when they become friends, Max is the one who shows her the way." The stylist describes their similar looks as "girlfriend styles," which makes a lot of sense: We all looked to our friends for ideas at that age (and even now). But there is a distinction between the way El's hair looks at home in the cabin with Hopper and when she's out with friends. "We had fun playing that up," Hindsgaul says. "She [Eleven] plays a little more innocent at home, and then she sparks it up a bit." She also reminds us that the two friends exchange scrunchies after the sleepover—a cute hair (and friendship) moment in the series.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer)
Nancy is also starting a new phase in her young life in season three as she takes a job at the local newspaper. She's working hard to sniff out a story, but she constantly finds herself being ridiculed by her male bosses, who sneeringly refer to her as "Nancy Drew" and think she's only good for picking up coffee and sandwich orders.
"[Nancy's] story is quite heartbreaking," says Hindsgaul. "She did very well in school, a straight-A girl. She works super hard to get herself ready for this job, to be taken seriously. I mean, obviously she still has a boyfriend and maybe wakes up a little bit late, but she's in a panic about it, and she definitely has her hair permed. She blows the perm out. It's a whole set, and her hair is very done." Hindsgaul wanted there to be a "steep contrast" between the effort Nancy was putting in to present herself well at work and the total lack of respect she receives from her male bosses.
Dyer, as committed as Nancy is to her job, permed her own hair for the look—though they also used a hair piece on top for a little more volume and control while shooting all those action scenes in the humidity of Atlanta. Hindsgaul also added sun-kissed tips for a summery effect.
Robin (Maya Hawke)
Robin is first introduced to us as Steve's snarky coworker at Scoops Ahoy inside the Starcourt Mall, and she's got this cool self-confidence, mixed with a little bit of nerd, that's instantly endearing. Plus, she's not afraid to rib Steve about all his "children" friends. But what's even more of a standout? Her incredibly chic bob. Hindsgaul let us in on how she approached introducing this new character into Hawkins.
"We started very, very small, with Matt and Ross (Duffer, the show's creators) saying she should be tomboy-ish. She should not be too girly or polished," she says. "They wanted something natural and cute but endearing. I think she has a very endearing personality, and then I met Maya and she is just this bubble of joy. She is so fun."
Hindsgaul gave Hawke a blunt cut with only a very few layers in it, and then she used a big waving iron on it to create some movement and some volume in her roots. "That cut is interesting, because it works in the period and also works right now," Hindsgaul says, who says she really wanted people to be able to relate to Robin.
Joyce Byer (Winona Ryder)
Poor, poor Joyce: She's been in the middle of a trauma or recovering from one basically the whole time we've known her. But Hindsgaul and Ryder opted to have Joyce's hair a bit longer this season, as a reflection of just how much taking care of things like a haircut isn't top of mind for her right now.
"That woman has given up," Hindsgaul says. "She's just shoving her pain off." She also points out that the whole Byers family is all rocking a very similar cut with all of their bangs, which is a real contrast to Wheeler household where everyone is very "done." "When we first met her in season one, she pretty right on with the '80s with a little bit of a mullet feel to it [her hair]," she says. "But now, she doesn't even realize. She can't focus on stuff like that because she's been through so much." Her thinking? Joyce would trim up the front purely out of necessity so she could see—and not bother so much with the rest.
Hindsgaul also revealed to us that the team used about 250 Zotos Professional perms on background actors (and on Dacre Kayd Montgomery-Harvey, who plays Billy Hargrove), where she felt like she could get a little more bigger, wilder, and more playful with the '80s hair. (A huge chunk of the season does take place in a mall, after all.)
But Hindsgaul was always mindful of creating styles for the main characters that were period-appropriate and also still relatable to young people today. And she definitely had fun along the way: She styled the Russian bad guy after Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator. As for the Jazzercise guy? The Duffer Brothers gave Hindsguard a photo of Karl Vreski, one of the villains in Die Hard, and she ran with it.
As for whether or not there were any hidden clues to what's going to happen in season four hidden in the hair, Hindsgaul wouldn't say—but we can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Originally Appeared on Glamour