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I've seen the shaved head with a pony tail hairstyle in some cartoons and video games. Examples:
Are these hairstyles "historically accurate"? Are they based upon a certain culture / history or were they something just thought of by their respective authors?
Of course this hair style is found in a cartoon and thus not really bound to any reality either historically or as mart pointed out in comments physical reality:
I envy the sheer volume of hair these toons must have, to have such full ponytails with mostly shaved heads! - mart
Where does this hairstyle originate from?
an easy answer: From a childish fantasy. (Note that 'childish' is not an insult here but an ethological concept. )
Therefore, I struggle to read any "It's a… " as correct. Top knot is just a generic description and there are many similar ones now. (List for aficionados)
But if we want to list inspirations for that from real history then we might want to include the
the Khokhol, or osedelet
Manchu warrior style
a korean sangtu similar to a Chinese touji and popular for Göktürks and other Altai people like Mongols historically popular variations
Given the most likely place these shows are actually drawn onto film, it stands as well to reason to suspect the origin in Let's trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle.
An acceptable example:
Those most commonly associated with almost fanatical shaving were of course the ancient Egyptians, sometimes going bald, with whigs or ponytails still popular in that general vicinity: And of course, Minoans never missed a trend
This style is found around the entire world and throughout much of histoy and even before that.
It might be argued that iron age Irish also found a liking to that general style: from the so called Clonycavan Man "the hair of Clonycavan man (Ireland) is shaved at the front and then piled high, set with imported resin"
Some Suebian knots, or Viking or Frankish styles
An Aztec quachichictli as seen on screen with Mayas
Other native American trends like those often associated with Mohicans, Wyandot and Mohawks
This might indicate some connection to "warrior culture", as the style is also repeated in many helmet designs. From Roman Galeas over Avars: to more familiar ones: or an English variant
But interestingly, this top knot/ponytail plume style seems to be quite absent from Japanese helmet designs that mainly use Tatemono. So there are quite a few connections to "warrior", and quite popular through the ages in Asiatic warriors, it is apparently just not that typical for Japanese warriors to shave their heads in the style of "sides bare, top knot up and extending". Apart from budo traditions with the style called chonmage mentioned elsewhere, shaving the head completely has some distinct characteristics: The meaning of shaving head in Japan. But it was for quite a while tradition to shave just the part that's so prominent in the question: the crown.
And then there are of course the almighty fashion gods
The Undercut Bun Aka The Top Knot
the Romford facelift similar to the Croydon facelift as well.
Again, the cartoons, whether in the anime style or what else the other one example is (bulbous blob style?), are not historically accurate, by definition. If we insist on the earliest use of this hairstyle, then it's probably pre-history:
But even this remains speculation:
The topknot is many things; an easy option on a bad hair day, a signature look of the street-style star or what the zeitgeist is now calling the man bun. But few really know the long and storied past of what essentially is a lazy bun. The true origin of it is unknown, but the hairstyle was surely created before Jared Leto and stems across many cultures. So the next time you're feeling trendy in the hairstyle du jour, remember this 'do has roots.
A Telling History of the Topknot-From Samurai to Man Buns
In the case of Zuko from the first picture, it is probably adequate to assume that this hair style is meant not so much as cultural representation from or allusion to any real history, but that his temporary top knot is more "like a visual expression of his character development" and apart from the possible status and aggressive connotations conveys as much as "that the top knot represents rigidity and restriction".
In anime top knot characters are just a thing:
Anime Hair: A catch-all term used for anime, manga and other cartoon and comic characters with bizarre, improbable, or just plain goofy-looking hairstyles. Usually, the most important characters of the story will have wild spikes or a cool-looking hairdo in order to stand out among the crowd. It also helps to create a distinctive silhouette that will stand out in branding, media, and merchandise. It may be one or more different colors that don't appear naturally in real humans (blue is a popular choice).
Similar for the second example:
Quetches are maybe the most uninteresting species. [… ] These creatures are little humanoids with an olive-shaped head and a pony tail growing right on top.
They are even less interpretable, as they are all just designed the way they are.
If anyone wants to read a deeper meaning into wearing topknots: The symbolism and meaning of the top knot and the origin of the practice of wearing top knots
It is a pity that the source of this question is so incredibly modern:
Ideas as to what constitutes attractive or appropriate hair have varied throughout the ages. As a result of the survey, religion and social status might be considered to be the two predominant factors that have influenced hairstyle throughout history. However, in Western societies, religion has lost importance, and political and social changes are gradually leveling the differences between social classes. In both Western and Non-European cultures, globalization and mass media are reducing the differences between nations, especially amongst young people. In modern-day societies tending to democracy and westernization, individuality is the prevailing feature of the hairstyle. Since art, sculpture, portraiture, and painting in the classical sense have disappeared, hairstyles in modern society are reflected mainly in products of the film and beauty industries, on television, and all sorts of celebrities and stars.
