Home » This 1920s French Hood Ornament May Have Inspired Star Wars’ Princess Leia’s Iconic Hair

This 1920s French Hood Ornament May Have Inspired Star Wars’ Princess Leia’s Iconic Hair

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Generally, we don’t do a lot of hair-related stories here at the Autopian. The intersection between cars and hair is generally pretty limited, mostly relating to how to best get used motor oil out of your scalp after you accidentally keep your head too close to the drain plug when changing oil, or how Mercedes-Benz used to use boar’s hair oil filters on their cars. Maybe horsehair in seat padding, too. But I saw something recently in a 1975 issue of the wonderful and now-defunct Automobile Quarterly that got me thinking about some very well-known hair. I think you’ll see why, because this is arguably some of the most famous hair in all of pop culture.

The hair in question is Carrie Fisher’s twin-side-bialy-style hair worn when she played Princess Leia in the widly famous 1977 movie Star Wars. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’re either lying or have just been unfrozen from your cryo-pod that you entered in 1959 as part of a DARPA experiment. In that case, welcome to modernity! It’s both not as bad as you think and much, much worse!

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What I saw in this Volume 18, number 8 edition of Automobile Quarterly was this photograph of a 1920s-era mascot or hood ornament, featuring a nearly-nude dancing female figure, draped in a sheet that wraps sinuously around her as she balances, precariously, on one foot, or, really, five tip-toes.

Leia Ornament 2

But, look at the hair. If there’s anyone who doesn’t immediately think of Princess Leia, then, damn, I hope they enjoyed their Amish upbringing.

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Now, if we research a bit about the origins of Leia’s iconic hair, there are a couple of explanations, though none is really definitive. The one that seems like it would be definitive because it comes from George Lucas himself, is this one:

“In the 1977 film, 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. “

The problem with this explanation is that experts on Mexican Revolution soldaderas do not believe this sort of double-danish hair was actually worn by the women involved, and it may be that George Lucas was just coming up with something that sounded good. People who do know things about historic hairstyles have noted that unmarried Hopi Native American women of Arizona did wear their hair in a style somewhat like this; and while this style definitely resembles Princess Leia’s hair, there’s no evidence that George Lucas was aware of or used these women as an inspiration.

This copy of Automobile Quarterly came out in 1975, and Lucas started production on Star Wars in 1975 as well. Also remember the movie George Lucas made right before Star Wars was 1973’s American Graffiti, a movie that reveals Lucas’ intense interest in cars. Here, look at the trailer:

The man liked cars. A lot. All I’m wondering is what feels more likely for George Lucas to have seen sometime in 1975: old photographs of unmarried Hopi women or a copy of Automobile Quarterly? I mean, the Hopi theory is just speculation based on the visual look of the hair; is the idea that the iconic hair was based instead on an old hood ornament really any more far-fetched?

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I don’t really know how much I believe this or not, but I like to speculate. Also, I’d like to talk about the cover image on this AQ issue, too:

Aq Cover Sm

Now, the cover image’s source isn’t attributed, but it looks to me like an image drawn in the 1820s to 1830s, and I suspect it may be from the same artist/cartoonist who drew this cartoon from a British magazine of some sort (I thought it might be Punch but that publication started in 1841, and I think this is about 20 years earlier):

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The very distinctive vertical intestinal-looking tubes of what the artist imagines a steam boiler/steam engine to look like can be seen, in almost the exact same form, up there in those many steam cars in the cartoon above. So I feel pretty sure these are both the work of the same cartoonist, arguably the first cartoonist to really feature automobiles in their work.

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(Boy, am I a dummy. I had identified the artist at Henry Aiken when I wrote about this ten years ago, but I seem to have forgotten! But it’s Aiken, from a series called The Progress of Steam, Alken’s Illustration of Modern Prophecy, an 1828-1829 series that focused on the possibilities of a coming age of steam travel. The results were remarkably visionary!)

The reason I included the AQ cover cartoon is because there’s a sort of early hood ornament on the steam car there, even if there isn’t really a hood, as such:

Hood Ornament

I think the editors of AQ may have found the earliest representation of a hood ornament/mascot on a motor vehicle, or at least the depiction of one, in this image. It appears to be some sort of bird, chubby and with stubby wings. A quail, maybe?

There are other interesting details on that steam car; are those half-leaf springs arching forward there, midway up the rear wheel, and with an unconnected forward end, or are they something else? Is that a sort of throttle or gearshift the driver is holding in his hand nearest the viewer? Why isn’t that guy hanging onto the smokestack getting his forearm burned?

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Between the possible Princess Leia hair inspiration and this remarkably prescient hood ornament drawing, this old 1975 Automobile Quarterly gives and gives and gives.

