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Behind the Bob: Hairstyles of Gatsby‘s Rich and Famous


With the New York premiere this week of The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s much-anticipated adaptation of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel will begin its worldwide tour, most notably with a stop as the opening film at Cannes this month. And while much attention has already been paid to the Miuccia Prada-designed costumes, the extravagant deco sets, and, of course, the on-screen chemistry between Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby, we’ve still got a few burning questions, mostly of the beauty variety. Here, chats with the film’s head hair designer, Kerry Warn, about bobs, finger waves, and making Mulligan’s strands look like they’d been “dipped in cream.”

How did you approach your research for the film?
The twenties was an incredibly well-recorded decade. We had mood boards all over the hair and makeup rooms, with images of real people, actresses, and society ladies from the era to keep everyone inspired. I also read the book and saw the movie with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, but I didn’t want to get sidetracked—once you get a train of thought going, it’s important to stay on track.

The bob was obviously huge in the twenties. How did you determine the exact length and angle of Carey’s cut?
Louise Brooks was a big influence. Graduated bobs came into style in this era. The look was almost boyish, the way it was cut in the back, close in to the neck. It was known as a “semi-shingle,” but today we call it a graduated bob, as it gets longer in the crown area and drops down under the chin. That was our preferred length for the actresses in this film.

What about all the finger waving? Why was it important to have that textural element?
Once everyone cut their hair off [in the twenties], they started waving it. We tried to convey the modernity of the decade, and that these girls were being scandalous by cutting their hair off into bobs.

Let’s talk technique. What’s the easiest way to get those perfectly glossy ridges?
The finger wave has to be done on wet hair—you don’t want to make the hair too sticky, so you don’t use any product. I hold my comb at an angle, toward face, and pull the hair through, creating a ridge. I pin that section in place, then comb back the other way, following an “S” movement through the hair to get three or four waves down the side of the face.

So if you don’t use product, how did you make sure the waves held up on long shoot days?
I did mist the finished waves with John Frieda Frizz-Ease Spray Gel before putting the girls under the hood dryer. At home, you could let your hair air-dry naturally, or set the diffuser on your hair dryer to a gentle speed and hold it high above your head. You just don’t want to blow too much air on the curls or you’ll lose the shape. After I took the pins out, I sprayed on John Frieda Moisture Barrier Hairspray. I like it because I can rework or brush through the hair if I have to do one section again, without any stiffness. I put on a generous amount to make the curls hold. It’s a sculpted look—like the girls have little caps on. This draws attention to the face.

Considering John Frieda’s arsenal of styling aids wasn’t available ninety years ago, what products might these characters have been using to achieve similar results?
Most of the women used a form of pomade, and lot of the shine was created from men’s products, like Brilliantine. Some used sugar water to set the hair—it was like icing. But I imagine that might attract some bugs in summer!

What else was key to creating Daisy Buchanan’s bob?
Carey’s hair color was very important. We wanted to convey the fragility and softness of her character with a color that was flattering to her pale complexion. It had to look like she was almost dipped in cream. We also didn’t want to give her a mad-crazy hairdo, since, with her face, it suits her to be more gamine-like. So we played into that by sweeping her bangs to the side and exposing her ears with a Tiffany headpiece to portray her innocence.

Hair accessories also played a big role in the film, yes? How did you work with, or around, those?
Yes, the head wrap that Carey wears is a vintage twenties scarf that was very popular with actresses like Clara Bow. It’s tied around the head flat and double-knotted just behind her right ear, with the ends left free. I like a scarf with the bangs swept to the side and a little curl on the hair. It’s about making the style look graphic so it holds closely to the head shape. We also used barrettes, placing them near the eye to just hold the hair back. Positioning it at the cheekbones can be very flattering.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2013 Bazmark Film III Pty Limited

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