Norbert Haas: "Hair over the Ages and in Art - The Culture, and Social History of Hair and its Depiction in Art", in: David A. Whitting & Ulrike Blume-Peytavi & Antonella Tosti & Ralph M. Trüeb: "Hair Growth and Disorders", Springer: Berlin, Heidelberg, 2008, p 536.
It's a chonmage, or Samurai top knot.
It was restricted to Samurai during the Japanese Edo Period, and was prohibited following the Meiji Restoration.
However the top knots worn by modern celebrities, ostensibly based on the Samurai tradition, are more often resembling those worn by Western European barbarians of the early Medieval Period. As described by historian Paul the Deacon in the 8th Century:
they uncovered the flesh of their heads by shaving all around the neck, sides, and back of the head until the nuchal zone. The hair on the top, left long, was parted in the middle and hung down to the corners of their mouths.
As Wikipedia puts it: "This perfectly describes the modern western top knot as it appears untied."
Where Do Dreadlocks Come From?
In the ongoing debate about cultural appropriation, dreadlocks, dreads, locs, or whatever you call them, are making headlines. Do they belong to one specific culture? Where do they come from? Here, we provide some background.
A quick search about the origins of dreadlocks will yield several hits from different sources, but all point to one common conclusion: Dreadlocks have been around for ages in countless civilizations and among several distinct peoples. It is certain that earlier civilizations didn’t have all the hairstyling gear and products we now possess, and were most likely roaming around with matted hair, regardless of their origin or race.
In ancient Greece for example, some of the earliest depictions of dreads date back to 3600 BC. Indeed, frescoes uncovered in Crete, birthplace of the Minoan civilization, and in Thera (modern-day Santorini) show individuals with long braided hairstyles.
In ancient Egypt, bas-reliefs and other artefacts have been found to show Egyptians donning braided hairstyles (and even wigs). Furthermore, the first archaeological evidence of dreadlocks comes from there, where mummies have been discovered sporting dreadlocks still in good shape.
Thanks to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism which date back as far as 1500 BC, dreadlocks were also known in India, where Hindu God Shiva is described as wearing dreadlocks or “jata” in Sanskrit.
As such, many civilizations in Asia Minor, Caucasus, the Near East, East Mediterranean and North Africa have been depicted wearing locked hairstyles during the Iron and Bronze Ages.
Historians have uncovered Roman accounts stating that the Celts wore their hair “like snakes” and that several Germanic tribes and Vikings were known to wear dreadlocks. The Aborigines and native populations of New Guinea have been sporting the style for centuries now, and dreads are also been worn around Africa, notably by the Maasai, the Ashanti, the Galla, and the Fulani tribes.
But perhaps the most frequent example of our modern times is music legend and fervent Rastafarian Bob Marley, who most likely popularized the style through his music. In the Rastafari movement, dreads, inspired by the Nazarites of the Bible, mark a covenant with God, since combs, razors and scissors are believed to be an invention of Babylon, which refers to Western (read white) society.
Today we see a worldwide trend of locs, which has sparked the debate on cultural appropriation, a term often misused. While it would be presumptuous to say that dreadlocks belong to one particular culture, as a quick research shows, it is certain that the cultural appropriation advocates respond in this way given the many times that hairstyles typically worn by African-Americans are seen “unprofessional” or “dirty” on them but are considered “cool” on others, whether it is worn as a political statement, due to spiritual conviction or simply as a fashion statement.
If you have dreadlocks or are considering trying out this way of wearing your hair, the best thing you can do is know the reason why you are wearing them, so that the day someone asks you why you have them, you can say what they mean to you.
The Mullet Wasn't Just An '80s Thing: Rebels Have Rocked It for Centuries
The bi-level. The Kentucky waterfall. The Missouri compromise. Hockey hair. No matter what it’s called, there’s more to the mullet than just light beer, Camaros and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The short-long hair style, popularized in the 1980s, has a surprisingly proud history and has been sported by rebels and respected leaders alike.
While literature’s first mullet mention may have come from the ancient Greek poet Homer—in The Iliad, he described the Abantes, a group of spearmen, as wearing “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs,”—the term “mullet” wasn’t actually coined until 1994, thanks to the Beastie Boys’ song “Mullet Head.” The Oxford English Dictionary credits the hip-hop group as the first to use “mullet” to describe the high-low cut that’s long been described as 𠇋usiness up front and a party in the back.”
The mullet’s practical, adaptable shape has given it centuries-long staying power. It likely helped early peoples keep their necks warm and dry, according to Alan Henderson in his book Mullet Madness, a history of the look. Warriors with the style were harder to grab during battle and could fight without the frustration of hair in their eyes. Helmets fit better with a short-on-top do.
