Hairstyles for plays- The do’s and don’ts

Dramatic fishtail hairstyle


I’ve planned the hairstyles for several of my mom’s play’s, (her cast size runs from 70- 80) and after designing and combing that much hair I’ve come up with a few rules that I like to work by. Here is how I go about deciding on a hair style.

What is their character?

I first ask myself, who is this character, what era does she come from, western? futuristic? modern? renaissance?

Do– Look up pictures of your particular era online. Then try the style ahead of time.

Don’t- Choose to complicated. Keep it simple and do it well.

If the character is western, I might think two braids parted in the middle. For futuristic I would go for something a little more out of this world, maybe small tight buns all over the head. For a princess I would want hanging down the back, with a soft wave in the front. The idea is to add to the character and complete the costume.

What do I have to work with?

Frizzy can be beautiful!

Unless they are going to wear a wig, in which case you don’t need to style the hair, everyone has different types of hair Some long, some curly, some frizzy. You take what you get and improvise.

Do- Make use of the person’s natural hair. Enhance their natural qualities.

Don’t-  Spend an hour straightening hair when another style might match their hair better.

If someone has curly hair add it into the style rather then going through all the work to straighten it. As mentioned before, my daughter was a damsel in distress for our last play. She has blonde wavy hair. All I did was pull it back from the front and let it wave down the back. It was perfect.

How much time do you have to get them ready?

I always tend to underestimate how long it will take for the cast to get ready. We end up combing hair until minutes before time to start.

Do- Try the styles ahead of time and then give yourself and who ever is helping with hair plenty of time to get ready.

Don’t- Try out new styles on the night of performance, (unless you are very confident in your combing skills.)

Several times we’ve had part of the cast arrive late, because they didn’t want to get ready to early. Guess what, they didn’t get their hair combed. I must say I didn’t feel to bad when I seen their shaggy heads on stage.

Will the hair stay in?

bun french braid
French braids stay in very well

You want a hairstyle that will last the entire play and hopefully after too. Don’t be afraid to load on the product! I love to use Curl freeze gel on boys hair, they look freshly combed even after a two hour play. Lots of extra hold hairspray! For girls braids and buns work well for keeping hair out of the face.

Do– Choose styles that will stay in. Tighter the better. Unless you need it to look loose and messy.

Don’t- choose styles that are easily messed up, with all the running around back stage, and jumping around on stage even the tightest do’s will be coming loose.

I helped my mom do the hair on her play of Joseph. Each night it was my job to style Elvis’s hair. We would freeze his do with hair spray and a heavy duty goop called Gorilla Snot (It looked just like you would imagine real gorilla snot to look, disgusting!) But it did the job! We would comb his hair and then plaster on a few cans of black hairspray. This took so long that finally my brother, who was playing Elvis, decided to just dye his hair black for the performances! He looked awesome, and it was much easier to do his hair too!

Do they need to change character?

Many times you have characters that need to be more then one person and they won’t have much time to change. Try to find a style that can be used for both.

Do– Choose a style that is versatile and only needs a few changes to change character

Do– find how much time you have for a scene change and make sure you have time to do a new hairstyle if needed.

Don’t- Do a style that is very complicated if you need to change it quickly. The audience would rather see someone with the wrong hair-do then to be kept waiting.

I helped with my sister’s hair in the play of Newsies She played a newsboy and Sarah. She was constantly changing back and forth. In the end we opted for a loose bun that looked feminine when she was Sarah and when she put a hat on you could hardly see her hair for when she played a boy part.

Don’t be afraid to branch out

Do– Try new things, great styles can be found on Pintrest and google.

I’ve definitely combed a lot of hair and while there are a few common sense rules don’t be afraid to break them when you need to. Sometimes fresh creative ideas are all that’s needed to give a play that last push from just good to great. Play hairstyles shouldn’t be to hard or complicated, and they won’t be if you be sure to give yourself ample time to do the hair.

Please, if you have any questions or comments leave them below. I would love to hear any one else’s thoughts and opinions on combing hair!


Return to Costumes



4 thoughts on “Hairstyles for plays- The do’s and don’ts

  1. I would have not put too much thought into the hairstyle. But it really is part of the “costume” isn’t it? Is it best in a professional production, to have a hair stylist who can get all the styles done right? Or do the actors generally do their own hair styles?

    1. Yes, in my opinion the hair can be the icing on the cake for a costume. I haven’t researched professional productions much. But if you had the means for a stylist, it would be a good option. But where drama is usually not an extremely lucrative business I would think learning to do their own hair would be more feasible. Almost anyone can comb hair if they take the time to learn. Quite often when I’m doing a play we ask parents or friends to help with the combing, because it is much easier to comb someone else’s hair especially if it is a very complicated style. This mostly applies to girls. Boys with short hair have a much easier time combing their hair.

  2. Even as a man I can agree with you that the hairstyle definitely plays a big role in the costume. Imagine a very rough criminal with a dirty long beard but he has a nice clean hairstyle! It just wouldn’t fit the character. So it really does matter.

    1. I think in order for someone to truly play the part it is easier if they totally immerse themselves in the character, and yes that includes hairstyle for men and women.
      Thanks for the comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *