The Reason Princess Diana Cut Her Hair Short — from the Man Who Chopped It!

Behind every amazing head of hair is an amazing pair of scissors.

Princess Diana
Photo: Tim Graham/Getty

Behind every amazing head of hair is an amazing pair of scissors. And the scissors behind Princess Diana’s iconic short haircut in the early ‘90s belonged to legendary hairstylist Sam McKnight.

In his new book, Hair by Sam McKnight, the Scottish-born hairstylist opens about about styling the royal’s famous locks.

When photographer Patrick Demarchelier was asked to shoot Diana for British Vogue in 1990, he requested to bring in his own hair and makeup team.

“Mary Greenwell and I were told it was someone important, but we had no idea who,” McKnight writes. “We guessed it might be Margaret Thatcher, and then in walked Diana.”

Hair by Sam McKnight
Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency/Getty

“I made her hair look short in the tiara for the shoot and she decided she liked it,” he continues. “As she was leaving Diana asked, if I had free reign what would I do to her hair.

“I suggested cutting it short and she, to my surprise, agreed, and we did it there and then.”

The two formed an immediate bond and McKnight began seeing Diana every week when he was in London.

“I would go in the morning to do her hair, and then sometimes go back in the evening if she had a function.

Princess Diana
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“We’d watch [the British soap opera] Brookside together while I styled her hair. Sometimes her beloved boys would be there and I would cut their hair, too. I remember Prince William responded in glee when I put gel in his hair for the first time.”

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McKnight is also responsible for Diana’s famous slicked-back look.

Princess Diana
Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

“I loved Diana looking more spontaneous,” he writes. “She even looked great coming out of the gym with freshly showered hair. During one partiular portrait we worked on, Lord Snowdon had the inspired idea to photograph her with wet hair. I first tired slicking her hair back in a private shoot and she looked incredibly chic.

“Even though she was a bit nervous, she was still open to new ideas regarding her look. So for the Council of Fashion Designers Awards in New York, we decided she would try it out in public — the flowing day the front pages spoke volumes.”

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