Ancient Romans on chariots, with long hair in the back. (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)
In ancient Rome, the “Hun cut” was an early bi-level style sported by young wealthy bands of hooligans in the 6th century B.C., many of whom, not unlike today’s soccer fans, supported differing factions in one of the popular sports of the day: chariot races. They harassed the citizenry while styled like Rome’s worst enemies: the fierce nomadic horsemen who terrorized the empire and helped hasten its fall. “The hair on their heads they cut off in front back to the temples,” wrote the 6th-century Greek-Byzantine scholar Procopius in his Secret History, “leaving the part behind to hang down to a very great length in a senseless fashion.” The effect was likely strange and shocking, says author Gordon Doherty, whose history-based Legionary series is set in the 4th-century Roman empire.
In the late 18th century, Ben Franklin used his “skullet” to help charm France into drastically increasing its financial and diplomatic support of America in the new nation’s earliest days. Despite his own intellectual, cosmopolitan background, Franklin cannily played the role of a rough-hewn, new-world sage—shocking the French courts with his plain, unpowdered hair at a time when status was measured in finery and tall, powdered wigs brushed the roofs of nobles’ carriages. (He also donned a simple brown suit for meeting the king instead of draping himself in silk and medals.) His savvy marketing promoted modesty and equality while rejecting the excess of France’s waning, out-of-touch monarchist class. His ideas𠅊nd styles—would later find takers among French revolutionaries.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, circa 1880. (Credit: MPI/Getty Images)
During the 1800s, Chief Joseph and members of his Nez Perce tribe kept their long traditional hairstyle with spiky bangs in front, braids at the side and waterfall in back, despite pressure from missionaries to adopt the close-cropped fashion of the time. Long hair carried spiritual weight with the Nez Perce, and Joseph’s refusal showed there wasn’t just one way for Americans to look or act, says Daniel Sharfstein, author of Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard and the Nez Perce War. Joseph’s hair, says Sharfstein, “showed the power of political protest and moral witness” at a time when his people were fiercely fighting against forced relocation from their homeland.
Fast forward to the early 1970s, when David Bowie’s iconic orange mullet—part of his “Ziggy Stardust” personame a defining look for a difficult decade marked by Watergate, the gas crisis and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. His radical androgynous style, which combined what were traditionally seen as male (short) and female (long) elements, not only “pushed the margins of hair and dress,” according to hair historian Janet Stephens it challenged ideas on identity and gender boundaries. He first rocked the cut in 1972, the same year of his coming-out press conference, during which he declared himself and fellow glam rocker Lou Reed to be signs of cultural decline: 𠇊ny society that allows people like Lou and me to become rampant is pretty well lost. We’re both pretty mixed-up, paranoid people, absolute walking messes. If we’re the spearhead of anything, we’re not necessarily the spearhead of anything good.”
How Did Different Hair Types Come To Be?iStock/lprogressman
Even the lack of categorization for hair types is telling. Contrary to what your shampoo bottle may say, there is no real classification system for different hair types. At least not yet.
“Most mammals have straight hair. Only human hair [in African and Melanesian populations] has this tightly coiled configuration. We tend to talk about hair as straight, wavy, curly, in some cases frizzy,” Lasisi says. “But it’s as if we were trying to do genetic studies on height saying, there are short people, medium people, and tall people, now find what genes are related to that.”
In other words, before she could even attempt to answer the question of which genes control the texture and color of hair, Lasisi had to figure out a system for defining those hair textures and colors. Lasisi set about creating a classification system that she eventually hopes to publish, which relies on microscopic analysis of curl radius and measuring precise amounts of melanin in the hair. She then tried to answer the first of many questions: Whether tightly coiled African hair evolved in response to the hot environment. While that research is still ongoing, she says the results may indicate something counterintuitive—the thicker the hair, the better insulator it is from heat.
The History of Dreadlocks
When many folks think of dreadlocks, the drama that unfolded between Zendaya and Giuliana Rancic probably comes to mind. For those who need a quick refresher, Zendaya chose to rock faux locs on the red carpet at the Oscars last year. The Cover Girl adorned her locs with beads and wore a sophisticated Vivienne Westwood gown. Rancic suggested the following day on “Fashion Police” that the then 18-year-old’s hair probably smelled of “patchouli” and “weed.” Rancic later apologized on air for her seemingly racist remarks.
On Sept. 15, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it’s nondiscriminatory to ban locs in the workplace. That same day, Marc Jacobs was accused of cultural appropriation when his mostly white models walked the runway wearing pastel-colored locs during New York Fashion Week. The message was clear: Dreadlocks are not welcome unless the person wearing them is white.
The late Bob Marley introduced the hairstyle into mainstream culture in the ‘70s with Whoopi Goldberg further popularizing the look in the ‘80s. Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz proudly rocked theirs in the ‘90s. Toni Morrison and Alice Walker have worn them for as long as we can remember.
The natural hair movement helped set off a resurgence in locs in recent years with Ava Duvernay, Ledisi, Willow and Jaden Smith, Chloe x Halle, and The Weeknd all making locs part of their signature look.
Over the decades, locs have become associated with all things Jamaica to the point where most people think Jamaicans invented locs, but written evidence suggests otherwise.
