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Princess Diana’s hairstylist Sam McKnight shares the story behind her era-defining cut »

“It felt weird,” hairstylist Sam McKnight says over the telephone. “But then, it was one of my first jobs after lockdown so I thought, ‘You know what? You’re thinking about this too much.’” The “weird” process in query? Recreating his former shopper Princess Diana’s hairstyle on actor Emma Corrin (who performs the late royal in the forthcoming collection of The Crown), for British Vogue’s October 2020 cowl. Having been the actual Princess Diana’s private hairstylist for seven years (from 1990 till her premature loss of life in 1997), a candid McKnight confesses he had his reservations upon listening to the temporary, however provides: “To be honest, Emma is playing Diana before I even met her, so it felt fine. We took a nod to the photos of Diana [in that period] and made a little pastiche of it.”

The outcomes are actually relatively fabulous. Voluminous, bouncy and wind-whipped, it’s a big ’do that’s wholly paying homage to Princess Diana’s fluffy locks in the ’80s. “Like Diana, Emma has a ton of hair. I set it on hot rollers and treated it as I would have done on shoots for Vogue in the ’80s,” McKnight says. “Whenever the model came into the studio in the ’80s she got big hair. Whether her hair was short, long or in between, we went big with a hot roller set, backcombing and hairspray.” His secret weapon for Corrin’s look, he says, was his Hair by Sam McKnight Modern Hairspray, which is nice for quantity, maintain, shine and end. “And it brushes out really easily, unlike the old hairsprays of the ’80s, which were like glue!”

Of course, it wasn’t this fluffy, youthful hair that finally got here to outline Princess Diana’s magnificence look—it was the cut McKnight gave the princess in 1990. The hairstylist, who met Diana on a Vogue shoot with Patrick Demarchelier and Anna Harvey, remembers a “very tall, leggy blonde bounding into the studio, and we just fell in love with her”. The well-known images from that day are simple to recall, that includes Princess Diana carrying a white costume, tiara and an enormous smile on her face. McKnight has saved the portrait in (ultra-glamorous) fridge magnet kind, to remind him of that particular time. 

“At the end of the shoot she asked me what I’d do to her hair if I could do anything I wanted, and I said, ‘Well, I’d just cut it all off and start again,’ because it was 1990. There was a sharpening up of those really maximalist silhouettes from the ’80s coming, and a much leaner, almost androgynous power dressing had appeared on the scene. I said, ‘Cut it off, get rid of the ’80s frou-frou and start again with a minimal, short haircut.’ Which is what we did.”

Indeed, it’s McKnight who Diana credited with serving to to alter the means she felt about herself in the early ’90s. “Someone sent me a television clip of her, [filmed] around the time of the Andrew Morton book, where the interviewer asked her what sparked her confidence to change in the early ’90s, and she actually said that it was Sam, who cut her hair. I melted,” McKnight says now. It is smart. Our perspective in the direction of our hair usually mirrors our perspective to ourselves, which makes the individual we belief with chopping and styling it very particular—whether or not we’re royalty or not. 

This article was initially featured on Vogue.co.uk

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