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Real Life Writes the Hairstyle

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When Dyeing for Your Art affects another role too. Real life can write the plot, but it can also write the hairstyle too. Say there's a movie in one actress's collection where she doesn't have her trademark long blonde tresses, the reason is that she shaved her head for another role and filmed this one while still growing it back. Or the actress just did it on a whim, and they decided to roll with it.


This is often the case in long-running series and franchises, where the actors will be contractually obligated to keep their hair a certain way. Sometimes they'll just have the actor wear a wig because the character changing their hair would be too out of character. Other times they might make the haircut a plot point.

Compare Throw It In!, Expository Hairstyle Change, Actor-Inspired Element.


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    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete sees Big Pete getting a drastically shorter hairstyle so that actor Michael C. Maronna could play a punk in an episode of Law & Order.
  • Angel: Cordelia goes for a drastically shorter haircut in Season 2 because Charisma Carpenter found the upkeep of her Rapunzel Hair too much.
  • Felicity Smoak's hair is dyed pink as a disguise from Ricardo Diaz in the Season 7 premiere of Arrow. In Real Life, it's because Emily Bett Rickards had to dye it for a photoshoot.
  • In some episodes of Season 6 of The Avengers Tara King's hair is very short. This is because when Linda Thorson joined the show, they wanted her to bleach her hair blonde. The dye ruined her hair, so in some episodes, she was wearing a wig. The short hair was Linda's growing back. One episode even has characters arguing about what color Tara's hair is.
  • Starbuck eventually growing her hair long in Battlestar Galactica (2003) was because Katee Sackhoff was fed up at having to keep her hair short for the role.
  • In Season 8 of The Big Bang Theory Penny has short hair because Kaley Cuoco had cut hers short for the indie film Burning Bodhi. She put extensions in after the season wrapped.
  • Boy Meets World: Topanga cuts her famously waist-length hair to shoulder-length at the beginning of season 4 after years of Danielle Fishel begging the producers to let her cut it short. They agreed on the condition that they got to make an Important Haircut episode out of it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Willow is portrayed as a redhead for the whole series because Joss Whedon wanted the three lead actresses to differentiate themselves - and Alyson Hannigan volunteered to go that colour (she is naturally brunette).
    • Buffy chops off her hair in "Gone" in a fit of depression. This was because Sarah Michelle Gellar had asked to cut her hair and they wrote it into the episode.
    • Gellar had her hair cut shorter, and dyed blonder, for her part in Scream 2, which she filmed in the summer between seasons one and two. Xander comments on her new hair in "When She Was Bad". This also affected I Know What You Did Last Summer, also filming around the same time; she wore hair extensions for the first half of the film, and the killer then cuts her hair (notably in the book it's based on, Helen's defining characteristic is her long hair).
    • Gellar was only available for three days to film "Selfless", as she was getting married to Freddie Prinze Jr. that week. Drew Goddard said in his DVD Commentary for the episode that her hair in the show (the little braid at the side of her head) was her "wedding hair".
    • In "Enemies", Oz has blonde hair, as Seth Green had just finished filming Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • Piper has a fringe in Season 1 for the only time on the show because Holly Marie Combs had just starred in the Made-for-TV Movie Sins of Silence, where her character cuts a fringe to hide a bruise.
    • Alyssa Milano got a pixie cut to celebrate her 30th birthday, which was right before Season 6 started filming. Rather than making her wear a wig, they threw in a couple of lines referencing Phoebe cutting her hair.
    • Rose McGowan spontaneously decided to dye her hair red right before Season 5, thoroughly annoying producers. The in-show explanation was a potion blowing up on her and turning it that colour, which Rose had sarcastically suggested as the explanation when the producers expressed their displeasure. In her autobiography, she claimed this was a minor rebellion when the studio tried to enforce no hair changes without permission.
    • Paige goes back to brown hair near the end of Season 6 because Rose let her fans vote on what colour she should go, and brown won out.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Ross Lynch is normally blond but has brown hair as Harvey because they feared he looked like he was related to his blonde co-star Kiernan Shipka (who plays his girlfriend). Ironically Kiernan herself had to change her hair for the role (she's naturally blonde but had gone brown before she auditioned).