Dating as far back as 2500 B.C., The Vedas, Hinduism’s oldest scriptures, depict the Hindu God Shiva wearing locs or “jaTaa” in the Sanskrit language, according to Dr. Bert Ashe’s book, Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles.
Ancient Egyptian pharaohs also wore locs, which appeared on tomb carvings, drawings and other artifacts. Thousands of years later, mummified bodies have been recovered with their locs still intact.
“Dreadlocks can be traced to just about every civilization in history,” says Chimere Faulk, an Atlanta-based natural hair stylist and owner of Dr. Locs. “No matter the race, you will find a connection to having dreadlocks for spiritual reasons.”
The Old Testament even tells the story of Samson, who lost his strength once his locs were shaved off. In Kenya, Maasai warriors are known to spend hours perfecting their famous red locs.
So, how did locs become synonymous with Jamaica?
Jamaican political leader, journalist and trailblazer Marcus Garvey is often credited as the founder of the Rastafari Movement, an Africa-centered religion and lifestyle, that started in the ‘30s. Garvey preached Black empowerment and advocated for Blacks to return to Africa.
“The Rastafari Movement based its philosophies on Garvey’s teachings, as well as the Abrahamic covenant in the Bible,” says Stephanie Freeman, professor and director of the Arts and Humanities program at North Carolina Central University. “Garvey said, ‘Look to Africa where a Black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer.’”
“Although Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I did not seem to consider himself a God, many Rastafarians believed he was a biblically sanctioned God and was even the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Freeman continues. “In the Bible, Jesus will return as the Lion of Judah, so Rastafarians wore dreadlocks to symbolize a lion’s mane and the return of a powerful leader.”
Today the preferred name for dreadlocks is locs due to dread’s negative connotation. They can be created several ways however, the comb twist method is among the most popular. “Starting with the roots, you twist the hair with a comb in a spiraling motion until it forms a coil,” Faulk explains.
On average, the locking process takes three to six months with comb twisting. After about two years, locs become “mature.” This term is used to describe the hair when it’s completely locked with a rope-like appearance.
Different textures, Faulk says, play a role in how long the hair will take to lock with curly and course hair locking quicker than straight hair. Dread perming accelerates the locking process for straight hair by giving it “texture,” but the process can be damaging if not done properly. Salt water also makes the hair lock faster, but it should not be sprayed directly onto the scalp to avoid itching. Wax is acceptable if used sparingly on dry locs, but tightening gel is a better alternative since it’s easier to rinse out.
How you rock your ras (another term for locs) is up to you, but newbies should know there are different types of locs that produce different results.
Created by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell in 1993, sisterlocks resemble micro braids and are typically worn by women. Brotherlocks, on the other hand, are slightly thicker than sisterlocks and usually seen on men.
Much thicker than sisterlocks and brotherlocks, traditional locs feel heavier, but they also require less upkeep. Freeform locs are created by simply washing and not combing one’s hair. Over time, the hair becomes matted, creating an untamed look similar to Bob Marley’s locs.
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“Locs can be braided, twisted, curled, pinned up into rolls and buns, cut and colored,” says Simone Hylton, a Florida-based loctician and owner of Natural Trendsetters Salon. The only thing you can’t do? Comb ‘em except during the removal process.
“The number of styling options for locs is only limited by the person wearing them,” Faulk adds.
Best created on clean, unrelaxed hair, locs should be shampooed and conditioned regularly contrary to popular belief. Although locs are low maintenance, they still require proper care and attention. Re-twisting is essential for keeping your locs looking “neat,” but doing so too often can lead to thinning and breakage. Faulk suggests re-twisting locs every six to eight weeks using your fingers or palms.
Wrapping your locs every night in a silk or satin scarf keeps them looking fresh and prevents them from attracting lint and other debris. The easiest way to remove locs is to cut them off. They can be combed out, but the process can span over several hours or days. Not to mention, a significant amount of hair loss may occur.
“The most important tip is patience because, like every journey, it takes time to reach the destination and locs are no exception,” says Keisha Felix, a natural hair vlogger, who’s been rocking locs for the past six years. “The first few months of my loc journey were the toughest.”
Dreads have always been worn to make a statement. For many, they’re spiritual and they symbolize the letting go of material possessions. For others, they’re political and a way to rebel against conformity and the status quo. Some just like the way they look. And that’s OK, too.
What’s not OK? The way mainstream media perceives dreads when they appear on white versus Black folks. It’s upsetting how Giuliana Rancic equated Zendaya’s locs with smelling like weed and oil, but deemed Kylie Jenner’s locs as “edgy.”
Spoiler alert: Every person with dreads is not a smoker who listens to Reggae music, contrary to popular (and foolish) belief. Similarly, you don’t have to be Rasta to wear locs and not wearing locs certainly doesn’t make someone less Rasta. Locs are not dirty, and they’re not something that should be feared. They’re beautiful, bold and regal. The epitome of freedom. Locs are divine.
Twisted Locks of Hair: The Complicated History of Dreadlocks
Hair is not just hair, it speaks to our personalities, our communities, and our histories. In some societies hair can represent spiritual connections, whilst different styles can indicate specific rites of passage.