 

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Hoonicus
Hoonicus
14 days ago

Clearly they are just headphones, and she is enraptured by the music.

Spaceballs!

Ben
Ben
14 days ago

The hair wasn’t the first thing I noticed in that sculpture, but to each their own. 😉

Toddyus
Toddyus
14 days ago

It looks like a cross between C3PO and Princess Leia

Chronometric
Chronometric
14 days ago

The 1920s was a Long Time Ago and France would have been Far Far Away. Please tell me that hood ornament appeared on a Galaxy.

Rafael
Rafael
15 days ago

Looks like this lady was in the middle of a strip tease and either lost balance or some asshole pushed her back. There’s no way she still has balance!
File this under “unnecessary automotive sexyness” (not unappreciated, just unnecessary and mildly confusing)

Last edited 15 days ago by Rafael
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago

Ornament Lady never skipped leg day

DriveSheSaid
DriveSheSaid
15 days ago

Help us, Obi-Wan Autopian, you’re our only hope!

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
15 days ago

But what inspired the hood ornament? Were 1920s French mascot sculptors aware of the traditional hairstyles of unmarried Hopi women? Where does the mystery end?!?

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
15 days ago

I’d say you’re onto something, and not only the hair, but he sorta copied the flowing robes a bit too, though he backed off regarding actual nudity. Why do we not know what company used this as a hood ornament?

Cerberus
Cerberus
15 days ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

Might be a custom/aftermarket—that was somewhat popular back then and they’re collectable today. I’m by no means an expert on hood ornaments, but I’m familiar with those from a number of marques and that doesn’t fit any that I can recall.

A. Barth
A. Barth
15 days ago

But according to the historical documents, the War of Stars took place “… a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”.

Clearly that means Princess Leia’s hair inspired the automotive things, not the other way around.

Last edited 15 days ago by A. Barth
Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago

The AQ cover is by Henry Alken. The original is based on the visionary idea of a driver complaining about the high cost of fuel:

https://mdl.artvee.com/sftb/917397il.jpg

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
14 days ago

I was gobsmacked when I first discovered AQ in 1965, and subscribed for many years. I’ve saved every copy including volume 13 number 3 with this illustration on the cover; the stylized 3 numerals could be mistaken for 8s. On a tangent, check out Pete Beard’s captivating YouTube channel that explores many illustrators from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their lives and their works.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
15 days ago

Can’t tell if that’s supposed to be an ornament on the cartoon steamer or a live bird (small rooster?) perched there and crowing.

In a side note: Jason, has anyone complained about replies to their comments disappearing from the list that pops up when you click the bell? For about a week now, when I click on the bell icon, the list of comments comes up per the past, but if I click on any of them, all are immediately deleted. I am taken to the comment I clicked on, but that’s it. If go back to the bell, there’s nothing there. The replies used to persist until I clicked “mark as read” or “delete comments.” Now I never get to that point as it all goes away. Not a big deal when there’s only one reply, but in cases where there are several, I only get to read one. Just wondering what’s changed? Also, why was the bell green for a few days then reverted back to black?

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I’m not at my PC but things like this are often surfaced in #suggestion-box in Discord, too. (If there’s a better venue I haven’t found it yet, and it helps keep feedback and site issues from getting lost in comments. I’ve been having the same issue for days myself)

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
15 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I’m limited to just my phone for internet and I don’t use Discord, which leaves me with, basically, one feedback channel. I appreciate your responding to my query and letting me know you’ve also experienced this and it wasn’t because of something I did wrong.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
15 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I too have experienced the disappearance of the comments under the Bil thing. I bet there’s a name for that list but anyway, whatever it is it’s disappearing both on my iPhone and on my laptop.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
15 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

We are legion.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
15 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I mentioned the bell menu bug in discord a few days ago. Idk if it’ll get it fixed, but awareness has been raised.

Kevin B
Kevin B
15 days ago

I’ve never seen Star Wars, any of them, but I married an ancestral Amish girl from Lancaster County, PA.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
15 days ago

That hood ornament is about the drop some no-can-defence shit on some poor soul

Carrercrytharis
Carrercrytharis
15 days ago

I could go for a cinnamon roll…

SCJeff
SCJeff
15 days ago

That hood ornament is inspiration for Princess Leia’s hair and Oola’s (dancing Twi’lek in Jabba’s liar) outfit.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago

“…your cryo-pod that you entered in 1959 as part of a DARPA experiment.”

Cryogenics and time travel, as it was ARPA from 1958 to 1972.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Maybe in cahoots with the time-traveling hipster Canadian from 1940?
https://i.imgur.com/hYhlyuz.jpeg

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell
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