Mythbusting Princess Leia’s Hair
For some time now, I’ve felt there’s an uncomfortable fact lurking in the corners of fandom that no one has yet brought out into open discussion, and I’ve decided it’s time we face its probably unpopular reality. I’m sorry to have to break the news to you if you’ve so far lived in blissful ignorance, but here it is: almost all, if not every one, of Princess Leia’s hairstyles are impossible to pull off in real life.
I know it’s hard to process. Perhaps you’re a young man who persists in the hope you may one day meet a nice lady proficient in foreign galactic braiding techniques. Perhaps you’re a grown woman with fond memories of bobby-pinning rolls of hair to the side of your head and a secret conviction it looked awesome. But, alas, it’s time we embrace the truth. It just doesn’t work, and I’m going to explain exactly why.
As might be expected for a young girl who watched too much Star Wars, an excessive portion of my life was once devoted to analyzing Leia’s hairstyles, and since I also, from about age 11 to age 25, had hair that almost reached my waist, I devoted even more time to trying to recreate them. Some, with the aid of pins, extra-strength gel and the patience of a Jedi, are possible to approximate, and will even stay in place if you don’t move around too much. However, given that Leia does a lot of moving around, the idea that she could successfully wear these styles on a regular basis is dubious at best.
First of all, let’s be clear that I’m partially evaluating the plausibility of these styles based on thickness and length of hair – which we know in Leia’s case because we saw it down in Return of the Jedi. Some of these might get higher plausibility points if we had seen Leia’s hair much thicker and dragging on the ground at her feet. But we didn’t. So we have to go on what we know.
Let’s start with the obvious: the buns.
These are completely implausible. There’s no visible means of support and considering this hairstyle lasts through being captured by Imperial forces, imprisoned, ineptly rescued (sorry, it’s the truth) and almost being crushed by a garbage compactor, we’re forced to conclude she could have only kept it in place with super glue. Which I hear is not all that great for hair.
It’s also not particularly flattering, especially in Leia’s younger, rounder-cheeked days. It adds width to her face. You’re a princess, don’t expect me to believe you don’t have style-conscious girl and/or gay guy friends hanging around by the armload. They should have stopped you before you went out of the palace like that in the morning.
The award ceremony.
This is where the prior knowledge of Leia’s hair comes into play. To create so many loops of braids with such consistent thickness, her hair would most likely have to reach her feet. (Hair gets thinner towards the ends, so when you braid it, the braid gets thinner as you reach the end of the hair.) But beyond that, it’s a fairly basic arrangement and it is possible she makes liberal use of fake braids or temporary extensions, especially for a formal ceremony. In this particular case, I’m skeptical, but I’ll grant limited plausibility.
I’ll admit I’ve never been able to truly figure this one out. It’s not just a simple braid wrapped around her head, but two braids wrapped and then braided into each other at the nape of the neck. It might be theoretically possible, but would seem to require a ton of time and about two handmaidens with nimble fingers. Both of which would seem to be in very short supply on a icy, hidden, rebel stronghold. So – busted.
This is the only hairstyle I was ever able to achieve with suitable accuracy. In fact, I wore my hair like this to the premiere of the prequel. (Shut up.) In case you’re interested, this is how to do it: pull your hair into a high ponytail and separate it into three sections – two larger ones on the outside, and a smaller one in the middle. Braid the larger sections and loop each one underneath. Secure with bobby pins or tuck them into the ponytail holder. Then, wrap the middle one into a bun that covers the ponytail holder and pin it. You’ll also probably need a fair amount of gel or something similar to make sure the bun stays in place (occasionally mine would threaten to unravel because it’s sitting on top of the braids). Optional: pull the wisps out by your ears. Frankly, that touch is a little too early eighties, so I don’t blame you if you skip it.
However – the length and thickness here still doesn’t match the length and thickness we see in Leia’s hair when it’s down on Endor. So while the style is doable, I still question the execution. Next!
Sigh. This is just a single braid and a hairpiece. Totally plausible. What doesn’t make sense with this is that she dashes about the galaxy fighting rebellions in completely inappropriate hairstyles and her most practical style shows up when she’s not doing anything but lounging in metal underwear with a giant slug. Maybe Jabba’s the one with sensible taste.
Endor – braids.
This is similar to the Hoth style, although it’s not exactly the same. (Trust me. I checked.) This one has even more complicated woven action going on. Same deal – technically plausible, but suspect because of the complexity factor. I don’t think there was a lot of time for primping before embarking on the super dangerous, one-chance mission to destroy the new Death Star.
Endor – loose.
And here it is, the style that undoes most of the other ones. Not only does the hair as we see it here not hold up, this style itself doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s simply a braid laid over her head like a headband. There’s no possible way it could be braided from her own hair still on her head. I suppose it could be Ewok fur. Which is totally gross.
I skipped over two more hairstyles – the simple bun she wears at the end of Empire (which, while simple, is rather small for the mass of hair the more complicated braids demand), and the braids she has dressed as the bounty hunter rescuing Han from Jabba’s, which are just knotted at her neck and have the same problem as the bun does. So, neither helps out the Leia hair plausibility factor.
The other damaging fact here is that long, thick hair is very heavy. When my hair was long, I couldn’t keep it gathered in high ponytails for a long period of time because it would literally give me headaches. And don’t even get me started on split ends or the amount of conditioner you need.
So, there it is. I’m aware there was no useful function in doing this, but now the internet, the true and rightful home of all things without useful functions, is no longer lacking a ridiculously detailed expose on the reality behind Princess Leia’s hair. You’re welcome.
Cross-posted with my blog Deliberatepixel.com.