  • Coronation Street:
    • Sally Dynevor was undergoing treatment for breast cancer (ironically after her character Sally Webster was given the all-clear) so she wore a wig for several months. After a while, she opted to appear without the wig, and it was written in that Sally's new boyfriend had taken her for a short haircut.
    • Katherine Kelly's hair was ruined from dye, so she cut it to shoulder-length and in-universe it was an attempt by Becky to look more mature as she approached adoption agencies.
    • Leanne wears a hairpiece for the special Joinery explosion that happened on her hen night. This is because there would be a live episode in between several pre-taped ones (all taking place within the same Extremely Short Timespan) and this helped avoid continuity mistakes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the TV movie, Paul McGann wears a wig because he'd had to get an un-Doctor-ish military short haircut for his role in the war movie The One That Got Away.
    • Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, played a man with cancer in Lost River around the same time as his tenure as the Doctor was ending, a role that required Smith to shave his head. This did not result in a change of hairstyle, as Smith simply wore a wig. The wig itself, however, was incorporated into the Eleventh Doctor's final story, as he shaved his head and used the wig to hide a spare key to his TARDIS.
    • From the same episode, Karen Gillan wore a wig, as she'd shaved her hair off for Guardians of the Galaxy. More than anything, she regretted that she and Matt didn't swap wigs.
  • Lucy Liu dyed her hair blonde in 2017. As a result, Watson has blonde hair in the final season of Elementary. This gets joked about, with others saying she dyed her hair because she's not adjusting well to London.
  • La Femme Nikita got an unexpected fifth season, after Peta Wilson had cut her trademark long blonde hair short (thinking she wouldn't be needed again). So the season premiere has a scene where she cuts her hair before returning to Section One.
  • Friends:
    • Jennifer Aniston's famous "The Rachel" hairdo came about because - in her words - the hairdresser was drunk, made a mistake and tried to correct it.
    • The little subplot in the Season 2 premiere involving Joey, Chandler and Monica's haircuts came from the actors cutting theirs between seasons and the show deciding to incorporate it.
    • On the day before he auditioned for the role of Gunther, James Michael Tyler let a friend who wanted to become a hairdresser practice on his hair. Apparently, the producers liked the bleach blonde look on him, which he kept for the rest of the series.
    • Monica sports a chin-length reddish-brown bob in the majority of season four. This is due to Courteney Cox cutting her hair to this size for Scream 2.
  • The Full House Season 2 premiere "Cutting it Close" had Jesse end up getting his mullet cut off into a shorter style due to Stephanie cutting off a lock of hair during a game of "barber" with actual scissors. In real life, John Stamos (Jesse's actor) actually had his hair cut before Season 1 finished, as he felt the mullet was going out of style (this was in 1988), and so in the last couple of Season 1 episodes and at the start of "Cutting it Close," Stamos was actually wearing a wig resembling his old mullet.
  • In Game of Thrones, it's a plot point in the first season that all Lannisters are blonde. However, as the seasons go on, Jaime and Tyrion's hair become increasingly darker, to the point of being dark brown in season 8. Word from the set workers is that it was simply too damaging to the hair to keep dyeing it for so long, so they chose to prioritize the actors' health over the characters' image. (Cersei and Daenerys wear wigs, which is why their hair remains blonde.) In fact, Tyrion was given bleached blond hair in the original pilot, but it was darkened in the series proper for this reason.
  • Leighton Meester is blonde naturally but has been famous as a brunette because Gossip Girl required her to dye it brown.
  • Amy Lennox's hairstyle in some Holby City episodes resembles the style she sported in a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show she was in around the same time.
  • Hollyoaks's Amy Barnes was known for her Rapunzel Hair. Her actress Ashley Slanina Davis decided to cut it for charity, so in the soap, her abusive boyfriend cut it off because he thought it looked childish.
  • Love/Hate's Mary has blonde hair in Season 1 that becomes brown in Season 2 because Ruth Bradley was playing a Victorian woman in Primeval.
  • Maid Marian and Her Merry Men - Marian's short haircut in Season 4 is because her actress had cut her hair for a play between seasons.
