‘American Hustle’ Hair

Amy Adams and Christian Bale in American Hustle
Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams in American Hustle
Molly Young
Molly Young
The Tools

On Saturday it was snowing in New York: not quick-melting flakes, but the kind of snow that makes the sky look like meringue. I zipped myself into an extra long ("evening-length") down jacket and walked to the East Village to see American Hustle, which seemed like a nice seasonal thing to do.

It proved to be the ideal snow-day movie: lots of plot, lots of misbehavior, lots of Electric Light Orchestra on the soundtrack. Even if you don't enjoy these things, it's worth a ticket if you're interested in an edited survey of beauty practices in the late 1970s. The movie is beauty-obsessed. If you took a shot every time Jennifer Lawrence's character talks about nail-polish topcoats, you could get dangerously sauced in dangerously little time.

It starts with the first scene, which shows Christian Bale styling his character's comb-over with the help of a teasing comb and a tuft of auxiliary hair that he glues to his scalp the way Martha Stewart might glue cotton balls onto a craft bunny. I'm sure I wasn't the only audience member to feel a sense of satisfaction and relief when Bale finished the style off with a heavy misting of hairspray.

In the case of Amy Adams's character, hair is an emotional barometer: it's bouncy when she is, pinned up in curlers when she's vulnerable, and corkscrewed in pinky-width spirals when she's on edge. Jennifer Lawrence is styled like a long pour of dessert wine—everything smooth and liquid, with sunlamp skin and hair that crests her forehead like a wave (of Vin Santo). Both women have a hard sexiness, everything polished and set—lacquered nails, lacquered hair, lacquered face. Nothing touchable. The look also has a funny age-neutralizing effect, making both Lawrence (age 23) and Adams (age 39) look roughly 28 years old. The makeup, I could take or leave; the hair, I wanted to replicate. Especially because it was still snowing, and what else was I going to do indoors? Play Twister with myself?

I started with two packages of curlers, both Con Air Flexible Roller Spiral Curls (the kind that look like pool noodles) and Brush Rollers (the kind that look like sea urchins), both 1/2-inch thick. I shampooed my hair twice to expel volume-depressing oil, skipped conditioner, combed Privé mousse through to the ends, and waited ten minutes to let it dry a bit before applying all 24 curlers while listening to a Rewrite podcast with the journalist Danielle Sacks. I used jumbo bobby pins to pin the rollers in place, and kept my hair parted in the center. Disco women liked their hair the way they liked their dance moves: symmetrical.

When using non-heated rollers, I try to wait four or five hours before releasing my hair—if yours dries faster or slower, adjust accordingly. While waiting, I washed dishes, practiced piano, dropped a bottle of vermouth on the floor, and cleaned it up.

Now for the fun part! Removing rollers. If you're following along, here's how to do it:

1. Remove curlers. You'll have clown ringlets.

2. Give your head a light 360º hairspray misting. I used Tresemme.

3. Now select a ringlet and separate it into four or five sub-ringlets. You can spiral the sub-ringlets with a finger if they need help separating.

4. Repeat for your whole head.

5. More hairspray. Quickly rub the surface of your hair with hands to add a layer of disco frizz. (Optional)


And that's it. What fun! You know you've succeeded when your hair obscures your peripheral vision. Just be careful when crossing the street or escaping predators. If you like, you can combine the look with a plunging neckline. (Two words: vintage Gucci. One more word: eBay. Three words total.)

Is it a bold look? Yes. And after six hours of prep, it'd better be. In moments like this, I think of a New York magazine interview with Miuccia Prada from last year, where she shared this wisdom: "Clothes have nothing to do with success. You can dress however you want and still be successful. Basically, clothes are a pleasure." Well, same goes for hair. When it's not a pain in the ass, it should be a lot of fun.

To briefly take a dark turn, I should warn readers against using the Con Air Brush Rollers, which were distressing to remove and ripped out a lot of hair. After extracting, I threw them into the trash. The Spiral Curls worked great.

Now…how the hell do I replicate Jennifer Lawrence's hair? To be continued, maybe.

—Molly Young

Read Molly's other ITG stories here. Also follow her on Twitter

Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

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  • Morg Harp Nich

    great tips! and very pinnable, too!


