At this point in her career, Sarah Hindsgaul knows her way around a mullet.
The Stranger Things hair department head has been crafting killer 1980s looks for the Duffer brothers’ hit series since its inception, ensuring that every character in the show’s sprawling ensemble looks effortlessly period correct. She’s designed countless wigs for the stars and spent untold hours cutting, perming, and sculpting the actors’ own hair. But for the Danish-born Hindsgaul, it’s important that her expert handiwork remains virtually invisible to the audience — with very few exceptions, the characters should never look coiffed.
Hair that looks too perfect, Hindsgaul says, becomes distracting and undermines the credibility of the actors’ performances. Essentially, you can’t slay monsters without a few flyaways. “I love character work, but most of all, I love stuff that looks fluid, that moves, not something from a Playmobil set or a Lego figure,” she says. “I like to [make it look like] it’s not a television show if I can; it’s not beautified.”
With a résumé that includes such films as 2019’s Marriage Story and 2020’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Hindsgaul put her wealth of experience to use on Stranger Things 4 Volume 2, the epic two-part finale to the show’s most ambitious season yet. Spanning nearly four hours, Volume 2 focuses on Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven and her allies as they try to stop psionic villain Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) from seizing complete control of the Upside Down and devastating the world as we know it.
For the supersized episodes, a majority of the cast sported their own hair, styled for the period. Hindsgaul gave Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas Sinclair a flattop influenced by New York hip-hop duo Kid ’n Play. Meanwhile, beneath Dustin Henderson’s Thinking Cap trucker hat, actor Gaten Matarazzo had his natural curls cut into a unique rendition of the signature 80s mullet, with one loose, face-framing lock — a nod to the continued influence of Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington on the younger character.
“They’re going into looks that they’re trying to attract girls with or attain social status, and they’re way overdoing it,” Hindsgaul says. “It’s just the age of searching for who you are. You’re jumping around so much at that age. [You’re inspired by] one person one day, then you meet another person, and you get inspired by that. It is an age of often looking very awkward because you’re not really feeling yourself just yet.”
For heartthrob Steve, Hindsgaul hewed closely to the character’s already famed and impressive head of hair. She did, however, highlight Keery’s darker locks for added dimension on camera. “It’s also less blow-dried, and we put a little more texture, trying a little more of a bad boy look,” she says. “It’s not quite as fluffy and he has a little more length in it.”
When it came to wigs, Hindsgaul was just as interested in maintaining natural movement with the hair. For actor Joseph Quinn, who plays fan-favorite guitar virtuoso Eddie Munson, she designed a mullet with a “crispy texture” inspired by rock icons like Ozzy Osbourne and Eddie Van Halen. “I wanted it to look like he wakes up and shakes it out,” she says. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like a wig on his head.”
She was delighted by how comfortable Quinn became wearing the wig, even headbanging during the sequence in which his character performs a wicked rendition of Metallica’s anthem “Master of Puppets.” “That’s a dream actor there,” Hindsgaul says. “He was not scared of throwing it around.”
But of the many challenges Hindsgaul faced, chief among them was re-creating the buzz cut Eleven sported in the series’ first season. Brown, understandably, was no longer willing to shave her head for scenes in which her character returns to a lab setting, desperately attempting to regain her powers. And although many in her industry felt it would be impossible to create a believable buzz cut wig, that’s precisely what Hindsgaul set out to do. “I’ve been doing hair on films for 30 years, and I’ve always been told that you can’t do it; it’s not a realistic option,” she says of the hairdo. “I don’t know where the guts came from.”
Working closely with her go-to wigmaker Rob Pickens, Hindsgaul fashioned a unique hair piece for the star with bits of silks strategically sewn in to give the illusion of skin beneath the short-clipped faux hair. It took a team of three people to properly apply the extremely delicate wig and to cleverly conceal Brown’s own long hair beneath the fragile hairpiece, which allowed her to be photographed from any angle. “We could flatten her hair just enough [to] get away with it,” Hindsgaul says. “You see her sometimes in profile and it looks really lovely.”
The achievement was a true career high point for Hindsgaul. “I’m so happy. I’m so proud,” she says. “Since the show came out, I’ve gotten at least 10 people being like, ‘My producer says we can now do shaved wigs.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re welcome.’”