  • When the character Scott Robinson returned to Neighbours in 1989 after a few-week absence, he had short hair due to Jason Donovan having to cut his hair short due to having a role in a miniseries.
  • The Office (US): Season 3 sees Jim getting his 2000s Wings hairstyle cut into a shorter, more professional look before his big job interview at corporate. In real life, John Krasinski had to get his hair cut to a 1920s-style so he could star in Leatherheads. The Office show-runners had originally refused to let him cut his hair, until Krasinski had the show's hairstylist create a convincing wig he could wear for the show.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Emma Swan has blonde hair even though Jennifer Morrison was best known as a brunette at the time because - a natural blonde who had dyed it brown for House - she was annoyed at how often she had to touch up her roots and saw it as a good opportunity to go back blonde.
    • Rumpelstiltskin gets an Important Haircut in Season 6 because Robert Carlyle had cut his hair for T2 Trainspotting.
  • One Life to Live: Actress Kassie DePaiva twice had her Real Life haircut written into the show. The first time, her character Blair hacked off her hair in a fit of grief and rage over her husband Todd's death. The second time, her husband Max's mistress Skye chopped her hair off as revenge for a nasty stunt Blair had played on her.
  • A famous example in Peyton Place with Mia Farrow — who became insecure about her long blonde hair and decided to cut it short on a whim. As she was halfway through filming an episode, they had to hurriedly write Alison getting a haircut as a plot point. It underwent Memetic Mutation - "where were you when Mia Farrow cut her hair?" - and led to an urban legend that Vidal Sassoon flew out to cut the hair in a boxing ring (which was just a publicity stunt for Rosemary's Baby). The actress said in her autobiography...
    "There must have been nothing going on in the world that week because my haircut got an absurd amount of press coverage."
  • Abby has Spiky Hair in Season 3 of Primeval that's shorter than her usual style because Hannah Spearritt's hair was damaged from the bleaching she had been doing (she went brown because of it but reverted to blonde before filming the episodes). Abby's hair is notably longer in Season 4 because Hannah grew hers out before the show was Un-Cancelled. As Abby was trapped in the Cretaceous Period with Connor for a year in between seasons, the hair change was easily explained. She wore extensions for the first two episodes to make it look wilder, and then removed them to imply that Abby had adjusted to life back in the present.
  • In the final episode of The Prisoner, Leo McKern's Number Two is resurrected after apparently dying in the previous episode, a process that also mysteriously cuts his hair and shaves off his beard. In fact, McKern hadn't been told that he was still needed until he'd already changed his grooming for a different part.
  • Rookie Blue's fifth season premiere takes place directly after the finale. Between Seasons 4 and 5, Charlotte Sullivan's hair had to be cut because of the bleach damaging it. As a result, Gail gives herself a drunken haircut in the episode.
  • During the final season of Roseanne, John Goodman was also filming The Big Lebowski. At one point, he appears as Walter.
  • Selfie had Karen Gillan wearing a wig made out of the hair she shaved for Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • The Trope Namer for Growing the Beard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sources disagree on whether Jonathan Frakes grew the beard while he was out of work during a writers' strike or if it was for his role in North and South (U.S.).
  • Captain Janeway's "Bun of Steel" from the early seasons of Star Trek: Voyager was the result of Kate Mulgrew's hair reflecting so much light on camera that it rendered early footage unusable. The tight bun was a hasty workaround that stuck until Mulgrew switched to a shorter cut midway through the show's run.
    • Kes changed from a pixie cut to a longer hairstyle that covered her Unusual Ears because the actress became allergic to the glue used to put them on.
  • That '70s Show has an episode where Donna decides to dye her hair blonde, which came about because Laura Prepon had dyed her hair for the film Karla.
  • Inverted for Felicity: the scripted Important Haircut near the beginning of season 2 instead wrote real life, as it were, coinciding with a drop in ratings and engendering a lot of buzz over whether shearing off Keri Russell's locks was to blame for the show's Sophomore Slump. As a result, the WB introduced an order that no young stars on their shows could make major hair changes without permission.
  • Bob Ross's iconic faux-Afro during his time hosting The Joy of Painting was a carry-over from his early days when he permed his hair to save money on haircuts. He reportedly didn't much care for the look, but by the time he was starting to see some success in his art career, the 'fro had become a staple of his brand, so he kept it.

