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Hairstyle of the Year: Bradley Cooper’s American Hustle Perm

From Christian Bale’s magnificent comb-over to Jeremy Renner’s killer pompadour, David O. Russell’s American Hustle has no shortage of inspiring ‘70s-era hairstyles. But one stands out from the pack: Bradley Cooper’s shimmering ringlets. We’re so impressed with the look that we’re dubbing it the best hairstyle of 2013. (Of course, Timberlake’s new do’ comes in at a close second.) We spoke to the mastermind hairstylist behind the disco curls, Lori McCoy-Bell. She gave us the rundown on where the curls came from, how they were achieved, and how regular guys can get them at home.

BB Man: Your CV is packed with great films, from The Big Lebowski to Iron Man 2. What have been some of your greatest challenges as a hair stylist?

McCoy-Bell: I've worked on military films where you have 300 clipper cuts to do for the background—and only an hour to do them. The most challenging to me is having your actor or actress wear a wig for a whole film and the audience not be aware of it. American Hustle asked a little bit of everything for me as a artist—a demanding schedule, an incredible cast of actors willing to drastically alter their looks, wigs, fun ‘70s styles. It’s the film I'm most proud of.

BB Man: How did you arrive at the perm Cooper sports in the film? Can you describe the daily ritual of perfecting it?

McCoy-Bell: When we were testing different sizes for the curls I always did it in a "water set" because we didn't want to chemically change the structure of his hair. First we used bigger orange rollers. Then we went tighter each test until we decided on the size curl we liked the best. However, the tinier the rod, the more perm rods we had to put in. When all was said and done we had nearly 100 rollers set every day of the shoot. It took me 45 minutes to roll his hair and then another 50 minutes under the hooded dryer. Then 15 minutes to remove the rollers and set the style for the day. The time he spent in hair and makeup every morning was 3 hours.

BB Man: Is it possible for guys to get this look at home themselves?

McCoy-Bell: It might be best to visit your local beauty salon to try this look, but if you’re up to the challenge of rolling your own hair, all you need is perm rollers, setting gel, and end papers. Take small sections of hair the size of the perm rod about 1/4 inch thick and smooth the hair around the rod using the end paper. Remember: Always pull straight out from the angle of your head, and roll them tight. When completely dry all you need to do is unwrap the hair and use your fingers to place curls how you like them. The biggest challenge is not being able to see the back of your head. To make it last, use hairspray to help hold the style in. And don't get it wet. Wind and rain are not your friend with this style. If you’re tempted to keep it for a few days, try wearing a net or cap at night when you sleep.

Photo: Atlas Entertainment

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