I know what you’re thinking. “But Callie! I already spend so much prep time at LARP painting myself blue/lacing into a corset/lacing other people into corsets. I don’t have time to do anything complicated with my hair!”
Hairstyles at LARP seem to be one of the most neglected ways of expressing a character. Traffic ends up being terrible so you get to the game a bit late and the last thing you want to do is stand in the bathroom braiding. After all, you’ll just have to redo it on Saturday, right? Not necessarily. I’ve learned some basic tricks I’d like to share with you on creating (and keeping) you character’s ‘do.
1. Start Early. The exact strategy here depends on how you get to your game. If you’re coming straight from work, you might need to pick a tamer style, at least for Friday night, that you can do in the morning and go. Bonus points if it can function as a base style for additions depending on how much time you have when you get to the game!
If you have the advantage of some down time before you need to rush out the door, however, use it: pack the night before and if you wear a wig, make sure it’s styled already. That way you have time on Friday to fuss over your hair in front of your own mirror with no pressure.
2. Know Thy Hair. When designing a style for your character, you want to keep in mind what drives you nuts at the event. Hate having hair in your eyes? You probably want the front parts braided back somehow. Is it too hot to have thick or long hair loose at all? Maybe you should consider a bun.
This also applies to knowing what styles will work for your hair type. I had a friend who really, really wanted to try a waterfall braid, but her shoulder-length bouncy curls literally sprung out of the braid as soon as she stood up. My hair is just too fine to make a decent-looking bun or full braid so I have to use a hair donut, extensions, or optical illusions to get the look I want.
If I’m considering a new style for my character, I like to try wearing it around the house for a day to see what problems I’m likely to encounter. You really don’t want your bangs suddenly flying in your eyes when there’s a dragon trying to munch on your face.
3. Products Are Your Friend. This is one way you can get hairstyles to survive combat and sleep. I can’t speak for every hair type, but I have waist length super fine hair that will take any opportunity it can get to frizz out. I’ve found that Garnier Fructis’s “Sleek & Shine Anti-Humidity Smoothing Milk” really helps my and some of my friends’ hair stay neat. Hairspray is too much for me but it might work really well for you. Just be aware that in the summer, floral-smelling products will draw insects!
4. Try a Lace or French Braid. French braids involve adding hair to both sides of the braid and lace braids only add hair to one side. I can’t recommend doing this enough, especially if you want the standard half-back style. If I just take two sections from the front of my head, braid them, and tie them at the back of my head, friction from running around will make the braids and the hair behind them frizz, tangle, and generally look terrible in a few hours. However, when you braid the loose hair above the braid in, you can keep the braided back look and eliminate problems that arise from friction or the loose hair getting caught in your hood, circlet, mask, or other headpiece.
If you plan to sleep in your hairstyle, I’ve found that lace and French braids don’t tend to show it as badly as other styles might.
5. Remember Your Character’s Culture and Class. Sometimes it helps to look at fantasy movie and TV show characters and pull out styles that you think suit your character. Are there any common threads? Maybe fishtail braids scream ‘elf’ or ‘warrior’ to you. Maybe your character is nobility so you like hairstyles that suggest a crown shape. This is where you get to go nuts. Like a “Game of Thrones” style but your hair won’t do X? Or a certain style looks too ‘human’ for your elf? That’s okay! Make it your own.
I plan to do some more LARP hairstyle articles in the future, including how to ‘cheat’ when you don’t have the ideal hair thickness or length to pull off certain styles.
What kinds of LARP hairstyles would you like to learn how to do? Feel free to make a request in the comment box below!