Artwork by Laura Strohbusch

by Jon Roth @jonmroth

The Green Knights on-set hair designer on Dev Patel's Arthurian flow

The Green Knight is a feast for the eyes. From occult rituals to misty vistas to striding giants, the film is long on fantastic visual set pieces. And yet, you may find your focus drifting insistently back to a single point: Sir Gawain’s (that is, Dev Patel’s) lustrous head of hair. Perfectly imperfect, never parted but always pushed back, resilient under all the trials that a once-in-a-lifetime quest presents, Gawain’s flow is the film’s second hero.

But you can’t just roll out of your pallet with locks this lush. For that, you go to Eileen Buggy, the film’s hair designer, who agreed to share her method with us from her home in Dublin. We talk about modernizing the Medieval ‘do, “the best haircut” Dev Patel has ever had, and, of course, Cetaphil.

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The Green Knight's second hero: Sir Gawain's flow.

People are talking about how good Dev looks in the movie, so we wanted to get the scoop from the source. And you also worked on King Arthur (2004), so this isn’t even your first Arthurian film. Do you have a method?

Years ago when you did Medieval, you did Medieval. The way things work now it’s more collaborative. First you meet with the director—lovely, lovely David Lowery, he’s absolutely gorgeous—and you get his take. He wanted Medieval meets contemporary meets Star Wars for Alicia [Vikander], so you go from there.

If you look at Medieval films made in the 1940s and ‘50s, all the men wore wigs and had fringes and had these kinds of bobs that curled under. That approach has gone out now. When Dev came in his hair was long, but it had no shape to it. He was like, “I don’t know what you’re gonna do with this…” and I said, “Trust me.” He had the length, but I added in the shorter layers so it just sat nicely and didn’t puff out.

Is there a name for that style? Is it a lob?

It’s just a layered cut. He was delighted. Gave me a great compliment, said it was the best haircut he’d ever had. To style it we put in Oribe’s Crème for Style, which he loves. A very small amount just bounces the curl. On heavy shooting days we would do a mix of that and Cantu Coconut Curling Cream, which is heavier, like buttercream almost. When you’re looking for a dirtier, more broken-down look, you use that.

In Medieval times, I imagine they would have put fat from animals that they cooked into their hair, thinking that it must be good? But I’m sure they were covered in lice and all of that.

I’ve been wondering: Did they take care of their hair at all in Medieval times?

They did. They had brushes and combs, most of which would have been made from wood. And they were coloring their hair back then, too. They mixed plant-based things, the same as they did with dying their clothes. Their grooming wouldn’t be at the level that we have now, obviously, but even if you look back at the 20th century, that’s the case. Products and cleanliness just hadn’t come that far along yet. Like, who showered once a day in the ‘40s?

There’s a common assumption that people during Medieval times just never showered, which actually might not be true. But there’s still no way they could’ve bathed very often, right?

Years ago I worked on the film Angela’s Ashes (1999) and it was like that: The tin bath came out and was put in front of the fire once a week and everybody washed in the same water. And that was in the 1930s. So in Medieval times, I imagine they would have bathed when they felt they were getting a bit smelly? Even if you go back to Marie Antoinette’s times, when they had those massive wigs, they had mice and bugs living in those wigs.

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Wigs, fringes, and bobs in Laurence Olivier's Richard III (1955)

Yeah, I can’t imagine Medieval hair smelled great.

Not very nice, no. They would put God-knows-what into it. I imagine they would have put fat from animals that they cooked into their hair, thinking that it must be good? But I’m sure they were covered in lice and all of that.

I’d like to dig into this matter of dirty hair. There’s this recurring rhetoric, where someone will crush on a character, usually in a period piece. In Lord of the Rings, for instance, someone will talk about Aragorn like, “He’s so hot! His hair looks so dirty! He hasn’t showered in weeks!” It’s this kind of rugged dirtiness. So my question is: How do you get that look, even if you shower daily?

It’s easy. There’s one product made by Osis called Wax Dust, and you can put it in your hair and it gives you volume. It's dust and it comes out—actually, I have a funny story about Colin Farrell when I was working with him on The Lobster (2015). I was trying to describe to him the texture of this product. I said, “Here, I’ll put a little bit on the back of your hand and you can see how it feels.” I just tapped a bit on the back of his hand and of course it’s a white powder, and he looked at me and he said, “What are you trying to do to me?”

But anyway, it looks like a white powder but it goes into a wax, and it’s fantastic for breaking hair down—you just have to use a lot of it if you want the hair to look really dirty, like it could have lice growing in it. It would be amazing for anybody to use just in their normal life, but you have to use a lot of it if you’re going for a really unwashed look for a movie.

A lot of people go into a salon and say, “I want to look like this person.” But nobody is ever going to look like Dev Patel.

There’s a Dev Patel quote from 2017 that’s been making the rounds lately. The interviewer asks about his hair routine, and Dev says he’ll just rub whatever Cetaphil is left over from moisturizing right into his hair. What’s your professional take on this?

I think why not, yeah! If it’s good for your skin, it’s good for your hair. I wouldn't personally, but that’s just a vain thing with me. Dev has really healthy hair, and he probably doesn’t wash it too often. That’s why it’s so healthy. The most anyone should wash their hair is twice a week. Wet it in the shower, that’s fine, but if you wash it every day you’re washing all the natural oils out.

If someone were to go to a hairstylist, what should they say to get Dev’s Sir Gawain hair? “Give me the Dev”?

A lot of people go into a salon and say, “I want to look like this person.” But nobody is ever going to look like Dev Patel. Someone could ask for a layered cut, but Dev’s got naturally wavy hair, and if someone has straight hair, it’s not going to sit the same way unless they get a body wave. If someone’s hair is already curly, they have a good chance of it looking right. But it depends on the type of curl—because Dev’s is a very light curl, it has a nice movement to it.

A lot of men’s magazines call it “flow.”

Exactly. It just moves right.

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