The first time I watched Rosemary’s Baby I turned to my mom and said, “I want her haircut.” And I got it. To be fair, I lacked the lithe elegance of Mia Farrow and still had some baby fat, so the result was not quite what I hoped. But when I was in my mid twenties I once again decided to go for the chop, and feel that it was a pretty great decision.
While it has become legend that Roman Polanski wanted a big physical transformation for Mia’s character in Rosemary’s Baby, the hapless young woman who finds herself carrying and birthing Satan’s spawn; this story is just that: legend. Vidal Sassoon was not especially flown to the set at an enormous cost to chop Mia’s long blonde strands off, but rather to trim what was already short.
The scenes in the beginning of the film where Mia’s hair is in a fringed bob, was achieved by her wearing a wig. And while the pixie cut did indeed accentuate the change the character experiences and her vulnerability, it was not the doing of some great hairdresser or a planned decision.
Two years before, when Mia was still starring on the popular TV show Peyton Place, she decided that she wanted a change and cut her own hair off. This perhaps explains why Mia’s pixie was so blunt and almost jagged in the front. And also why it was so short. In an interesting exchange between Mia’s young, wheelchair bound character and her doctor, who clearly has more than just a professional interest in his young patient, she explains why she cut her hair. She almost taunts him with the fact that she’s no longer a little girl, and that her hair signifies that.
Vogue dubbed Mia a “Breakaway type” meaning that she had no care for the social mores that dictated that women should have long hair or dress a certain way.
Her looks are all Breakaway—the slender length of throat, rash haircut, pierced ears, and something lithe and vulnerable about her shoulders.[..] “This is the way she happens to look; her hair happens to be short because that’s the way she wants it now.
What the iconography of Mia’s hair shows is that women’s appearances have long been dictated by what men want. In Peyton Place and Rosemary’s Baby, men react negatively to Mia’s hairstyle. Her doctor accuses her of not wanting to be herself anymore, and her husband says that she looks like a boy. It’s the fact that short hair on women seems to signal a step into male territory, and men are discomforted by this. In the 60’s and for part of the 70’s, Mia occupied an androgynous space, and this made many women feel liberated to make a change, to rebel in some way. Mia’s haircut is still seen as a sign of utter change, of shrugging off social norms. The fact that another myth that cropped up was Frank Sinatra purportedly threatening to divorce Mia over her cropped hair, shows that short hair on women was, and still is, a big no no.
But Mia’s pixie has lived on. As Grazia points out:
Mia Farrow has a look so iconic, that her name is mentioned pretty much every time a celebrity gets a short haircut.
Whether criticised or praised, this hairdo has had a massive pop culture impact, with current female celebrities still cropping their hair like Mia did over fifty years ago. The pixie, whether a direct homage to Mia, or a riff on that iconic crop, is definitely here (hair) to stay.