Last year I started the Instagram account @in.hair.itance, to celebrate the diversity of hair in non-white cultures across the globe. When I posted a photograph of a Native American man with dreadlocks, I was surprised to see the amount of attention it garnered. It quickly became my most liked post and created quite a conversation in the comments section.
&ldquoI just wish people would stop complaining about hair!&rdquo writes a white lady with electric blue locks. &ldquoIt&rsquos HAIR&rdquo, she continues, &ldquodo what you want with it no matter what race you are!&rdquo. Her comments are consistent with what is known as colour-blind racism. This ideology is based on the assertion that racial privilege does not exist. Unfortunately, not only is this simply untrue, it is also dangerous. It minimises structural racism and ignores issues of under-representation of people of colour. The comments made by this lady (who goes on to report Italian, German, and Scottish ancestry) reek of white privilege. The societal advantage that her skin colour affords means that being told that a decision that she had made could be offensive to other people, seems outrageous to her. This colour-blind, post-racial narrative attempts to erase the diversity and cultural legacy that my page is trying to highlight.
I started my page to provide a space for people of colour to celebrate who we were prior to colonisation and the cultural brainwashing that established euro-centric beauty as the standard. The response has been immense. I receive dozens of messages a day from people expressing their love for the page and thanking me for creating it. We have been written out of history, but @in.hair.itance puts us front and centre. My page provides a springboard for people of colour to engage meaningfully with their history and reflect on its impact today. Comments like those mentioned earlier are not isolated and further reinforce the role of education as a tool to dismantle racism at its base. The history of dreadlocks, understandably, is complex.
The earliest written reference of locks is found in Vedic scriptures, holy Hindu texts dating back to 1500BC, in which Lord Shiva&rsquos hair is referred to as &lsquojata&rsquo, a sanskrit word meaning &ldquotwisted locks of hair&rdquo. In almost all visual depictions of Lord Shiva, he is seen with locks of hair flowing past his shoulders or tied above his head in what is called, &lsquojatamukuta&rsquo (crown of matted hair). For devotees, Shiva&rsquos hair is of such importance that the sacred river Ganges is believed to flow from his matted locks. The earliest archaeological evidence of locks is found in the mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians as well as from the pre-Colombian Incan civilisation in Peru.
In some cultures, especially in South Asia and the Middle East, allowing uncombed hair to form into matted locks is a symbol of the rejection of materialism and vanity. In India, these religious ascetics with locks are referred to as &lsquosadhus&rsquo. In other cultures, locked hair is symbolic of a spiritual connection to a higher power. For example in Ghana, the Akan people refer to locks as &lsquoMpɛsɛ&rsquo, and they are usually reserved for priests of Akomfo. Similarly, in Mexico, the Spanish recorded the fact that the Aztec priests had their hair untouched, long, and matted.
In many parts of Africa, locks are associated with strength and only worn by warriors. For example, warriors of the Fula and Wolof people of West Africa and the Maasai and Kikuyu tribes of Kenya, are all known for locked hair. Interestingly, in Nigeria, among both the Yoruba and Igbo people, locked hair is viewed with suspicion when worn by adults. Although when children are born with naturally matted hair, they are referred to as &lsquoDada&rsquo' and viewed as spiritual beings. They are celebrated as bringers of wealth and only their mothers are allowed to touch their hair.
Although dreadlocks have been worn continuously by people of colour in Africa, Asia, and the Americas from ancient times until now, their popularisation in the West only occurred in the Seventies. This was due to the success of Jamaican-born reggae artist Bob Marley following his conversion to Rastafarianism.
The origin of dreadlocks within the Rastafari tradition is a topic of much debate. Leonard Howell, hailed as the first Rasta, was known to have links with Indo-Jamaican followers of Hinduism and even had a Hindu-inspired alias &lsquoGong Guru Maragh&rsquo. This has led many to believe that dreadlocks and the smoking of cannabis (note: &lsquoganja&rsquo is a Hindi word) was inspired by traditions brought to Jamaica by Indian indentured labourers. Others say that Rastas were inspired by the locks worn by warriors of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya during the Fifties.
Although Leonard Howell wore his hair short, it is said that his guardsmen at the Pinnacle Commune wore locks as a way to portray strength and instil fear. Another tradition places the origin of dreadlocks with the House of Youth Black Faith (HYBF), a group of radical young Rastas who formed in the late Forties. They grew their hair into locks as an affront to Jamaican society and to mark their separation from the mainstream. Soon, dreadlocks had become such a contentious issue that the House split into two groups, the &ldquoHouse of Dreadlocks&rdquo and the &ldquoHouse of the Combsomes&rdquo. Eventually the latter was dissolved and dreadlocks became the well known symbol of Rastafari that it is today.
