How to do Zaraki Kenpachi’s Hair

I had intended to post this yesterday but my computer shut down and my almost-finished post got eaten. Noooo!

Very well then. Today, I would like to present a cost-effective easy(ish) way to execute Kenpachi’s crazyass hair. He’s the favourite character of many Bleach fans but the ‘do is something that often stymies anyone wanting to cosplay the guy. Through my experimentation, frustration, and multiple tries, I managed to come up with a way to do his hairstyle in a way that is relatively simple and involves only materials that are cheap and easy to find.

I’ll also share with you the process of creation and discovering what works and what doesn’t. The hairpiece I currently have works but I intend to re-make it with some improvements. I’ll tell you what these will be and why I will make the alterations in question. In addition, I will talk about Kenpachi’s eyepatch and how I made that.

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Look like something you’d like to try? Well read on then!

MATERIALS:

  • A dark-coloured bandana and a couple different colours of chalk to draw on it.
  • A large piece of bristol board.
  • A yardstick/metre stick and a tape measure like this.
  • Scissors.
  • Duct tape.
  • Floral wire. (Or other thick-ish crafting wire. Like this. NOT like this.)
  • Wire clippers.
  • A black stretchy cloth headband like this.
  • White glue.
  • A paintbrush about an inch wide. (Larger or smaller will work but might annoy you.)
  • Hair glue. (Optional. I used Got 2b Glued.)
  • 2-3 long straight black synthetic wigs OR 1 such wig and several wefts or wig extensions of the same colour. (Colour does not have to be an exact match but it helps. Don’t buy expensive wigs. You’re going to be ruining them after all!)
  • Black, waterproof spraypaint. (I used Tremclad Black Gloss.)
  • 11 tiny red jingle bells. (If they’re not red, paint them.)
  • Black thread and a sewing needle.
  • A black wig cap.
  • A couple dozen contoured hair clips like this.
  • A couple small black hair elastics. (If the person’s hair is long enough to be gathered in such a way. If not, don’t worry about this.)
  • A bald cap.
  • Liquid latex and a spongy brush to apply it with.
  • Cream foundation that matches your skin tone.
  • Black eyeliner.
  • Spirit gum.
  • Black fabric. (You’ll need 3 strips about 40cm in length 3ish cm wide plus the patch for the eye. I used black denim from some old jeans.)
  • Velcro strips.
  • A pillow to scream into. (Just kidding … kind of.)

MAXIMUM TOTAL COST: 103.00 CAD

That’s budgeting for 3 wigs at 10 dollar apiece and assuming I had none of these items on hand already. If you purchase your wigs at a dollar store around Halloween, you can knock 30 bucks off the price. I already had a wig, scissors, a metre stick, glue, paintbrushes, liquid latex, foundation, etc and you will probably have a good chunk of these items so it’s very unlikely you’ll pay a full 103.00 bucks for this.

Alright! Let’s get down to business. First: Put the bandana on the head of the person you’re fitting for the hairpiece.

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The blue zigzag is where Kenpachi’s hairline would sit on a real person’s head. The red line is where my wife’s hairline actually is. It’s important to mark both of these hairlines for applying the section of bald-cap in the front later. Unless, of course, your model is bald or keen on shaving their hairline back a few inches. Renji cosplayers know this pain as well.

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Next, we take that bandana off and draw the two hairlines onto the bristol board. Colour coding really helps keep things from getting confusing.

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Now we find the seam in the stretchy headband and cut it there. Spread it out on your bristol board and line it up with where Kenpachi’s hairline goes back the deepest. Draw ONLY 7 of the hair spikes onto the bristol board. The other four spikes will be made with a second wig because they come from behind Kenpachi’s ears and point somewhat downward.

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Secure the headband to the bristol board frame and lay your first length of floral wire along one of the side spikes. In this iteration, I did not extend the wire down into the hairline thinking that it would make it more difficult to secure the hairline spikes to the forehead. In reality, the bristol board wanted to pop up and remain straight rather than following the curve of the forehead. So, in my next version, I will extend the floral wire down into the forehead spikes as well and permanently curve them flush with the wearer’s head so that they will be easier to spirit gum to the face.

