The ultimate analysis of where Princess Leia’s buns came from

Written by Belle Beth Cooper on February 22, 2013

Even if you’ve never seen Star Wars (I hear there are some such strange folk in the world), there’s almost no chance that you’ve escaped all of the famous franchise’s iconography, especially if you live in a Western country.

One of the most recognizable icons of the film series is the side-bun hairstyle of Princess Leia. Of course, George Lucas himself has been asked about his inspiration for what is now one of the most well-known hairstyles in SciFi culture (and probably in film culture itself).

Lucas’s explanation on record is that Leia’s hair is “a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look,” but Michael Heilemann of Kitbashed isn’t convinced that there was a single origin for the idea.

To begin with, a picture of Pancho Villa for those who don’t remember his iconic moustache and bun-less look:

Of course, Pancho Villa was a male revolutionary, so it’s not too surprising to find a lack of cinnamon buns on his head. What about female revolutionaries from Mexico? Let’s take a wander through Google’s image smorgasbord…

This image is titled ‘Brave woman,’ and there’s no doubt that she look brave… but does she look anything like Princess Leia?

Hey, look: we’ve got a bit of a pattern going on here. Bullets, weapons, hats… and no cinnamon buns.

Judging by the historical images Michael collected, this pattern seems to be fairly prevalent among images from the Mexican revolution. So Lucas was either making up the inspiration for Leia’s hair, or a tad confused. Since all of our ideas come from the experiences we collect over time, it’s fair to say that Lucas may have forgotten the places his ideas sprang from.

So with no cinnamon buns to be found on the Mexican battlefield, we move on to a common argument for the inspiration behind Leia’s hair: the ‘squashed blossom’ hairstyle of Hopi women.

The image below, titled A Hopiland Beauty, is often quoted as an example.

This Native American hairstyle was reserved for unmarried Hope maidens, and created with the help of wooden discs.

Though the Hope buns are not braided and sit further off the head than Leia’s, the Hopi maiden statue below shows a very similar style to what Leia ended up with, so perhaps there is merit to this theory.

Finally, Michael points out some film and comic book influences that seem to be likely causes of inspiration for the iconic ‘do. Lucas was known to be highly influenced by comic books in other areas, so this theory seems to hold up fairly well.

The 1955 Second World War film, The Dambusters was a clear influence in other areas like battle scenes and the ‘moral framework’ of Star Wars. Interestingly, Leia’s hair may have also been inspired by this film, as you can clearly see the resemblance in the stills below:


Moving on to comic books, these images of Batgirl bear a striking resemblance to our Princess-in-question:

And finally, Flash Gordon character Queen Fria:

Although the illustrations of Queen Fria show an extra braided bun at the back of her head, Lucas’s appreciation of Flash Gordon makes her a likely candidate for the inspiration of Leia’s cinnamon buns.

Of course, whether we pinpoint exactly where Lucas got his inspiration from or not (assuming he even remembers it clearly), we can unquestionably agree that the result is an iconic image of the twentieth century that we won’t forget in a hurry.

And in case you’re wondering, Jen over at Skepchick has the lowdown on how realistic each of Leia’s hairstyles actually are. Because you’re about to go try your own cinnamon buns right now, aren’t you? Of course you are.

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About the Author

Belle Beth Cooper

Belle is a co-founder of Melbourne startup Hello Code, creators of Exist—a personal analytics platform that helps you find work/life balance.

  • Terry Lynn Madeleine Dillon

    Possibly they are Mexican Revolutionary, but he remembered it from an obscure source, still unknown. The Flash Gordon, Queen Fria sealed the deal. Why do I think I remember historical photographs of Mexican women with this hairstyle?

  • VonDan

    The hair as seen in the 40’smovie, Flash Gordon, Batman and on Princess Ozma of OZ and some period movies was called “Cogs”, that was trendy in the 1900’s to 1930’s. The more modern women of the times did not have hair long enough to make the large cogs and extra volume was achieved with rags stuffed inside. A woman with hair past her bottom or to her feet could make full “Buns” just from two thick braids.

  • Stephanie Battle Ingram

    My mother Dec 1970.

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