Carrie Bradshaw is known for many things: longtime female friendships, column prompts, a menu of men, and that $30,000 (a modest mid-show figure) shoe collection among them. But in terms of a beauty trademark, Carrie’s iconic blonde has served as a character all its own, evolving alongside our favourite romantic throughout the Sex and the City franchise’s 25 years in the pop-culture canon.
The show premiered in 1998 with Carrie’s shoulder-skimming mane of brushed and mussed curls that felt at home against the equally dynamic Manhattan background. “[Sarah Jessica] was very into it being realistic. Before a scene would shoot, she would run her hands through her hair to get it going. That was her vibe,” says Sacha Quarles, who worked as a hairstylist during seasons two, three, and four of SATC. “I love that about her, but it was fun and interesting at the same time because as a hairstylist, you’re always trying to make it perfect. As a woman trying to live in a character, she was making it her own and making it real. That was why I think it was so amazing and relatable to the people who watched the show. It wasn’t just a magazine cover. It was beauty with a real-life feel to it.” To achieve Carrie’s trademark multidimensional texture, Quarles relied on irons of various sizes, adjusting styling as needed to best augment the cutting-edge outfits dreamed up by Patricia Fields and Parker herself.
“There’s always something about Carrie – she’s not like Charlotte, she’s not like Samantha. I would definitely say that she’s always a little undone,” says hairstylist Mandy Lyons, who worked on SATC seasons five and six as well as both films. “It was never really brushed and looking slick. It always has a messy look to it; there’s always flyaways. She gets out of bed, and she shakes her hair out – she doesn’t brush her hair.” Lyons remembers defending said flyaways, much to the chagrin of many a cameraman. “I’d be like, ‘Yeah, we’re keeping them because that’s real.’”
Though much of the show’s most memorable Carrie hair is down to ramped-up texture, occasional extensions, stylised accessories (fasteners! bandanas! headbands!), and artful messy buns, SATC saw a major moment when the dramatic bob debuted in season four. One part Aidan break-up, one part (speculated) real-life refresh, the chop (executed by Sarah Jessica Parker’s longtime stylist Serge Normant) marked a departure for viewers and stylists alike. “I came in with the short haircut, so that was kind of a big deal because before that it has always been about her long hair,” says Lyons. “I was trying to create some different textures that would work with that length.” Lyons remembers hunting down every size of curling wand she could find to create the perfect finish. “I would use a slim iron on her root to create a perm effect so it was really, really full and then create large, soft, loopy curls on the ends,” she says.
Season five saw Carrie showing her grown-out roots (“Just showing that women, you know, they have roots, they’re not perfect, and Carrie wasn’t perfect,” says Lyons), and with season six came what Lyons calls a series of Belle de Jour looks inspired by the likes of Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Rampling – but with that classic Carrie twist. “Like, really beautiful brushed-out waves but then made to look like it was really unkempt and slept on,” says Lyons, who relied on texture sprays in addition to myriad irons to achieve this feel. “We did so many different looks, we took so many chances – and that’s Carrie,” says Lyons. “It was never about playing it safe.”
Now friend and stylist Normant (who also styled Carrie’s hair for her Vogue bridal shoot in the first feature film) handles hair on the reboot And Just Like That, with cascades of blonde waves, updos, and the occasional blowout ushering the character into a sophisticated new space – edged, as always, with just the right amount of raw and real. “It’s kind of nice just to see that evolution, but it all makes sense to me,” says Normant of Carrie’s hair. “It’s the same person, and that’s what I love.”
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