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Specifically, how did the connection between short hair and pixies form? All old pictures of pixies depict them with long, flowing hair or hats.

The oldest reference I could find was this ad in Cue: The Weekly Magazine of New York Life from 1952, which refers to Fonda Hair Stylists as the 'originator of the pixie cut'.

The Disney Peter Pan movie came out in 1953.

A lot of articles refer to Audrey Hepburn as popularizing the haircut, but I can't find any articles from the time which describe her as a 'pixie'.

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  • You need a fairy pixie. Short choppy hair. Hepburn herself was never a pixie.
    – Xanne
    Aug 3, 2020 at 20:46
  • Merriam-Webster claims that pixie has been used to mean "a usually petite vivacious woman or girl" since 1943 (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pixie). Unfortunately, that site does not offer enough details for what I'd consider a good answer.
    – Juhasz
    Aug 3, 2020 at 20:51
  • Someone answews and deleted it.
    – Xanne
    Aug 3, 2020 at 21:01
  • @DecapitatedSoul I thought you had some interesting history, if not the connection with the Disney fairy pixies.
    – Xanne
    Aug 3, 2020 at 21:09
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    I don't agree that old pictures of pixies show them with long flowing hair. The earliest book on pixies (a peep at the pixies) shows them as bald in at least one illustration and most pictures I have seen from the 1930s, 40s and 50s show them with short hair and tight pointed caps. At this time they are almost all male. The Kelloggs Rice Crispie figures Snap, Crackle and Pop seem to be this sort of pixie to me and are of that vintage.
    – BoldBen
    Aug 4, 2020 at 1:30

3 Answers 3

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With regard to the geographical and chronological origin of the term "Pixie Cut," I found this instance from "Fashion Show Features New Ideas and Styles," in the Santa Monica [California] College Corsair (April 25, 1951):

Are you looking for fresh ideas for smart styles? Some simple and economical clothes you can wear with a flair that mark the smart dresser and campus coed?

Then you'll want to see the City College Fashion Review at 11:00 next Tuesday in the City College auditorium.

You'll want to see the Pixie Cut, Fascination, Blue Nocturne, Dream Bait, and Sugar and Spice, just a few of many of the latest hair stylings which will be shown by 24 models. All of these designs are by students from the cosmetology class under the direction of Beulah Grace, of the Technical School.

Santa Monica is on the edge of Los Angeles and therefore not an unlikely place to encounter early notices about emerging style trends.

The first photo of a Pixie Cut that I've been able to find appears in an advertisement in the [Suffern, New York] Ramapo Valley Independent (May 15, 1952), and I must say that it doesn't look much like the modern-day notion of a Pixie Cut. The ad reads as follows, but you'll have to click the link to see the photo:

“The Pixie Cut"

Our Hair Style of the Month

GENE'S Barber and Beauty Shop

68 Lafayette Ave., Suf. 5-0210

An item in Earl Wilson, "It Happened Last Night," in the Indianapolis Times (February 22, 1952) credits John Fonda with "creating" a Pixie Cut being worn about town by Veronica Lake—but the accompanying photo of Ms. Lake is so shadowy that it's impossible to tell whether she is sporting the new coiffure in the picture or not. Wilson was a nationally syndicated columnist based in New York City.

It seems to me that the question "What is the [etymological] origin of the term 'pixie cut'?" is no more answerable than the equally perplexing questions "What is the [etymological] origin of 'Blue Nocturne' as a hair style?" "What is the [etymological] origin of 'Sugar and Spice' as a hair style?" and "What is the [etymological] origin of 'Dream Bait' as a hair style?"

The most likely origin of "Pixie Cut" is simple fortuity: someone like Beulah Grace (although probably not her) made up a new hair style and sought to increase its appeal by giving it a catchy name—or a name with cachet. I think it is highly unlikely that most people in 1950 shared a clear idea of what a typical pixie's haircut should look like and then a stylist tried to replicate that look. If my surmise is correct, we search in vain for an etymological answer, and every inquiry merely multiplies the questions: "Why 'Blue Nocturne' instead of "Blue Steel'?" "Why 'Fascination' instead of 'El Tigre'?" "Why 'Pixie' instead of 'Dixie'?"

In hindsight, it seems clear that people thought the name sounded cute and the haircut looked cute—and that potent combination helped "Pixie Cut" defy the odds and flourish through the decades, while "Dream Bait" and "Blue Nocturne" fell by the wayside.

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  • Note that that ad image is on the right-hand edge of the page.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 4, 2020 at 11:46
  • I guess we might never know, but I'm satisfied with the idea that the trend at the time was to make up fantastical names for new hair styles. Thanks for your effort.
    – L Mcb
    Oct 14, 2020 at 21:06
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All old pictures of pixies depict them with long, flowing hair or hats.

As there are no pixies, nobody has ever seen one, much less their hairstyle.

You may be confusing pixies and fairies - fairies are the ones with wings and flowing hair - they are mostly depicted as female.

Pixies are short-haired and mainly depicted as male. That said, most 19th and 20th century depictions of pixies were made with either, (i) tightly fitting caps with a forelock showing, (ii) similarly a long cap or (iii) with short hair:

From "Pixies in a Pond" 1046 Enid Blyton

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From All Things Hair on The Pixie Cut: A history

The flapper cut

Short hair leapt into the mainstream around the ’20s, exuding charm and magnetism (as anyone who has a soft spot for Gatsby-esque sparkles and flapper dresses will know). The party-fuelled era saw the short haircut come into popularity as a symbol of women’s newly found independence. Having long hair meant being shackled to old stereotypes of femininity while the pixie cut (and many other short hairstyles) oozed fun and freedom!

In answer to your question, the length and style of pixie's hair has little to do with the origin of the name of this style. It was simply called the Pixie Cut. Likely since it made the ladies feel daring and free, perhaps elfish. You will look in vain for little forest people sporting this fashion. They have their own fashions they do not share with others.

Again to answer the question "why was the short haircut called pixie?" The origin is from the hair style so named. The woman was called pixie because she was given a Pixie Cut. There is no more reason than that. Sorry if it seems tautological but it is like a brand name. No justification or source before it exists. No one trapped a pixie and copied its hairstyle.

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    The question is: why was the short haircut called pixi?
    – user 66974
    Aug 3, 2020 at 21:45
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    That seems rather circular.
    – Jim
    Aug 4, 2020 at 16:42
  • It is called pixie because it was given a Pixie Cut.” ? Sorry what do you mean?
    – user 66974
    Aug 4, 2020 at 16:49

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