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Cover the whole of the wired spike with duct tape. This will lend structural integrity to the frame.

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Place the next wire along the opposite spike and do the same as the first one. We alternate sides for putting on the wires because the wires must pass over each other in the middle and we don’t want one side to bump up higher than the other.

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Continue wiring the spikes and covering the entire frame in duct tape.

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Try the frame on the head of the person to be fitted and bend the wires to follow the shape of their skull. Bend the spikes so that they stick out at the appropriate angles.

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Now you can either butcher one of your wigs (like I did) or use a selection of wefts or hair extensions. Divide the sections of hair so that you have enough to cover BOTH SIDES of all seven spikes.

Mix 2 parts glue with 1 part water (standard paper mache mix) and paint it onto one of the spikes from hairline to tip. Place one of the sections of hair onto the glued portion of the frame and proceed to paint more glue over top of it, smoothing and shifting the hairs into place for maximum coverage with your fingers. If the hair is misbehaving and not staying where you want it, try using some of those contoured hair clips to hold it in place while you apply the glue.

If some of the frame is showing between hair fibres, do not be concerned. It will all be black when we’re done with it and no one will be able to tell. Follow the Ten Foot Rule (coined by my mum-in-law as she made figure skating costumes). People at a convention are very probably only going to be snapping photos of you from about 10 feet away and they will not be able to detect most of the flaws that you see in your own work. That’s not to say not to pay attention to details. I’m all about the details! Just don’t go crazy about the need to be perfect.

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Here is the front part of the hairpiece all glued in place. You may need to add another coat, especially to wrangle the stray hairs around the tips in place. You will also need to trim the bits that hang off but only do this once it’s dry or you will gum up your scissors. Only worry about putting the hair on one side at a time.

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Here it is on my balcony. It’s on my balcony because I’m spraying the living shit out of it with Tremclad rust paint. This is for two reasons: 1. To ensure that the entire hairpiece is a glossy, uniform black and 2. To protect the glue from being compromised should the heavens open up and rain on you.

Do NOT spray rust paint while it’s on the person’s head. It is not supposed to go on your skin though it’s perfectly fine to wear once it’s dry.

Once the rust paint has cured completely, go ahead and do the same to the back as you did to the front, only don’t bother covering the back side of the hairline. You’ll need to spirit gum that portion to the wearer’s forehead and the hairs will just impede that process. Anything from the headband forward will be resting against the head and thus not able to be seen so don’t waste your synthetic hair on it.

Once the back is all nice and rust-painted and cured, sew the head band back together where you cut it and be sure to use strong thread and a double line of stitching so it doesn’t come apart with the tension you’re going to put on it getting it on and off.

Now for the bald-cap.

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Put a wig-cap on the wearer making sure all the hair is nice and tucked inside. The contour clips I mentioned above I find are the most comfortable clips to use in securing the hair because they curve with the skull and when closed they lay flat unlike bobby pins that stick out all over the place and poke awkwardly into your head.

Here, I have traced the hairline into the wig cap. Don’t bother doing this. Here’s why: I did not realize that the cap, stretched out like this, will not remain stretched when trimmed. Also, I want to point out that you should cover a good portion of the person’s forehead so that it can come down over the eyebrows. Why? Kenpachi has no eyebrows and putting liquid latex straight over body hair is very nasty when pulling it off. So definitely try on the bald cap, give lots of room in the front. Mark where the hairline is so you know where you want to trim it and take it off again. When you trim it, be sure to add some slits in the back so you’re able to adjust the “skin” between the spikes of Kenpachi’s hairline. You don’t want any wrinkles there after all. You can use spirit gum or liquid latex to fix the piece of bald cap to the back of the headpiece. I used liquid latex. If you do as well, be sure to let it cure overnight.

