From barely there manicures to surprising hair transformations, no detail in this series is accidental.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for season 4 episode 3 of Succession.
Despite what the Roys might have you believe, beauty is everything on Succession. In a billionaire circle where egos are inflated and one wrong move can make you “visually aggravating,” every detail of one’s appearance matters. And after the HBO drama shocked the world by killing off patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the stakes have never been higher. Because this one-percenter bunch doesn’t communicate well with words, much of their emotions — and power struggles — can be pinned to their grooming choices. Here, FASHION breaks down the meaning behind the hair and makeup on Succession.
Something’s off about Shiv
Dealing with a bitter divorce and a cut-throat relationship with her father, Shiv (Sarah Snook) starts off season 4 episode 3 by standing out — and not in a good way. Fittingly titled “Connor’s Wedding,” the episode sees Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv board a yacht for their eldest brother’s betrothal to escort-turned-fiancé Willa Ferreyra. Shiv’s mourning-appropriate all-black pantsuit is finished with smokey eyeshadow, stark lashes, and a dark lip. Right off the bat, this makeup-heavy choice is a dated departure from her usual barely-there glam. Then there’s the hairstyle (if we can call it that): a bob pulled into a makeshift bun with a flimsy black elastic. It’s fitting for someone rushing out the door to run errands, not a billionaire’s daytime wedding. This intentional messiness contradicts the precision of last season’s angular bob. For starters, it’s a sign that she doesn’t care about the wedding. After all, the Roy siblings have never welcomed Willa (more on that later). But it’s also an assertion of her status: so as to say, yet again, that she doesn’t have to try.
Initially, this image exemplifies defiance against her father. But once she learns about his passing, it gets sloppier, mirroring her vulnerability and uncontainable sadness. While telling her dad through sobs that she loves him over the phone, her makeup deteriorates. The same goes for her hair. By the end of the episode, her face is rimmed with flyaways, and what was once (sort of) a bun is now a limp scruffy ponytail. Shiv looks more lost than ever.
Willa’s blonde ambition
In Succession season 1, Willa (Justine Lupe) is written off by the rest of the family as an accessory, not a person. Introduced as an escort that Connor (Alan Ruck) sees regularly, she’s an aspiring playwright in a strictly transactional relationship. Her auburn blonde hair passes as natural and doesn’t demand monthly touch-ups. It also allows her to blend into the background, so as to not take up space in the already-tense family dynamic.
But as her relationship with Connor progresses, she infuses lighter shades in her strawberry-blonde locks. By season 4, Willa’s hair is a cool blonde, rich with highlights and dimension: no doubt an expensive salon transformation that requires regular upkeep. Ultimately, it signifies that Willa has mastered her role in the Roy family game. She loves Connor in her own tepid way, she doesn’t get involved in the cut-throat sibling bickering, and she’s willfully oblivious to what happens around her (not unlike a certain White Lotus character). Ignorance is bliss when you have great hair!
As she and Connor forge ahead with their wedding despite the news of Logan’s death in episode 3, she dons a loosely tousled half-up hairdo that flies breezily in her face. It’s a hairstyle that looks effortless but indeed takes a lot of work, fitting for her new full-time role as a billionaire family member. This brings us to our next point.
Naomi Pierce’s billionaire mullet
Ah, the pricey, labour-intensive shag. A true nepo baby cut! Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) is part of an adjacent billionaire legacy media family. Though not technically a main character, her fine-tuned stealth wealth aesthetic has made her easily the most stylish figure on the show. In season 4, she debuts a blonde mullet that is somehow undoubtedly “billionaire chic.” Full of contrasting lowlights and a face-framing fringe, it’s messy, and that’s the point. The same goes for her previous (viral) hairstyle: a bob never quite symmetrically styled. Pierce looks like she doesn’t own a hairbrush, and it’s a decidedly high-fashion oeuvre. Such are the perks of being a part of the one per cent.
In Succession, nails are yet another extension of status. Buffed, bare, colourless talons are the manicure equivalent of quiet luxury. As a minimalist blink-and-you-miss-it adornment, Shiv’s semi-transparent polish exemplifies her ongoing efforts to be a boss and to de-femme in a male-dominated corporate environment.
Though nails on the show are seldom popping with colour, each one-percenter must stay subtly manicured as a measure of being taken seriously. Case in point: In season 2, as the family embarks on a shoe-less yachting expedition, cousin Greg worriedly asks, “What if your toenails are not all that aesthetically pleasing?” to which Kendall responds, “Sails out, nails out, bro.”
Step one in being a gazillionaire: having impeccably groomed cuticles at all times.