The hidden messages behind 'Riverdale' beauty looks

The hair and makeup looks on <em>Riverdale</em> have a deeper meaning than you probably realized. (Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW/Everett)
The hair and makeup looks on Riverdale have a deeper meaning than you probably realized. (Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW/Everett)

We can sum up the CW’s Riverdale in four words: Archie Comics, but sexy. With its combo of Gossip Girl glam and Twin Peaks noir, Riverdale has launched a group of newcomers (and their fame sherpa, Cole Sprouse) into the spotlight. The cast’s youthful good looks are more than a small part of what’s turned this show into a hit — so it makes sense that makeup and hair help define each character.

According to the cast, fans should look for beauty hints within the show. Seemingly simple decisions like a ponytail or a nail polish shade help convey both the show’s direction and characters’ mental states. Break out your magnifying glass and get prepared to freeze-frame, because just like a glam version of the Black Hood’s cypher, Riverdale is sending us hidden messages.

Whether high or low, Betty Cooper’s ponytail tells a lot about what she’s feeling. (Photo: Everett)
Whether high or low, Betty Cooper’s ponytail tells a lot about what she’s feeling. (Photo: Everett)

Betty Cooper’s ponytail

Perky, blond Betty Cooper’s beauty trademark is a high ponytail that looks way too tight. But if you want a clue into how the character is feeling, Lili Reinhart suggests that fans pay close attention to her ponytail. “Definitely as Betty evolves, and whatever she’s going through in her personal life, it’s seen on her hair. The ponytail is looser this season and not as slicked back and tight,” Reinhart told Glamour

Try tracking Betty’s ponytail through Episode 5, when she starts receiving phone calls from a serial killer. “It was important to me that by the end of the episode, Betty’s hair was completely down, just because that perky girl-next-door façade was gone and faded and hollowed out,” says Reinhart. “That’s why I had a low pony and a low bun in that episode, because she wasn’t putting in any effort into her appearance. She obviously had bigger fish to fry in the moment.”

Betty shows off her dark side with a dark wig, naturally. (Photo: The CW)
Betty shows off her dark side with a dark wig, naturally. (Photo: The CW)

The ‘Dark Betty’ wig

Betty’s hair is such a part of her personality that sometimes she just needs to cover it up. Twice, she’s thrown on a black angled bob wig over her own long blond hair. The implication is obvious: The wig replaces her girl-next-door persona with a darker, less controlled Betty. Reinhart didn’t get to choose the wig herself, she told Vulture, which makes sense because chances are, there aren’t too many wig shops in Riverdale. “But I’m sure Betty didn’t have too many options, either. I’m sure she went into a costume store and bought it without too much thought,” she said.

Read Cheryl Blossom’s matte red lips for hidden messages. (Photo: The CW)
Read Cheryl Blossom’s matte red lips for hidden messages. (Photo: The CW)

Cheryl Blossom’s lipstick 

The devious Blossom family is always dressed in red, even if it requires a mind-numbing amount of red wigs (ahem, Clifford Blossom). Daughter Cheryl is almost never without her trademark red lips, whether she’s at cheer practice or setting her own home on fire. But as Madelaine Petsch explained to Refinery29, the red lips may disappear as Cheryl distances herself from her family’s evildoing.

“I feel like that’s a part of an identity she hasn’t really clung to because her parents were so awful to her and she lost the one person who loved her,” she said. “My interpretation of the red is that this is something her family has forced on her for a long time, that red is the color she always has to be wearing.” Note for anyone looking to copy Cheryl’s makeup: Her favorite red is Lime Crime’s Matte Velvetine in Red Velvet.

There’s more to Cheryl’s matchy-matchy red mani. (Photo: The CW)
There’s more to Cheryl’s matchy-matchy red mani. (Photo: The CW)

Cheryl’s nail polish

Even with her eye-catching red lipstick, Riverdale makeup artists think deeper about Cheryl’s beauty look. Petsch’s nails have deepened to a wine red, which is all part of her character’s transformation. “I’m wearing darker nails right now, because Cheryl is going through a darker period of time,” Petsch revealed to Refinery29“It’s tiny details like that that our makeup artists think of. We show motifs and emotions through the way she looks.”

Vampy nails complement Veronica Lodge’s attitude. (Photo: The CW)
Vampy nails complement Veronica Lodge’s attitude. (Photo: The CW)

Veronica Lodge’s nail polish

The women of Riverdale are apparently all getting their manicures on the South Side. Camila Mendes wears purple or jewel-toned nails to signify her character’s descent into darkness. “Her nails throughout the season are always Malaga Wine. Malaga Wine from OPI and that’s the nail color I’ll always have for as long as we’re shooting,” Mendes told E! News.The dark colors, for me, speak to Veronica’s mysterious darkness, and her being from a dark family that’s full of secrets. She’s always been a bolder character with the full brow and the dark lips and the perfect, polished hair. She’s very sleek.”

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW/Everett
Photo: Katie Yu/The CW/Everett

Josie’s Pussycat braids

Josie and her band members typically roam the halls of Riverdale High in matching cat-ear headbands. But even when the Pussycats break up, Josie can’t keep herself from representing the kitty cat style. She performs in blue-tinged double braided buns that evoke her trademark cat ears and remind everyone who the real band members are, without selling out her girls.

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