Karl Lagerfeld: This story is hidden behind her iconic ponytail


Karl Lagerfeld is instantly recognizable by his iconic ponytail, but why did he choose this hairstyle?

The theme for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2023 Costume Show and Gala is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” and when it comes to Lagerfeld’s aesthetic, it’s obviously hard to ignore her iconic ponytail. From a purely visual point of view, Karl Lagerfeld became the Karl Lagerfeld we know today in the 70s, when he started sporting his low ponytail. Because although he initially wore it for practical reasons, it has become an indispensable part of his appearance.

Karl Lagerfeld was famous for his iconic ponytail

Karl Lagerfeld at work in Chloé’s Paris studio.

Photo: Getty Images

According to Karl Lagerfeld’s longtime colleague and SVP of Image and Communications Caroline Lebar, the ponytail only originated as a convenient way for him to keep his tresses from falling in his face. But it has developed into a kind of marketing tool. In the 1980s, when Lagerfeld was considering a slight change in his style, a member of Elizabeth Arden’s communications team (with whom Lagerfeld worked on Karl Lagerfeld’s KL perfume) told him that future campaigns could be disadvantaged if when the ponytail would no longer wear. “I remember him saying to me, ‘Can you imagine what he said to me? I can’t change my hairstyle for the rest of my life?'” she recalls Lebar.

The Lagerfeld braid is reminiscent of this historic hairstyle

After getting over the shock, however, Lagerfeld seemed to like her low ponytail more and more. Rachael Gibson (aka The Hair Historian) likens it to the 18th century braid, a medium-length ponytail worn by most men, including the military, where it was mandatory until the 19th century.

“This braid was usually worn with a bow, which is what Karl did,” Gibson says. “The distinctive white finish also seemed to allude to the historical use of hair powder, used by most people in the 18th century. While hair powder came in a variety of shades, white was considered the most popular shade for convey a stately, sophisticated look to achieve the finish.”

Karl’s ponytail had this undesirable side effect

Hairstylist and collaborator Sam McKnight notes that the aforementioned finish to Lagerfeld’s hairdo, however, came with a few unintended side effects. “After her hair went gray, he liked to spray it with white dry shampoo à la Marie Antoinette, and I always had to pat it on the shoulders of her jacket when he was photographed,” says McKnight. “When I tossed my dry shampoo I made it colorless, but he obviously didn’t want that, so he stayed with the old white stuff!”

Lagerfeld has used his ponytail as a means of branding

Ultimately, Lagerfeld’s ponytail is a good lesson in branding. “Karl was a very skilled and intuitive painter who understood the importance of a silhouette, just like Warhol,” says McKnight. “He knew the silhouette of her hair was instantly recognizable, like many of the perennial cultural icons that have etched themselves into our memories: Elvis, Monroe, Einstein, Marie Antoinette, Queen Elizabeth. With that low ponytail, she ensured her iconic status.”

This article originally appeared on Vogue.com

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