One source states that original Rastas called their locks &lsquozatavi&rsquo (from the Hindi &lsquojata&rsquo) as it appears the word &ldquodreadlocks&rdquo was not coined until 1959, when a group of Rasta friends met in their yard. The word &lsquofear-locks&rsquo was apparently proposed but quickly dismissed. The reasoning for using the word is related to both a dread or fear of God, as well as the feeling that the locks would scare off potential threats. Whatever their initial origin, it is without debate that dreadlocks in the modern-day are synonymous with Rastafarianism.
Red hair: a blessing or a curse?
Is red hair a blessing or a curse? To answer that question, art critic and redhead Jacky Colliss Harvey sets out to trace the history of this genetic mutation and to untangle the stereotypes associated with ginger, strawberry blond, auburn or chestnut locks. Not even those descriptions are neutral: As (carrot-topped) Mark Twain explained, “When red-headed people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.”
Whatever you call it, red hair attracts attention. Hollywood stars from Rita Hayworth to Lucille Ball to Christina Hendricks have banked on the notice-me power of natural or dyed red hair, and for better or worse, in daily life, it’s impossible to hide. “It is, with me, as with many other redheads, the single most significant characteristic of my life,” Harvey writes. “If that sounds a little extreme to you, well, you’re obviously not a redhead, are you?”‘Red: A History of the Redhead’ by Jacky Colliss Harvey (Black Dog & Leventhal)
Contrary to what many people assume, redheads did not originate in Scandinavia, Scotland or Ireland, but in central Asia. Their coloring is due to a mutation in the MC1R gene that fails to produce sun-protective, skin-darkening eumelanin and instead causes pale skin, freckles and red hair. As our distant ancestors migrated to settle the cool, gray climes of Northern Europe, redheads had a signal advantage over their darker peers: Their pale skin produced vitamin D more efficiently from the wan sunlight, strengthening their bones and making women more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth. But the gene is recessive and thrives mainly in remote regions and closed communities such as Ireland, Scotland and coastal regions of Scandinavia. Its rarity and vulnerability have, over the years, given rise to a host of stereotypes and myths, from fears of witchcraft to the modern canard that red hair is on the verge of extinction.
Harvey is British, which sharpens her awareness of red hair stereotyping in ways that might seem strange to American readers, who haven’t grown up with the cliches that red hair makes girls punchy and boys puny, and who aren’t used to hearing “ginger” deployed as an insult. Redheads are not that rare, but they tend to be easy targets. (As a pale, freckled redhead who grew up in London, I recognize my own childhood experience, somewhere between teasing and bullying, in many of Harvey’s stories.)
But the stereotyping of redheads goes far beyond playground hair-pulling, and as even non-redheads realize, it is sharply gender-segregated. Notwithstanding the occasional rise of a star like Ewan McGregor or Damian Lewis, redheaded men are rarely seen as sex symbols. Most redheaded women, on the other hand, remember the moment when their hair changed “with bewildering rapidity” from a target for bullies to a target for admirers. The pre-Raphaelite poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, jumping out of a hansom cab in London in 1865 in pursuit of a beautiful teenager he wanted to model for him, is just an extreme version of a familiar type, the “Man with a Thing for Redheads.”
Rossetti’s circle was famous for its obsession with flowing, fiery hair, but this particular artistic fascination has a long history. Among several engaging mini-lessons in the iconography of red hair, Harvey analyzes the evolution of Mary Magdalene into a redhead, as visual shorthand for her sexual knowledge as a reformed prostitute (and a contrast to the blue-robed Virgin Mary). Even with the scantiest of evidence, historians have been tempted to collapse legendary women, such as the Celtic Queen Boudicca, into the enduring archetype of “the flame-haired seductress, exotic, sensual, impulsive, passionate.” Even Cleopatra, queen of a country not exactly overpopulated with the pale and pre-Raphaelite, is rumored to have had red hair. It makes little logical sense, but given her personality, Harvey asks rhetorically, “What other color would it be?”
But when redheaded prejudice (however laudatory) is applied to groups rather than individuals, it tends to turn ugly. In the ancient world, the Scythians and the Thracians, whose lands extended from the Black Sea to the Aegean, were renowned for their aggression — and from a patchwork of archaeological evidence, it seems that they were also frequently redheaded. Many of them were captured and enslaved by the Greeks and then the Romans, making the connection between toughness, roughness and redheadedness a long-standing one, cemented when Roman invaders tried to battle up into the northern heartlands of the fierce, ruddy Celts. Then, during the Middle Ages, red hair became fixed as a mark of the “other” onto Europe’s Jews, proving the infinite flexibility of prejudice against both physical appearance and groups considered hostile to outsiders.
