In addition to Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shosh (Zosia Mamet), and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), there’s a fifth member at the center of the action in “Girls” (you can stream all six seasons on Max): Hannah’s hairstyles. They take the shape of everything, from voluminous heights to almost skin-level buzzcuts, commanding as much attention as whatever silly storyline is being spun on the show. Much like the rest of the characters, her hairstyles are not always…presentable. But they’re right at home in a show that celebrates the freshly mundane and ordinary. We pay tribute to them here.
A Signature Hairstyle
Though her hair changes constantly and not always for the best, Hannah has a signature hairstyle that she falls back on: wavy, just-past-the-ear locks that accentuate her face. She usually brings out this style when she means business, like a formal dinner with her parents or an important meeting with her boss. Hannah seems to prefer simple hairdos that mostly allow her to roll out of bed each morning, and, as far as this writer can recall, she’s never once shown in a salon or anything resembling one.
Hannah’s hairstyle seems to be not just an assessment of her personality, but also an honest expression of how she’s feeling. Her hair is neat and brushed when she’s calm and collected, for example, and messy and grubby when she isn’t — which is very often the case. Unlike the rest of her girlfriends (and most female protagonists on TV, for that matter), Hannah is remarkably nonchalant about her hair, putting forth a different kind of femininity that is one of the reasons “Girls” is legacy television.
Hannah’s short pigtails are another signature look, almost as regular as her soft curls. She’s usually seen sporting them in scenes when she’s out having fun or getting into trouble, seemingly as an effective way to keep her hair out of her face. Her hair is barely long enough for the hair ties, but, if there’s one thing we know about Hannah, it’s that she’s stubborn and always finds a way.
Hannah’s playful pigtails capture her youthful and spirited personality. They seem like the perfect accessory to complement her penchant for bright colors and items such as rompers and short overalls, perhaps revealing a character that puts as much effort into her hair as anyone else — just in more unconventional ways.
A Sleek Look
It’s easy to dismiss Hannah with all kinds of adjectives, both pleasant and not. She misses deadlines, lets people down, and struggles to hold down a job. But she’s also a very smart and talented cookie — let’s not forget that this is someone who got into the Iowa Writers Workshop, after all. When she wears her sleek, pulled-back bob, you know she’s rolling up her sleeves and things are about to get serious.
Balancing her youthful pigtails, Hannah sometimes also wears a very grown-up hairstyle with her hair down and straightened. In these scenes, we see flashes of a mature person coming into herself — a reminder that “Girls” is a snapshot in time showing us a group of friends growing up and moving along in life. In the shot shown here, Hannah looks pensive and inquisitive to the point that you can almost see the wheels turning.
The Moment of Truth
Just as there are high moments, there are also low ones. In one of the most intense, epic scenes in the whole series, Hannah grabs a pair of scissors and, with a magazine spread in front of her for inspiration, attempts to give herself a haircut. The camera closes in on her emotive face, her jaw clenched as tightly as her grip on the scissors. Needless to say, you know the end result won’t match the inspiration photos even before the camera shows the final look.
As extreme as this scene might be, part of it is also highly relatable. Who among us hasn’t buzzed our hair or given ourselves bangs without much thinking? Few mirror scenes have been as genuine and tender as Hannah’s legendary haircut scene, befitting for a TV series that skillfully captures the anxieties and euphorias of the Millennial experience. Truth be told, “Girls” is the ultimate mirror standing before us.
A Short, Boyish Cut
Hannah wears her hair cropped very short in the aftermath of her bathroom moment. As you can imagine, many of the people in her life tease her endlessly, and it’s hard not to laugh alongside them. (OK, let’s be honest. We all laughed.) It doesn’t help that she’s hunched over and visibly embarrassed when she first dons the new look — rare for a girl as outgoing as Hannah.
While this might not be her best look, we like it for a number of reasons. Hannah embraces what’s left of her hair and almost manages to pull it off, thanks to her confidence and quirky persona. It’s a sincere ode to the ways we sometimes remake ourselves and take risks that may or may not pay off. If nothing else, Hannah’s haircut is laudable because she dared to change her style up a bit, thematizing two big ideas explored in “Girls”: Change is good, and our actions have consequences. If you’ve been looking for a sign to do something different about your hair, consider this Hannah’s blessing.
Two Messy Buns
Hannah introduces yet another hairstyle near the end of the show: two messy buns tied loosely atop her head. This new styling seems like a natural evolution of her two pigtails and captures her young, fresh-faced demeanor. Much like her character herself, the two buns are a progression of what came before and hint at what we might call growth.
Watching “Girls,” one wrestles with the question of whether any of the characters show signs of improvement and self-development. By the end of the series, the answer is a resounding yes, so long as we remember growth isn’t linear. Hannah’s hair grows back, and she gives an old style an upgrade. It truly doesn’t get any simpler than that.