Style Hair

Sunday 11 December 2016

The surprising story behind Princess Diana's iconic '90s haircut

Published 16/11/2016 | 15:19

Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana, Princess of Wales.
Princess Diana arrives at the 1994 Serpentine Gallery summer party in a Christina Stambolian frock
Diana, the Princess of Wales after arriving 17 June at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images
Princess Diana appeared on the front cover of Vogue in 1991. Credit: Vogue

Princess Diana’s hair stylist has revealed the story behind her iconic ‘90s short haircut that sent the world into overdrive.

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Sam McKnight told the Mail Online how cutting Diana’s hair short was a spontaneous decision and that he first met her in 1990, but was merely told that he was doing hair for “someone important for Vogue.”

For the shoot, he used hair clips to secure her hair into a tiara in an effort to fake a short hairstyle.

McKnight said that after the shoot, the princess asked him, “What would you do with my hair if I gave you free rein?” and he told her, “I would cut it all off.”

Princess Diana arrives at the 1994 Serpentine Gallery summer party in a Christina Stambolian frock
Princess Diana arrives at the 1994 Serpentine Gallery summer party in a Christina Stambolian frock

“She was convinced immediately,” he said.

“I cut it off there and then. I had no idea what was about to ensue.”

He highlighted how the cut soon became the style that every woman wanted: “You saw it everywhere — on the High Street, on newsreaders — it was a real counterpoint to big Eighties hair, part of a sportier, more androgynous look, but, because it was Princess Diana, it was still hugely feminine.”

As her hair stylist, McKnight spent quite a bit of time with Diana.

Diana, the Princess of Wales after arriving 17 June at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images
Diana, the Princess of Wales after arriving 17 June at the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. Photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images

“I saw Diana every week when I was in London — we’d often watch Channel 4 soap Brookside at the palace together while I was doing her hair and I went on a number of her official trips.”

He also detailed how Diana was “fascinated” with his work with supermodels and asked if she could meet Linda Evangelista and Vogue’s editor at the time, Liz Tilberis.

“I got a cafe in Knightsbridge to open specially for the meeting,” he said.

“Diana would have been mortified if she’d known, so Liz got Vogue staff to pretend to be customers.”

Princess Diana appeared on the front cover of Vogue in 1991. Credit: Vogue
Princess Diana appeared on the front cover of Vogue in 1991. Credit: Vogue

It was when he spoke to Evangelista and Tilberis that they realised one shot from the shoot earlier in the week “would make a great Vogue cover.”

“In the end, this iconic image of her in a black turtleneck with short hair, resting her chin on her hands, was the cover in December 1991. She had just stopped biting her nails and was so proud of how they looked!”

Sam McKnight shares more stories throughout his career in his new book, Hair.

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