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The width and length of the latex piece that you affix to the hair piece will depend on the size of the wearer’s forehead. When the latex piece has cured properly to the back of the hairpiece, try it on the wearer’s head and spirit gum the latex in place where it should be. Now, pour some liquid latex into a small lidded container such as a pill bottle and put a couple of drops of foundation makeup into it.

There are three things you must note here: 1. The foundation has a tendency, when mixed with liquid latex, to become darker than your actual skin tone when dry. This is why you want to only use a couple of drops for every tablespoon of liquid latex you’re working with. 2. Liquid latex has a tendency to dry and cure FAST. This is why you want a container with a lid on it in case you’re interrupted by anything. If you walk away from the latex for a minute, it will be dried and you’ll have to mix it all over again. 3. Liquid latex is only good for up to a year. You should throw it out after about 10 months or so after opening it.

Take your little spongy brush and dab a thin layer of liquid latex over the whole of the section of bald cap that is showing. Wait for it to dry and add another and so on and so forth until you have a nice skin-like surface. Once it’s fully dried, you can remove it from the person’s head, taking care not to tear the latex. If it does tear, don’t panic. Just repair it with more coloured latex, or at the very worst, you still have some sections of bald cap left to re-do that.

The rest of the process is quite simple. Put the wig cap on, put the untouched black wig onto the wearer’s head. Chop up the back of it with scissors as Kenpachi’s hair is very rough and ragged. Divide the hair of your trimmed wig into four sections and spike it outward and down from the wearer’s head. I found that the hair glue wasn’t quite enough to make it hold its shape and probably should have used some actual glue or wiring to help it do so but it held fine for the first day without needing to be re-styled.

Sew the bells onto the tips of the spikes. Some of my bells came off so you might want to try using some wire and punching it into the actual frame.

Once you have both wigs on (with the hair piece over top of the styled wig of course), you can attach the eye patch. The eye patch is quite easy to make. I will show you my design.

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Three straps and one patch. Measure the eye socket and draw the shape of Kenpachi’s eye patch onto some black fabric. The leg of an old pair of black jeans served me just fine. Make sure you have the RIGHT eye, not the left. You can bend some of the floral wire around the edge of the eye patch and sew it there to add some stability to the piece.

Measure around the head where the straps go diagonally around Kenpachi’s head and give yourself about 4 extra inches to work with. This is needed to accommodate the hair piece and make sure there’s enough overlap for the velcro to adhere properly. Attach the diagonal straps first, then measure around the side of the head to where they meet to make the third strap.

Once you’ve got the velcro sewn on the ends of the straps and everything is all nicely trimmed to the length it should be, you can poke a hole through the hair piece’s frame, being CAREFUL with the wearer’s head, and flex the scissor blades until you have a hole large enough for the top strap to fit through.

Position the eyepatch over the eye, secure the straps, perhaps touch up the hairline a little with some eyeliner and draw on Kenpachi’s scar aaaaand BAM! You’re done!

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Don’t forget the crazy smile.

Some other adjustments for the next version of this costume piece will be to affix the wig in the back to the front hair piece so they can be put on at the same time. While the eye patch strap covers the side of the head band that holds the hair piece on on the right side, it does not cover the left side so I was obliged to sew a bang-piece to cover the black fabric. It likely wouldn’t have been noticed except up close but I was being picky. I will probably cover that properly with a weft and style it into the back wig when I make this piece again.

Hopefully this will help you with your own cosplay endeavours. And always remember: When the going gets tough, FUCK IT! DUCT TAPE!

Author: Ethan Kincaid

Ethan Kincaid was born in 1985 in Brockville, a sleepy little town on the St. Lawrence River. He graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a degree in Linguistics and a minor in Japanese Language. After finishing his education, he settled down there with his wife Kaitlyn and became a full-time writer. In 2011, he moved to Montreal and discovered its vibrant writing culture. In 2015, Ethan moved to Helsinki, Finland with his wife; he works as a props crafter and part time author. His first book, Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy is the first of a new fantasy trilogy. The greatest joy in his life lies in helping budding writers find their voices. In his words: "I like to shake people until cool stuff comes out!"

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