When Kate Middleton changes her hair, it’s like the earth shakes. News travels fast, so with the royal family’s look under constant supervision, the family lives by a few key rules. Some, like the queen’s guidelines about nude nail colors, are known, while others are more unspoken (for example: keep your hairstylist close). Given that scrutiny, there’s no telling how insane the thought process must be when anyone wants to seriously change up their look—or the pressure they must face to keep it crowd-pleasing. Which makes it all the more surprising that the real story behind Princess Diana’s iconic haircut went down in just a few hours.
As Princess Diana’s former hairstylist, Sam McKnight, explains in his new book, the decision was entirely spur of the moment. Yep: If things had gone differently, the look that defined a generation wouldn’t have existed. According to US Weekly, McKnight writes in Hair by Sam McKnight that the look was born from a single Vogue cover shoot in 1990. After McKnight tucked Diana’s hair into a faux crop to work around her tiara, Diana, apparently, was intrigued. “I made her hair look short in the tiara for the shoot and she decided she liked it,” McKnight writes. “As she was leaving, Diana asked what would I do to her hair if I had free rein…. I suggested cutting it short, and she, to my surprise, agreed, and we did it there and then.”
If the thought of changing your whole look just like that sends shivers down your spine, it’s not that outlandish given Diana’s beauty approach. Her former makeup artist, Mary Greenwell, revealed that the princess was fearless about trying new things. “She loved makeup and loved experimenting. It was just much more about really getting her to look absolutely beautiful all the time,” said Greenwell.
Nevertheless, Diana knew when to keep it slow. “She was someone who was in the public eye presenting herself all the time to the public,” Greenwell said. “It isn’t particularly appropriate to go on changing your look every five seconds. She did change her makeup a bit. It’s just that it wasn’t changed dramatically.” Except for her hair that once, apparently—and what a time to make it count.