In her final chapter, Harvey travels to Breda, in the Netherlands, to attend “Redhead Days,” the biggest worldwide gathering of people who share her rare hair color, and is briefly overwhelmed to confront what she calls “an incandescence, a frenzy, an apocalypse of redheads.” The festival, started somewhat accidentally in 2005 by a Dutch artist, has grown to a gathering of 6,000 people from all over the world, from Ireland to New Zealand to Senegal: men who’ve been bullied and women who are eye-rollingly familiar with those pre-Raphaelite redhead-chasers. The festival’s growth has been spurred not only by social media but also by a growing awareness that anti-ginger discrimination is rooted in the same impulse — to reduce physical attributes to objects of fear and fetish — that fuels much more violent forms of racism. It’s an awareness that underpins this lighthearted but erudite history, making it relevant even to readers who have never tried to get away with calling their hair “titian.”
More Than A Hairstyle: How Braids Were Used To Keep Our Ancestors Alive
Nowadays, braids are a protective and creative style women use to show off their personal style, their creativeness or protect their hair and scalp. But centuries before, braids were much more than just a hairstyle.
Braids are a part of the tribal customs in Africa. The braid patterns signify the tribe and help to identify the member of the tribe. The cultural significance and roots of braiding can be traced back to the African tribes.
There are many interesting beliefs associated with braids. Braid patterns or hairstyles indicate a person&rsquos community, age, marital status, wealth, power, social position, and religion. And in some cases, braids were a form of survival.
According to an instagram post by @KnowYourCaribbean, rice was hidden in braids in order to help slaves survive the middle passage (see the video below):
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@KnowYourCaribbean shares that &ldquomany African women braided rice or seeds into their hair before journeying the Middle Passage, on their way to enslavement or braided it into their children&rsquos hair before separation, so that they could eat. This video shot in the Maroon community of Suriname, the community with the highest number of undiluted African blood in the Western Hemisphere &ndash demonstrates how their ancestors did it. But more interestingly so, Suriname is the only place where one can find a specific grain of rice from Africa. The rest of the &lsquoNew World&rsquo cultivated an Asian rice. Talk about the real version of &lsquoProtective Style&rsquo&rdquo
Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in Stone Age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara, and have been dated as far back as 3000 B.C. There are also Native American paintings as far back as 1,000 years showing cornrows as a hairstyle. This tradition of female styling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.
Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows.
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Elaborate patterns were historically done for special occasions like weddings, social ceremonies or even war preparations.
People belonging to a tribe can easily be identified by another tribe member with the help of a braid pattern or style.
Immense importance is given to the custom of braiding. The person who braids hair performs it as both a ritual and a social service. It is an art form taught by the senior female member of the family to her daughters and close friends.
This history of braids goes even deeper when you talk about Columbia. Enslaved Africans first started arriving in Colombia in the 16th century, brought there by
Why, Exactly, Is It Called a French Braid?
French braids are popular the world over, but they certainly aren't emblematic of France. It's unclear what about them, really, is so Gallic. As it turns out, "french" braids aren't French at all. So who's really responsible for the technique? The style's history is much cooler (and longer) than you might imagine.
If we're looking for the origins of modern-day french braids, Eurasia isn't even the right continent. Instead, the place to start is North Africa. People have been wearing the three-strand gathered plait for thousands of years, and the earliest evidence of the style comes to us from the Tassili n'Ajjer mountain range in Algeria. There, rock art depicting women wearing rowed braids dates back almost 6,000 years. In the millenia following, the style also appeared in early Greek art, particularly iconic kouros statues, on Celtic warriors and lasses, and as part of the elaborate updos worn by courtly women of the Sung Dynasty.
It appears, really, that there are very few cultures unaware of french braids, making their unusual moniker even more puzzling. How could something so universal be named after a single country? Wisely, the French themselves don't even claim the style as their own.
So why are Americans so confused? We can trace the origins of this particular misnomer back to an 1871 short story from Arthur's Home Magazine in which a rather misogynistic husband tells his wife to "hurry up and put on that new cashmere I sent you, and do up your hair in that new French braid."
Perhaps because France has always been so immediately connected to fashion and high living to people on this side of the Atlantic, any "fancy" braid would have registered as Continental. Just like fries and a host of other things, our love affair with the French is writ large on our delicacies and refinements.
In short, although you can feel free to keep calling it a french braid, the hairstyle is actually one of humanity's oldest and most popular hair inventions, just as much in use now as it was in ancient Sparta. They aren't from Paris, but whatever you call them, gathered braids are unquestionably as timeless and chic as the City of Light.
From Ancient Greece to 'Tiger King': The Hilarious History of the Mullet
For scores of people self-quarantining this month, there has been only one reliable source of solace: Netflix's "Tiger King." The truly bizarre, shocking, upsetting and highly entertaining docuseries centers on the interwoven lives of America's most notorious big cat owners. But aside from the main plot's drama and devastation, there's one hard-to-ignore detail that viewers can't help hyper-focusing on: the shocking array of mullets.
"Oh, you don't want me to take that off," the film's bleach-blonde lead, Joe Exotic, says to the filmmakers who have suggested he remove his baseball cap. "Your whole audience will say, 'oh my god, that guy has a mullet!'"
To think that someone like Mr. Exotic (later seen casually threatening to torture and murder his rivals) is so mortified by the prospect of being ridiculed for his hairdo really says something about the mullet. But where did this offbeat, if not iconic, style come from, and why is it still such a talked about piece of pop culture today?
