A few weeks ago we featured a Q & A with Salon Concrete stylist Kristen Collins. She spoke about a haircut which she would love to see more from her clients: the Pixie. There seems to be strong opinions when discussing this style. We wanted to dig deeper into the origin of this haircut, and explore why it has such sartorial and political baggage.
A pixie cut is a short hairstyle which is tight in the back and sides of the head with slightly longer pieces on the top, most often with shorter bangs. The name is said to come from the resemblance to the mythical fairies with similar hairstyles (think Tinkerbell). So, why is something so chic and simple so controversial? Generally, men have always preferred women with long hair. Many traditional cultures to this day insist women keep their hair long. There is even a passage in the bible. Corinthians 11:14 reads, “if a woman has long hair, it is her glory.”
There have been many celebrities who have been credited for making this hairstyle a household name, but where did it come from?
At the turn of the century, it was still taboo for women to have short hair. It was New York artist and bohemian, Clara Tice, and her peers who began to cut their hair very short. This was first (modern day) signs of a pixie cut. They were the cool girls of New York and eventually sparked a movement because they were so influential to the rising of the “flappers.” The flappers not only copied Clara Tice’s brash and modern beliefs, but they copied the hairstyles she and and her circle wore. The flappers and this new era marked women’s new-found independence. Long hair meant being tied down to old stereotypes, while the pixie was liberation and a new era of fun and freedom. By 1920, the New York Times published an article stating short hair was no longer reserved for cool urban circles, but for everyday women too.
Despite its uprising, the pixie cut was still not easily accepted. Many hair salons refused to give short hair to women. Even Vogue was not quick to adopting to the new ways and change. Women had to go to barbershops or cut their own hair, going as far as getting prescriptions from doctors, stating they were having hair loss. Like all trends, commerce is not far behind. In 1920 there were just 5,000 hair salons across the US, but by 1924, it was an astonishing 21,000.
The pixie died down in the 30s and 40s. Traditional ideas of womanhood dominated the mainstream. The suburbs reinforced normative gender roles. In the 1950s celebrities began to break the mold and influenced America with this short hairstyle. Audrey Hepburn inspired many women with this short, gamine hairstyle in “Roman Holiday” (1953). Hepburn took it one step further a year later in “Sabrina” (1954). This time around she went even shorter with a haircut that more closely resembles what we call the Pixie today. Another prominent example from 1957 is Jean Seberg, who chopped off her long blonde hair to play “Joan of Arc.”
In the 60s, British hair stylist, Vidal Sasoon, created the 5 point cut, and then the following year gave original Supermodel, Twiggy, her famous pixie. In Hollywood, it was Mia Farrow who continued the craze. She made the pixie look fresh and innocent in Rosemary’s Baby. Rumor has it, she was styled for the film with a pair of nail scissors.
Since then, we have seen many iterations of this freeing hairstyle from the likes of Madonna, Beyonce, Emma Watson, Michelle Williams, Tilda Swinton, and Halle Berry. A who’s who of strong women, not constrained by normative gender. The pixie is an easy care-free style which can take you from day to night, daycare to nightclub.
The next time you cut your hair, consider what a pixie could do for you.
Rosemary’s baby: pastemagazine.com
Michelle WIlliams: eonline.com