The Hair Department

An overview of the hairdressing team in film and television, from the chief to the trainee, and a look at the specialist areas


The hair department is responsible for the research, design, the application, maintenance and continuity of hair and wigs during feature film and television productions. Sometimes the hair and make-up departments are not separate, and one department looks after both the hair and make-up requirements.

The work involved ranges from creating contemporary looks to dressing wigs or hair to period styles, and hairdressing aspects like haircuts, extensions and colouring. All hairstyles then must be maintained during filming and are photographed and logged for reference. At the end of a day's shoot, wigs and other hair pieces may need to be cleaned and reset.

Hair and make-up are key elements in the overall design of films, creating a look that is appropriate for the characters, time periods, setting and style of the production.

It is advisable to have a qualification in hairdressing. As a hairdressing qualification does not teach wig work or period styling, to be proficient in this area, it requires lots of hands-on industry experience and practice.


Many theatre productions have wigs, and these are maintained by the Wig Department. The department is headed up by the Wig Mistress or Master and (depending on the number of wigs in the production) a number of Wig Assistants.

Duties range from washing and possibly doing repairs, to setting and dressing, then attaching the wigs to the performers. At the end of the show, the wigs are taken off and put on their blocks.


As with the make-up team at a fashion show, the hair team has to please the fashion designer. The hair team would follow the instructions of the head hairstylist.

A hairstylist has to know how to dress hair, all types and lengths of hair, fast and meticulously - hair cannot fall down during those fast clothes changes! Knowing trends and what works on a catwalk is important.

Photographic shoots can also be fast paced, with many changes of hairstyle required by the photographer or client.

The size of the hair department on a film or television production varies, depending on the scale of the production. Here is an outline of the different roles:


The designer (can also be known as head of department, chief or key hairdresser) is the person responsible for the overall design and implementation of the hairdressing and management of the hair department. Key responsibilities include:

Researching and designing the characters' hairstyles in keeping with the period and style of the production;

Liaising with other departments and HODs;

Managing various members of the team and delegating work as appropriate;

Managing the hair budget and organising supplies for the production;

Organising items such as wig fittings, getting switches, wefts and other hair pieces, and hair ornaments;

Ensuring health and safety is implemented and observed;

Ensuring continuity is maintained.


There to support and help the Designer carry out the requirements for particular artistes (including principals), from completing the hairstyling, haircuts and wig dressing, to maintaining hair/wigs throughout the shooting day and any scene-to-scene/time changes in continuity. And at the end of the day, assists in removing wigs etc., clearing up and prepping for the next day.


To help the Designer with certain tasks under supervision. Depending on the Assistant's experience, tasks can vary: e.g. may have artistes to look after, the maintenance of equipment and wigs/hair pieces, cleaning up and standing by on set.


A new entrant to the industry or someone with a little experience, a trainee carries out whatever tasks are required by the Designer and the team (from cleaning up and getting

drinks to possibly assisting a member of the team etc.).


Organises the crowd (or background) artistes hair requirements, from organising wig fittings and doing haircuts to booking dailies, prepping crowd tents and organising the supplies needed.


A daily is employed on an adhoc basis, usually when there are crowd scenes and, therefore, a lot of background artistes who need either wigs, hair pieces or their hair styling. This then needs to be maintained during filming and wigs and other pieces taken off at the end of the day. A daily would be organised by the Crowd Supervisor.


A personal hair artist or hairdresser works closely with a principal actor, overseeing and maintaining their hair requirements for the duration of the production. This could include wigs, toupees, extensions, cuts and colours - all depends what is required.


Whenever an actor is wearing a wig or toupee, it has usually been made by a specialist wig maker. There are "off the shelf" products, but to get a good fit to the actor's head, especially for principal actors, a wig should be specially made.

A handmade wig for television or film consists of a foundation of fine lace that has individual human hairs knotted onto it.

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