Braids of Barbarism
While professional armies today and even going back to ancient times prefer a short haircut for practical reasons, less organized and regimented warriors often preferred long hair, generally in a braided style. This is especially common on the Proud Warrior Race Guy, the kind of barbarian to wear a Beard of Barbarism, and the Braids, Beads, and Buckskins Native American or his Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalent.
In such cultures, a man's hair, and often its elaborate presentation, is a matter of pride, and may it may even be treated as an integral part of his masculinity, with the braiding of a boy's hair being part of the rite of passage between boyhood to manhood, or being properly blooded as a warrior. In some cultures the number, style and/or pattern of braids might signify rank, number of kills or children, or something else. Cutting a warrior's braids off is a symbolic castration, done to humiliate a prisoner one has no respect for or to signify casting the shorn one from the brotherhood of warriors, for crimes or lack of honor. Cutting one's own braids off signifies rejection of warrior-hood, either giving up the sword or a symbol of abandoning the rules of honor, for instance after one has sworn revenge by any means necessary.
A related important hairstyle was the Samurai style in feudal Japan, with the top-knot only permitted to their caste.
Compare Wild Hair.
- Not really braids, but Kenpachi the resident Blood Knight in Bleach does his hair in very long points, each one having a bell at the tip. Nor because Real Men Wear Pink, it's so his enemies can hear him coming and be ready to fight.
- Old Germany/Germania/Legolas in Axis Powers Hetalia has braids, and since he represents the Germanic Tribes he would definitely count.
- Obelix's pigtails are only one of the many braids sported by the inhabitants of the Gaul village.
- There's a variation in Elf Quest where Clearbrook's long hair is braided by her lifemate One-Eye. After rescuing her from the Gliders' captivity he is horrified to find that they have bound her hair up, and painstakingly re-braids it. When One-Eye dies she cuts off her braid and lays it upon his body. Ironically, it's only during this period, when she is driven by revenge, that she really acts like a warrior. Later on she bonds with Treestump, and once her hair has grown back he braids it again.
- In CJ Cherryh's Morgaine Cycle, Vanye's father cuts off his braids when he casts him out as an outlaw ilin. Morgaine much later braids Vanye's hair in warrior style again, as a symbol that she believes his debt repaid and his status restored.
- And the fact that she personally does it is a sign of another kind, because by his native customs only a woman who's intimate with a warrior touches his hair. She's proposing.
- In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the Merikit tribesmen wear their hair braided, with one braid on the left-hand side for every man killed, and one on the right for every child fathered. When heroine Jame is adopted into the tribe, Gran Cyd braids her hair as a warrior woman and smears it in the blood of her kills.
- Reversed in the Vows and Honor books by Mercedes Lackey. When the Goddess takes Tarma into the ranks of the Swordsworn, She cuts Tarma's braids off. Later in the series, Tarma's hair has grown back, but when Tarma is about to engage in ritual combat part of her preparations is cutting the braids.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Dothraki men wear their hair in long braids, usually decorated with bells. The braid is cut when the warrior loses a battle.
- This trope is played with in the Deryni works:
- Braids and braided sidelocks are worn by eleventh-century Torenthi men. In addition to signalling an exotic otherness, they are menacing by association since Torenth has menaced Gwynedd for centuries. In earlier periods (tenth century particularly), such sidelock braids are also worn by noblewomen in Gwynedd (Camber's daughter Evaine is shown wearing them); these are often women descended from the Torenthi conquerors of the ninth century.
- In eleventh-century Gwynedd, borderers are depicted wearing braids, and this style is considered a fashion cue for barbarism (along with the tartans/tweeds) by lowlanders. When Kelson adopts the braid and Dhugal joins him at court, he seems to take on some of the "barbaric" power, much as he openly uses his "forbidden" Deryni powers. Notably, the male Servants of Saint Camber, a quasi-religious order devoted to a famous mage and a throwback to the tenth century, wear the braid and call it the g'dula. It also marks the contrast between Kelson and Conall (who retains the short-cropped style of his father's generation). Conall's younger brothers and other young men of Kelson's court actually adopt the braid themselves as a tribute to their young sovereign and his popular foster brother.
- Thomas in Someone Elses War.
- Early in Andre Norton's The Time Traders, Ross Murdock, not yet knowing he's joined a Time Travel project, is puzzled to see a couple of men wearing long blond braids at the U.S. government base. Another recruit explains, "Why do you suppose they sport those braids? Because they are taking a little trip into the time when he-men wore braids, and carried axes big enough to crack a man open!"
- The High Elves in Warhammer Fantasy Battles consider long hair to be a sign of virility, and all their folk heroes are described as long-haired. When going into battle, the High Elves will typically braid and tie their hair back, securing it with various ornate rings and clips to prevent it from being damaged. This is ultimately a subversion though, as High Elves are generally considered to be one of the most "civilized" races in the setting.
- Dwarves are likely to wear braids, especially in their facial hair.
- Many, many Norscans. Given that they're a race of Norse-esque people who are favoured heavily by the Dark Gods.
- The Tau in Warhammer 40,000 usually wear helmets, but some characters are seen with just a lock of hair.
- In the Shards of Alara block of Magic: The Gathering, the human warriors of Jund wear a braid for each major victory in battle. The legendary Kresh the Bloodbraided is renowned for possessing the most braids.
- Kimahri in Final Fantasy X has these.
- Subtly implied in Advance Wars Days Of Ruin, the Lazurius COs have a strand of hair with several beads on it.
- Ullyses, the other Courier, sports dreadlocks and is the last member of a tribe called The Twisted Hairs. One of his audiologs implies that the braids were indicative of the wearer's accomplishments.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Water Tribe warriors wear
ponywolftails but have several braids tied off with beads framing their faces. The Fire Nation prefers topknots for both men and women, which Zuko and Iroh cut off when declared traitors.
- In the Qing dynasty, all men were required to shave their forehead and wear the rest of their hair in a braid down their back. Cutting the braid was considered an act of treason and punishable by death. (A famous edict early in the Qing dynasty was: "keep the braid or lose your head".) Even before then, Han people never cut their hair: they believed their hair and body was a gift to them from their parents, so purposely harming their body was an insult to them.
- In the movie Shanghai Noon, this is why Chong Wang is so freaked out by Roy's offer to cut off his "ponytail". When Lo Fong cuts it and says, "Now you can never return to China", this is what he's referring to.
- Maasai warriors often wear long, thin braids. Most other Maasai keep short hair.
- Many Amerindian tribes kept the hair of the men long and often in braids; the North American version led to Braids, Beads, and Buckskins.
- Prior to influence of Western customs, Bedouin men had long, braided hair.
- Vikings and other Germanic varieties of...well, barbarian.
- The infamous pirate Blackbeard was known for his long, braided beard which he often hid fuses in so that smoke would surround his face, making him all the more intimidating.