Why Rooney Mara Has the Best Red-Carpet Hair

Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Season after season, awards-show beauty stays largely the same: Nearly everyone shows up with a variation on side-swept, wavy hair. It looks good, but it’s also safe, and it can get dull. But Rooney Mara and her hairstylist Adir Abergel rise above the red-carpet tedium with their unique takes on twists, knots, braids, and buns. The Cut talked to Abergel about why red-carpet hair should take more risks and rounded up Mara’s best and most unexpected red-carpet beauty looks in the slideshow below.

Red-carpet hair can be monotonous. It’s all Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth. For me, I grew up working with Arthur John in the 60s and 70s, doing Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, and Julie Christie’s hair. I really thought of hair as a construction, hair as sculpture.

We have a responsibility as artists to not be lazy. Hair is a craft. Get to work with this material and sculpt it into something! It doesn’t have to be all about the loose waves of this generation. I remember doing beach hair on Sienna Miller 15 years ago, when it was inspiring. But if I had to do the same thing over and over again, I would be bored.

When you’re doing a runway, you’re doing the same look on 30 different girls. It tells the story as a complete collection. But storytelling is different on the red carpet. Even though it’s the same woman, we’re telling a different story every single time, while always staying true to her essence. Unlike a model, who is there as a blank slate, this is different — there’s a soul to the person.

For the red carpet, it’s not as dramatic as it is on the runway, like, Oh, you’re going to be a ’90s girl today. But for example, with Rooney’s Alexander McQueen dress at the Golden Globes, we did a soft upper braid, connected to a lower braid. It was the concept of having severity and softness at the same time. We opened the braid and made it really fuzzy. It showed that she was a girl who had strength and softness.

At the AACTA International Awards. I was really inspired by her custom Givenchy dress. It reminded me of a flamenco dancer, but the way that it draped on the bottom felt like old school Issey Miyake. It was heavy and weighted, with shapes that felt like origami. I like the severity of the hair pulled back. It was a little Eva Peron, but with a Japanese influence. I spent five minutes in the corner, being a weirdo looking at pictures on my phone (I have 14,000 pictures on my phone) of old geishas and things. For me, that look was about showing she could take a risk. There is confidence in being different.

When I work with Kristen Stewart, it’s also about pushing the envelope. For many years, people were making fun of me, saying that her hair was super grungy, with styles that almost felt dirty. But they evoked an emotional reaction. No one was doing it at that time and now girls are trying to make their hair to look three days old with texture and beach sprays.

You have to flip the envelope. People need to see something for a long time before they start to shift consciousness. You look at the history of hair in general, and it’s been talked about in the Bible, in history books. Hair is powerful. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Why Rooney Mara Has the Best Red-Carpet Hair