Element Pictures / Enda Bowe
Like the many Sally Rooney fans who’ve come before me, I decided I should spend my free time in quarantine binge-watching Normal People. Hulu’s 12-episode adaptation of Rooney’s best-selling novel follows two Irish teenagers as they fall in and out of a relationship with each other. (I personally did not watch it as The Cut suggested you should—alone and with a vibrator—but I’m not going to say it’s bad advice.)
Truthfully, what I found even more hypnotizing than that one nine-minute sex scene was something entirely more innocuous but just as alluring: Marianne’s bangs.
When I sat down to watch the show, I’d already spent weeks inside, conforming to a daily ritual of throwing my hair into a messy bun and thinking to myself, “I should probably just cut my hair into a lob while no one can see me, right?” Then Daisy Edgar-Jones’ Marianne popped onscreen like a sign from the quarantine gods: Look at her bangs. So cute and seemingly effortless. Cut your own! Be the protagonist of your own life.
As I came to my senses, I chatted ELLE.com’s beauty director and told her to please, please talk me down from my ledge. She responded like only a true friend would: “DO NOT give yourself BANGS IN QUARANTINE. Also if you do, write about it for elle dot com.” So I took her advice on both counts and jumped on the phone with Sandra Kelly, Normal People’s hair designer, to learn everything about Marianne’s look. (Warning: Light spoilers below!)
How to Get Marianne’s Look
Marianne actually shows off three different bangs looks throughout the series, as she transitions from eccentric high schooler to a more confident college student, Kelly explains.
“The first time we see her, as you know, she’s a bit odd. She doesn’t blend in with the other girls,” Kelly says. To compliment this version of the character, Kelly gave Edgar-Jones a “funky, arched, choppy” set of bangs, keeping them short to help her look younger. “They opened up her face much more, so that she was a little more vulnerable as well.”
Once Marianne heads off to Trinity for college, Kelly used hair pieces to create the next set of bangs: a little bit longer, still choppy, but more straight across.
For Marianne’s bout of depression in Sweden, Kelly transitioned her into a much heavier look. “I put in extra pieces at the side to give it a bit of an arch, a heavy-at-the-side fringe, to create a darker stage in her life,” she says.
If you want to get the look once lockdown is over and it’s safe to enter a salon again, here’s what you should ask your hairdresser for:
High school Marianne:
“A really short, slightly choppy, arched fringe.”
“Heavy bangs, slightly chipped in at the ends to make it slightly wispy.”
“Very dramatically arched, kind of going beyond the temple.”
Please Don’t Try It at Home
Why, exactly, should we avoid DIY-ing our own Marianne bangs at home? “Fringes are a most difficult thing” Kelly says. “A lot of hairdressers will find you have to do them free hand, and you have to do them semi-wet or dry. That’s the only way, because they have a mind of their own.” It can also be tricky when you’re facing a mirror and have to switch up your left and right hand while cutting. Plus, people tend to not have the proper scissors or know how to hold them correctly. “Most people just kind of lop it and hope for the best,” she says. “And you notice when the fringe is crooked—that’s the difficult thing. You can’t get away with it.”
But If You Can’t Resist…
All right, all right. Kelly says if you’re pretty good at sewing or cutting, you could give DIY bangs a shot. (She also admits people with very thick hair might have an easier time getting away with a home haircut.) But remember, if you’re cutting any hair, always start by cutting a little bit, because it tends to jump up once it dries. Another tip to keep in mind: Always cut below the eyebrow at first, just before you get into the temple area of your hair.
One strategy is to gather up the section you want to cut, taking as much or as little from the crown depending on how thick you want it, then twisting your hair in front of your face. Make sure the twist is at your nose, then snip the twist off. “What happens is, when you unravel, you have this little choppy fringe,” she says. While it might still be too long, you can then keeping snipping until you’re satisfied.
Knowing my own personal skill level—that of a pre-schooler just learning how to cut paper—I’ll probably be skipping the at-home chop for now. But that won’t stop me from thinking approximately every other second about how much better my life might be if I only had Marianne’s bangs.
Normal People is now streaming on Hulu.