What Is a Mullet?
It may be an oft-quoted cliché, but there's simply no simpler way to describe the mullet than "Business in the Front, Party in the Back." The distinct hairstyle (seriously, there's no mistaking a mullet) involves a short trim on the top and sides of the head, and some length left at the back. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (yes, the mullet is included in the Oxford English Dictionary), the legendary Beastie Boys might be responsible for popularizing the term. On the track "Mullet Head" from their 1994 album, "Ill Communication," the trio's Ad-Rock raps, "You wanna know what's a mullet?/Well I got a little story to tell/About a hairstyle, that's a way of life/Have you ever seen a mullet wife?"
One year later, the group's Mike D. wrote in the magazine Grand Royal that the song lyrics referenced the fish of the same name. "The mullet fish basically has no neck, and a fish rots from the neck down, so that may be where the slang derives from, especially since most human Mullet Heads achieve this same effect via excessive hair and musculature," he wrote.
But the mullet itself had life long before the Beasties name checked it. And while most people may associate the specific style with the 1980s and early '90s (thanks to everyone from Andre Agassi to Billy Ray Cyrus), the mullet's reputation dates back to an era long before "Saved By the Bell" and "Full House."
Where Did the Mullet Come From?
According to her comprehensive piece for History.com, Linda Lacina writes that "literature's first mullet mention may have come from the ancient Greek poet Homer — in "The Iliad," he described the Abantes, a group of spearmen, as wearing 'their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs.' In fact, the mullet (also known, by the way, as the Kentucky Waterfall and the Missouri Compromise) may have been a somewhat common, if not practical, choice in ancient — even prehistoric — times.
In a story for Dazed Digital, Oliver Lunn references the book "Mullet Madness," in which author Alan Henderson says that "prehistoric peoples would likely have discovered the practical benefit of cutting their fringe to keep it out of their eyes while extra growth at the back would keep their necks warm and protected from the rain." Lunn also points out there are also Greek statues that date back to the 6th century B.C.E. that "show mullets were at the inception of western culture." And of course, Ancient Roman chariot racers, as well as 16th century Hittite warriors, the Assyrians, and the Egyptians all sported "hockey hair" long before the look was associated with that particular sport.
It seems mullets began to be the butt of jokes sometime in the 19th century. In 1855's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Mark Twain writes that Tom Sawyer called his aunt and uncle 'confiding and mullet-headed.' And apparently he didn't mean either of those things as compliments. That, however, didn't stop any higher-ups from adopting the look. According to Dennis DiClaudio of Men's Health Magazine, James K. Polk, who occupied the White House from 1845 to 1849 "has the distinction of being the only sitting president to sport a mullet."
As the years went on, the mullet was interpreted in a multitude of ways. While music legend David Bowie rocked what Barney Hoskyns, author of "The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods" called "the only cool mullet that there's ever been," Dylan Jones, editor of GQ UK, argued that "mullet" itself is "a very pejorative word . and (Bowie's Ziggy hair) wasn't a mullet." Whether you consider Bowie's locks an accurate representation of the mullet or a subversive response to its status as a cultural staple, we can all admit the mullet had a moment in Bowie's heydey of the 1970s, and continued to gain traction into the '80s and '90s.
The Modern Mullet
So where does that leave us today? Believe it or not, mullets are still very much a thing, and not just on the heads of big cat owners of the South, like Joe Exotic. "My professional experience dealing with mullets is that I do not like cutting traditional ones, but the rocker mullets are fun to cut," says master hair stylist and colorist Annette Avila, founder and owner of San Francisco's Lavish Hair & Makeup Studio. "I do remember seeing them quite a lot as a teen in the mid-'90s but was not a fan back then since I was more into the punk scene. As a kid I actually did have one but by accident when I cut my own hair and really messed it up! I cut the sides super short and ended up with a mullet that I had until my hair grew out."
Although Avila says clients rarely come into her salon requesting a mullet, she does think celebrities like Zendaya and Lady Gaga are reclaiming the coif and making it more mainstream. "I think that depending on the celebrity, the modern mullet can totally look chic," she says. "It's all in how you wear it."
Does that mean it's time to run to your local stylist with an urgent mullet request? Well, maybe not. "My honest opinion is 'yuck' on the traditional mullets, however the modern razor shaggy mullets are actually really cute and some can look really good depending on their style if it is cut right," Avila says. "The cutting technique depends on what tools are used to do the cut. For instance, scissors versus clippers versus a razor. I prefer using a razor. When I cut the modern shaggy mullet, I start with the sides and move to the top then the back."
So in conclusion, go forth and mullet if your heart so desires, but understand that you may very well encounter some strong opinions as your hair blows (at varying lengths) in the breeze.
Superman himself sported a mullet for four years. He debuted the look on the cover of the 1993 comic book, "The Adventures of Superman," and made the cut his signature style for 39 issues.