  • Jela

    nice post und good tips.

    love jelaegbe.blogspot.de

  • Em McDonnell

    Kind of obsessed with this movie and I haven't even seen it yet...

  • http://www.travelpennies.com/ Nicola

    This looks amazing! My hair is naturally very big (if I rough dry it I have a distinct Bon Jovi thing going on) but I'd love to give this a go. I'm terrified of any kind of brush roller, as I've never figured out how to not yank out half my hair. But I used to use the foam stick ones when I was younger. This would be a great New Year's style.
    I wonder if you could gently blow dry the hair when it's in the rollers, to speed things up?

  • http://msberrystylish.blogspot.com/ Sierra Calah

    I love the look of their hair! So curly and cute <3
    -B ♡ MsBerryStylish 

  • Peanut

    Very funny! Very informative! I'd argue though that disco frizz is not optional. Glad Molly was wise enough to give her head-surface a quick rub. Can't wait for Part II.

  • Thanos Samaras

    let's do Jennifer's hair!

  • Groovychimpster

    A "How-to" with titillating context and great results. What fun !

  • thesixthbeatle

    I am obsessed with the trailers for this film and it aint even out yet in the UK! Two things: both ladies look gorgeous in the trailers, and the pic of Bradley Cooper's peeping naked torso above=humana humana.

  • Jessica

    Very cute article/How To. My favorite part: "I started with two packages of curlers, both Con Air Flexible Roller Spiral Curls (the kind that look like pool noodles) and Brush Rollers (the kind that look like sea urchins)" Very funny!

  • http://thatszoe.blogspot.com/ Zoe Cayetano

    Lovely post! Perfect tips too.

    xoxo Zoe

  • Sarah

    I love reading Molly's posts, and this one is no exception.

    I like the hair style, and assume that this is going to be a new trend in 2014.

  • mobeta

    Jennifer Lawrence stole the show. Also, my date & I got yelled at by an old lady. Apparently i chew popcorn too loud and his candy was making too much noise coming out of the box. My-Oh-My so much drama at the theater.

  • Sandi

    I've had good luck in the past with the hot rollers that come case (more than likely your grandma or mom has a set left over from the 70's or 80's) as well as the foam steam rollers by Con Air. You can pick up both at the beauty supply or most drug stores. It speeds the process way up and sets the curls really nicely for those who have hair that revolts against curls.

  • https://twitter.com/isavella dameagatha

    Oh God Amy Adams's hair was so perfect in this. But you're right, the makeup was rather meh. Except for Mayor Polito's wife, her makeup was on point.

  • laura

    love the hair! where is that dress/top from? x

  • http://thiskittenhasklaws.wordpress.com/ Catherine Dream

    I can't wait to see this movie.

    Great hair, too : )


  • Charlotte Conley

    actually having BEEN a disco diva back in the late 70's I have first hand knowledge on making Jennifer Lawrence's pouffy up-dos. There are at least 2 ways - if your hair doesn't have much wave or volume, shampoo and LIGHTLY condition hair before bending over from the waist to blow out around 80% of the moisture using a paddle or vent brush or wide tooth comb to direct the hair opposite the way it grows. when it's mostly dry apply mousse and work it through. If your hair is bushy and wavy like mine, skip the roller instructions and go directly to the styling section.
    Rollers - Using either your brush rollers or preferably big clunky hot rollers roll up the hair all over the head and let them puppies SIT there for a while. The longer they sit the more curl and volume you get.
    Styling - Once the rollers have cooled well, or take them out and hang your hear over upside down and give it a shake. If you dont' use rollers, just flip over and run your fingers through till it's on top of your head and CLIP. Separate the bangs, side-burn and nape ringlets and pin or clip away from the main mass of the hair. For a really GOOD pouffy updo that will LAST all night, put in a good layer of teasing all over working the hair by 3" sections and clipping the teased parts up where you want your top knot or curl cluster to be. Be sure to smooth the part of the parts that show and secure with 2 crossed bobbies a few inches around the crown, leaving the ends loosely piled on top of the head. Then you either make a bun or place and pin the curls where you want them with bobbies and SPRAY. Scoop the bangs away and to the SIDE and put your side curls where you want them. If the hair around your face needs more help you can hit them with a hot curling iron. When you are fully diggin what you see, SPRAY again, and hit the DISCO, baby!!


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