By Rory Satran 

AFTER WATCHING Season 4 of "The Crown" this week, Kirsten Morry copied Princess Diana's '80-era haircut. The 29-year-old legal information officer in St. Johns, Newfoundland, compared the feathered coif to the Koh-i-Noor diamond: "controversial, practically unwearable, possibly cursed -- yet also brilliant, sparkling, an adornment to the crown." She didn't quite have the nerve to pull off the chop in real life, so her imitation was limited to Animal Crossing. In the video game, Ms. Morry's avatar tops her beige-blonde bob with a tiara.

The People's Princess has finally arrived on Netflix's series about the royal family, and the People are excited. Diana Spencer's appeal has always been linked to her fashion, and fans are having a field day dissecting the impeccably recreated costumes as worn by Emma Corrin in the role of the young royal. But some viewers, like Ms. Morry, are drawing inspiration from a source that hasn't been mined for decades: Diana's hairstyle. In the last four weeks, queries on visual search engine Pinterest for "princess diana hair" were up 44% from the previous month.

During the princess's lifetime "the Diana" was ubiquitous -- first in its fluffy '80s incarnation and then in its sleeker '90s form. It's been a while since women have gone to the salon clutching photos of Diana. And the style remains divisive: Those watching "The Crown" have recently compared it on social media to a mushroom, a golden retriever and the meteorologist Ken Barlow.

Could the renewed interest in the late Princess Diana finally revive this anachronistic, challenging hairstyle?

Even before "The Crown" returned, women were flirting with the idea of short, bleached Diana-ish cuts. Kristen Stewart, who's slated to play the former Princess of Wales in an upcoming biopic, has sported a punk version of the Diana 'do for a while now. Miley Cyrus, Zendaya and Cara Delevingne have all put their spins on the light-and-short look. Tory Burch sent models down her spring 2020 runway with a Diana-inspired puff at the crown. Sam McKnight, the hair stylist who gave Princess Diana her streamlined cut in 1990, told me that there's definitely a trend toward shorter hair at the moment, attributing it to boredom with long hair, and a renewed interest in Diana and the '80s in general.

Princess Diana's hairstyle was always challenging, even for her. A 1989 article in Vogue spends a full paragraph enumerating the negative headlines about it. One highlight: "Too Full -- Dynasty Di Has Been Influenced By Watching Too Many American Soaps." The story goes on to quote hair stylist John Sahag as saying, "Her hair often looks contrived, too big for her delicate features." Mr. McKnight's famous cut, as immortalized in photos by Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino, would rectify that pouffiness somewhat, but her hair still wasn't easily imitable in the way that Kate Middleton's basic, center-parted look is. That didn't stop women from trying: During Diana's heyday hairdressers around the world used step-by-step diagrams to replicate it. Chances are, you know a woman who had a Diana 'do in the '80s or early '90s.

So how does one update a look that Ms. Morry of Newfoundland described as "preserved in amber"? For a 2018 issue of French Vogue, Alasdair McLellan photographed the model Edie Campbell as a fresh, cool version of the pre-wedding Princess Diana. Aleksandra Woroniecka, the shoot's stylist, admitted that such an iconic look was a "very difficult thing to play with." Although Ms. Campbell's mullet wasn't far from Diana's, the team ended up using a wig to approximate the style. The shoot's hair stylist, Anthony Turner, called Princess Diana's hair "sacred." He said, "I just think generally it's not a done thing for someone to say they want to look like lady Diana more out of respect...She owned that hair and always will." He suggested that those interested in trying the style might "touch on irony but merge it with a current, more modern edge."

Mr. McKnight, the princess's hair stylist, agrees that the style must be modified to work today. "I think you can be inspired by things from the past but it's not really about copying them, otherwise it looks like a pastiche," he said on a call from his home in London. "When it comes to the real world I see young people doing just a flicked fringe with the bangs or taking one element of it...They may do it, but it might be pink, which would really modernize it," he continued.

Amy Schiappa, the owner of Fringe Salon in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said that young women had been coming in recently asking for modernized versions of early-Diana hairdos. "Without even watching 'The Crown' I think it's just in the collective consciousness," she said. One of her clients is Rachel Tashjian, 31, a staff writer at GQ in New York and a devoted if irreverent Princess Diana disciple. As a high schooler in Delaware, she brought a 1997 book of Mario Testino's photographs of the princess to her salon to achieve her first Diana-inspired chop. Today, she describes her bleached hair as a mix of the princess and Tilda Swinton. And worn unkempt with avant-garde designers like Marine Serre and Yohji Yamamoto, it looks fresh. Although Princess Diana required a full-time hairdresser to keep her locks groomed, Ms. Tashjian said, "I don't even own a blowdryer."

Even if you don't commit to blow drying it every day, the Diana 'do is pretty radical. Going very short and very light is in keeping with the Covid-era move toward hair experimentation. "It seems like a moment to have a challenging or unusual haircut," said Ms. Tashjian.

"I have an opportunity to grow it out if it doesn't work," said Katie Johantgen, who alighted on Diana's swoop while watching "The Crown." At 28, the New York-based actress is the same age her mother was when she got her own Princess Diana cut. Normally, as a theater actress she wouldn't be free to change her look so drastically, but with Broadway at a standstill due to Covid, it might be the perfect time.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2020 08:15 ET (13:15 GMT)

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