  • Ariana Grande's signature look of hair pulled back into a high ponytail came about when she had to keep her hair red for Victorious and later Sam & Cat. The years of dyeing damaged it, so wearing it in the ponytail was initially just to cover all the split ends.
  • Atomic Kitten
    • Jenny's bobbed hair for "Love Doesn't Have To Hurt" and the first half of the Ladies Night period was because people were having trouble telling her apart from the other two, and it was also wrecked from using extensions too much.
    • Likewise Jenny putting extensions in for "Someone Like Me" was because Natasha showed up one day with a short haircut identical to hers.
  • Bobby Brown sported a Gumby-esque hairdo from the making of "Every Little Step" when his barber, who was flirting with the girls on the set, accidentally cut off half of his flat top at a slant angle.
  • Similar to the "Neighbours" example above, Jason Donovan had brown hair in the music video for the song "Hang on to Your Love" because he was taking a break from filming another miniseries.
  • Jordan Lennon (aka Jay-El) sports a buzzcut for his "Poisoned City" video because it was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic and, like many others, he'd taken to buzzing his hair due to barbershops being closed.
  • Metallica's James Hetfield had to cut his hair after a pyrotechnics accident. It's thought that the rest of the group cutting theirs was a gesture of solidarity.
  • Seal changed his image by shaving off his short dreads in 1993, opting to go bald and has maintained that look since then.
  • The Weeknd ditched his iconic hairstyle to a fade hairstyle at the start of his Starboy era before donning a short curly afro for his After Hours era.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield famously had long black hair for most of his career. When his stock investments went up and he had to be on Wall Street more often, he cut the hair short and stopped dying it black. This eventually led to him changing character completely to JBL.
  • Roxxi Laveaux infamously getting her head shaved at the 2008 Sacrifice PPV in TNA was because her hair had been ruined from dyeing it purple.
  • Kevin Nash lost a Hair vs Hair match against Chris Jericho because he had to cut his hair for The Punisher (2004). And the bleach blond he had for that week (and therefore the film) was (according to Chris Jericho's autobiography) a whim to fool the fans into thinking he wouldn't get his hair cut if he'd just bleached it.
  • Molly Holly:
    • Her blonde hair for the first half of her career came about because her initial gimmick on WCW was 'Miss Madness', and Randy Savage suggested she bleach it to fit the Pageant Queen image. She kept the blonde hair long after she switched personas to Mona and later Molly Holly in WWE.
    • She changed her hair from blonde to brown after her 2002 Face–Heel Turn because it had been fried from years of bleaching, and she saw the heel turn as a good opportunity to change it. It was initially worn long but had to be cut short because it was "like straw".
    • Her famous head shave at WrestleMania 20 came about because she heard there would be no women's match on the show - so she offered to lose a Hair vs Title match.
  • Dolph Ziggler briefly cut his hair short in 2011 when the bleaching had ruined it - also partly due to Executive Meddling saying he needed short hair to be taken seriously. Widely disliked, as it made him look like The Generic Guy, he re-bleached it as soon as it got long enough.
  • Hulk Hogan had to lose his famous mustache for a movie role in October 1995. The Dungeon of Doom attacked him and shaved it off on TV. However, they didn't say they shaved his mustache because that would be too ordinary for them. They said that they "plucked the whiskers of the rare white Bengal Tiger!"
  • Similar to JBL, Triple H buzzed his long hair off in 2012 due to his backstage role as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations requiring a more professional look.
  • Shawn Michaels was bald during his brief return to the ring in 2018 due to him having shaved it for his role in the film 90 Feet From Home - where he plays a cancer patient.
  • Kurt Angle had his head shaved after losing a Hair vs. Hair match to Edge at Judgement Day 2002. The reason being that Kurt was rapidly going bald anyway.
  • John Cena sported longer hair than his usual crew cut in 2019 because he had to grow it out for filming Project X-Traction.
  • Natalya Neidhart sported red hair from mid-2008 until 2009 because she felt there were too many other blonde Divas and wanted to distinguish herself. She reverted to blonde when the Hart Dynasty was formed, and added a pink streak to her hair to fit the Hart family's pink and black colour scheme.
