Before Beyoncé, before Carey Mulligan, before Mia Wasikowska, the pixie cut was birthed by American-born Queen of French New Wave cinema, Jean Seberg. Androgynous and effortlessly chic, she adopted a menswear-inspired aesthetic that exuded innocence and charm and spearheaded the sweater-style of the decade.
Seberg wore Breton stripes, oversized layers and rolled-up denim. Staple pieces included oatmeal knit jumpers, peter-pan collars and woollen cardigans, worn with an easy nonchalance which was both alluringly elegant and utterly adorable. Her iconic New York Herald Tribune T-shirt worn in Jean-Luc Goddard’s Breathless was recreated by Rodarte in 2010 for the film’s anniversary, underpinning its position as a sartorial cult classic. A pioneer of Nouvelle Vague cinema, Seberg starred in a number of influential and iconic New Wave films, including Bonjour Tristesse and La Recréation, where she was famously subjected to on-set abuse by her violent husband, director François Moreuil.
"Androgynous and effortlessly chic, Seberg adopted a menswear-inspired aesthetic that exuded innocence and charm"
That is the thing with Seberg. Underneath her playful button-ups, stripes and colourful roll-necks, all of which suggest a child-like innocence, there is a tragic note. A thread of sadness slips through her boyish collars and ribbon-bows. Like so many of her time, she was a fatality of the 1960s, exploited and abused by the men that she chose to trust. She was boycotted and defamed for her involvement in equality and human rights movements until she eventually took her own life in 1971 aged 40, leaving behind her a legacy of defiant beauty, spun through a haircut that would inspire a generation.
A restored version of Bonjour Tristesse (1958) is released today at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas nationwide.
Text by Mhairi Graham