Carrie Fisher's Iconic Leia Hair: The Original Space Buns, Explained

In 1977, "Star Wars" hit the silver screen and took the sci-fi/action-adventure genre to a whole new level. A huge part of its success was actor Carrie Fisher, who became an international superstar based on her performance as Princess Leia in the franchise. When we first meet her in the movie, she's sporting an iconic hairstyle that would become a cultural touchstone for decades to come. The hairstyle in question (as if we even need to spell it out, you already know!): The two buns on either side of her head.


In her later years, Fisher loved to joke about the legendary hairstyle that would forever be associated with her and Princess Leia. In 2015, she called her Leia buns a "hair don't, instead of a hair do," per Yahoo. During a Q&A at the 2015 Star Wars Celebration, she added that the hairstyle actually felt like a form of torture for beauty's sake. "It took two hours to do that hairstyle. I would come in at [five] in the morning, before anybody. I would come in plain and end up looking pretty. Pretty weird!" (via Entertainment Weekly).

How did this iconic hair look come to be? It turns out the idea is part history, part homage, and its legacy is still felt today.

George Lucas paid homage to the women of the Mexican Revolution

In 2015, Carrie Fisher's mother, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds from "Singin' In the Rain" fame, said during her SAG lifetime achievement award acceptance speech, "'I'd warned my daughter Carrie who'd just gotten a part in a picture, Princess Leia in 'Star Wars' and I said 'Carrie be careful of any weird hairdos.' So luckily, George [Lucas] gave her two buns. Thank you, George," via E! News.


Yes, that "weird hairdo" was the brainchild of "Star Wars" director and creator Lucas, and according to him, it was inspired by the freedom-fighting women of history. In 2002, while speaking with TIME, Lucas recalled how he came up with the idea for Princess Leia's buns. "I was working very hard to create something different that wasn't fashion, so I went with a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico," he said.

We love the idea of basing Princess Leia's style off of historically bad-AF women, but according to Tabea Linhard, author of "Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War," it doesn't jive with history. "As much as I would like to say that Princess Leia's hairstyle was based on the 'soldaderas' from the Mexican Revolution, this was probably not the case," Linhard said to the BBC. So was Lucas mistaken about the time period? Was the iconic pop culture hairstyle found elsewhere in history?


Women wore these buns at different times in history

So if the Pancho Villa women of Mexico didn't sport the iconic Princess Leia earmuff hairdo, can we find examples of this style elsewhere in history? Contributor at Frock Flicks — a website dedicated to costume accuracy — Kendra Van Cleave believes so, telling the BBC that we can find examples of this hairstyle worn by the women of the Arizona Hopi tribe. "This [hairstyle] consists of two side arrangements which aren't actually buns — they're more loops of hair," Van Cleave explained, calling the buns the "most obvious" inspiration for Leia's 'do.


Elsewhere, if we go across the ocean to Spain, there is a 2,500-year-old example of a similar hairstyle — the fifth-century B.C.E. sculpture, "Lady of Elche." The bust of this woman, who might have been a high priestess or a goddess, is depicted with almost identical buns on either side of her head. And at first glance, it does look like her buns are little Millennium Falcons!

Then we see the hairstyle pop up again in the Roaring '20s, according to Van Cleave. "This hairstyle became more widely known in the early 20th century due to photography," she tells the BBC, and looking at pictures of jazz-era flappers, we can see an "earphones" style that is almost exactly like Leia's.

Carrie Fisher wanted to bring back the bun 'hair-don't'

Princess Leia's hairstyle definitely evolved during the "Star Wars" franchise, and after "A New Hope," we actually never saw Leia sport her famous buns again. Two buns became one in "Return of the Jedi" and we saw variations of her bun in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Force Awakens." Despite her original vocal opposition to the earmuff buns, actor Carrie Fisher eventually warmed to the idea of bringing them back.


In 2014, when it was announced that Fisher would return to the franchise, the actor said that she wanted the buns altered for the fact that she was older now. "I've begged them to put the hair back on in grey and just catch me cooking with the hair, like Granny Leia," she joked at the Hay Festival in Wales (via Games Radar). Alas, the "Granny" buns were not to be. By 2015, Fisher warned they wouldn't make an appearance in "The Force Awakens." "The buns are tired now so no you're not going to have the futuristic buns," she said at the Star Wars Celebration (via Digital Spy).

Why the change of heart over the buns? We can only suspect that, after almost 40 years, Fisher had grown to love her iconic counterpart. She told Time Out in 2014, "I am Leia and Leia is me. We've overlapped each other because my life has been so cartoony or superhero-like. By this age, it would be ridiculous if I had a problem with it."


The Princess Leia buns legacy is still felt today

Tragically, Carrie Fisher died in 2016 at the age of 60, and so it is highly unlikely that the franchise will recast her role should more "Star Wars" movies ever come out. However, that doesn't mean her iconic earmuff buns have also disappeared. To this day, we can still feel Princess Leia's fashion legacy influencing celebs' hairstyles in new and untold ways. In 2015, "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens attended a red carpet sporting two buns on either side of her head; a look that Glamour reported gave off "serious Princess Leia vibes." That same year, at the premiere of "The Force Awakens," several major celebs walked the red carpet wearing their own modern and reimagined versions of the Princess Leia bun. E! News published photos from the red carpet, showing Sofia Vergara, Lupita Nyong'o, and model Karrueche Tran all rocking the two-bun Leia look. 


Even stars who are known for their own signature style have traded up to the Leia buns on occasion, even when there's no red carpet in sight. Singer Ariana Grande is known for her iconic ponytail, but she has often said "Thank U, Next" to the 'tail and opted instead for her "space buns." Of course, "space buns" is just code for "Leia buns!" While we're low-key obsessed with the earmuff buns, we'd be remiss not to mention modern-but-reverent updates like a trendy looped bun for styling shorter hair and easy bun hairstyles no matter your length. We hope this hair trend never goes out of fashion.