  • Nikki Bella of the Bella Twins originally favored blonde hair (though she is naturally dark) but had to dye hers the same colour as Brie when they did the identical twin models thing. As being identical and switching places in matches was their initial gimmick in WWE, they had to maintain this for years (Brie at one point sported bangs at a red carpet event but had extensions in whenever she was on TV). In 2013 when they began to differentiate their personalities on-screen, Nikki added blonde highlights.
  • Danger Dawn of Irish wrestling had red hair for 2014 but reverted to brown later in the year because she was doing background work on Vikings and they required the hair to be a natural colour.
  • Becky Lynch had dyed red hair when she first debuted on WWE television for the sake of an Oireland gimmick that was dropped due to negative audience reactions. She kept the hair for a while (even though she had no reason to) until adopting a Steampunk look with her hair dyed orange. After becoming the Man, is became more of a dark strawberry blonde.
  • Similar to Kurt Angle, Steve Austin shaved his head in early 1996 because he was losing his hair anyway. He briefly tried to rock a buzz cut, but didn't like it and shaved all his hair off in the hotel bathroom right before a WWF event. The new look led to him ditching his bland "Ringmaster" character in favor of his his Bald of Awesome "Stone Cold" persona.
  • Eric Bischoff had his head shaved during his 1998-99 feud with Ric Flair. Bischoff said he came up with the idea because he was tired of dying his hair black. He was Prematurely Grey-Haired and had been dying it for many years. Now that he was in his mid-forties, he was ready to embrace his natural gray hair. He went through the same scenario again in his 2002-2005 WWE run, as Vince McMahon personally requested Bischoff to dye his hair black again upon being hired and it was shaved on-screen once more towards the end of Bischoff's run.
  • In late 1995 into 1996, Sting swapped his trademark bleach-blond flattop for a longer, brunette (his natural color) style. This was entirely Steve Borden's decision, as he felt the flattop was out-of-style and he wanted to change with the times. The new hairstyle led to him switching to his legendary "Crow" persona near the end of 1996.
  • 'Session Moth' Martina had purple in her hair for 2017 but soon went back to blonde because it was too much upkeep. She had previously been black haired but bleached it blonde to distinguish herself from Katey Harvey.
  • Naomi initially competed with her hair in braids but, on being called up to television to be part of NXT Season 3, the higher-ups showed her a picture of Naomi Campbell and told her "we want you to look like that". As a result, she was notable for wearing a straight weave for most of her career (although she did experiment with a few different styles). It wasn't until 2020 that she wrestled with her hair naturally in an afro.
  • Naomi's partner in The Funkadactyls Cameron also initially competed with her natural dark hair. But to avoid people confusing her with Naomi, she first added some brown highlights and later became blonde. Once the team split, she darkened her hair again.
  • An ironic example of real life preventing a hair change, but Sonya Deville was booked in a Hair vs Hair match against Mandy Rose for SummerSlam 2020. As the match was set up by Sonya ambushing Mandy and cutting her hair, most expected that Sonya would lose and get shaved bald. A week beforehand however, it was changed to a Loser Leaves WWE match. The reason was that Sonya had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping in her home, and would need to appear in court - therefore needing a more 'professional' appearance.

  • The Actors' Life Podcast, filmed over Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic saw many guests sporting 'lockdown hair' (either overgrown or buzzed short, due to barbers and hairdressers being closed. Some other examples.
    • Bobby Calloway (the host) has a crewcut when interviewing Dawn Wolfe because he'd cut it for the short film Widespread.
    • Greg Young at one point appears without his beard, because he'd shaved it off for an audition to play a sixteen-year-old.
  • In his autobiography Immediate Action, former Special Air Service trooper Andy McNab recounts an incident where Princess Diana's hair was singed by an explosion during a hostage rescue demonstration. One emergency trip to the stylist later, tabloids began raving about her new, shorter hairstyle.
  • Liana K chopped her long hair to shoulder length in early 2020 right before beginning her Boss Fight series. She explained that since the series would have her wearing a lot of wigs to play different characters, shorter hair would fit under the wigs better.


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