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Deliberatepixel / Mythbusting Princess Leia's Hair

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.

Leia and her 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, you had to have had style-conscious advisors 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.

Leia at 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.


Leia on Hoth

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.


Leia at Bespin

Leia at Bespin

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!

Jabba’s palace.

Slave Leia

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.

Leia on Endor with 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.

Leia on Endor with loose hair

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 Skepchick.



Lisa · 16 July, 04:28 PM · #

Dude, the circle bun around the head, Angela on The Office also does this. but hers is more realistic in thickness

acwright09 · 31 July, 07:12 PM · #

all of these are possible with about tailbone length hair. none of it would be heavy, and of course there is no visible means of support; if you’ve ever had your hair done or seen anyone get her hair done you never see the pins if its done right. you’ve obviously never worked with long hair because i can guarantee these are all possible. they only one that wouldn’t look exactly right is her ceremony hair.

Jen · 3 August, 09:52 AM · #

You’ve obviously never spent any time on the internet because I can guarantee you don’t realize this is supposed to be a joke.

Chris · 29 December, 04:50 PM · #

Brilliant, thank heavens. Wonderful read!

Lynn · 9 January, 05:28 AM · #

Kinda dashed my halloween hope, but not your fault. Well… Technically… Nevermind. I found this because I was bored and trying to find her hoth hairstyle. This is well written. Thanks!

The Naked Redhead · 4 May, 10:19 AM · #

Brilliant! I’ve always wondered about these hairstyles myself. Also brilliant? Your response to the wang above. :)

Karolina · 9 May, 04:07 AM · #

Loved this post! Actually, if you translate my name and last name into English you get Carrie Fisher, so I’ve been destined to try some of these (yes, I’m Leia at most dress-up parties). BTW You can achieve a great hairstyle resembling the buns if you use socks for extra volume. Trust me;)

Faith · 12 May, 09:11 AM · #

Hahahaha, this is brilliant.

I have never cut my hair, and it reaches all the way to the bottom of my back (where it stopped and has been content to stay since college).

Star Wars fans used to glee over my hair and say, “You can do Leia hairstyles for real!”

To which I’d wistfully respond more or less with the details of this post. ;-)

awasky · 12 May, 01:12 PM · #

In high school, I had hair long enough to sit on, so I of course tried the Leia hairstyles. I wore my hair in the buns once, but here are the problems:
1) They act like mufflers—you can’t hear anything.
2) They flap. Because they’re only pinned on about half their circumfrence, they flap on the side of your head when you move.
3) Because of the pinning and the weight, they slowly pull themselves out over the course of the day.

I did try the braid wrapped over the head thing, but even with waist-length hair, there’s not enough length to wrap around the head and make a bun at the end.

And the style on Endor always bothered me SO MUCH. Neither end of the braid is attached to her head!

GroovFlowr · 4 June, 07:53 AM · #

I’ve had the right colour/length hair since Middle School (I graduated High School in 1998.). Raised on “Star Wars”, of course I’ve tried most of these. And it’s possible to get close, but you’re right: the fact is that Carrie Fisher had much shorter hair in real life and these are all wigs and/or other hairpieces, a fact that none of my “Star Wars” fan friends wanted to hear from the only woman who could be Leia for them. And, don’t misunderstand me, I have my fanboy moments where I want to be Leia, but I’m the one with the hair that knows the reality of what’s involved. (I think the loose style on Endor bugged me more than anything with that headband braid piece…)

DeductiveReasoner · 20 February, 08:23 PM · #

The headband one is possible. It’s a french braid done sideways across the head. Been doing it since I was a kid.

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Shelby · 3 September, 10:13 PM · #

The Hoth hair was the only one that made sense. If you pull your hair back, ponytail it with two smaller pieces left out on either side, braid all three (1 big one to wrap around the head and the smaller 2 to weave at the base of the neck) then voila! The do is done. It’s Swedish.

Lucas was an anthropologist, ever hairstyle and dress referenced back to different culture’s brides. He got carried away big time in the prequels, obviously. Why would you dress as a Russian bride going ‘undercover’? Silly.

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