Chonmage: the samurai topknot

Chonmage is the Japanese name of the traditional hairstyle worn by adult samurai males.

Adult samurai men and women wore their hair long (and usually pulled back in a bun or tail). Samurai of both sexes often visited stylists to have their hair arranged, because the elaborate hairstyles favored in medieval Japan were difficult for a person to achieve through solo effort.

After shaving the hair off the samurai’s pate (the forehead and front portion of the scalp), the hairdresser brushed and oiled the remaining hair and tied it into a tail. The tail was folded back and forth on top of the head and secured with a strip of leather or other material.

Only samurai had the legal right to wear chonmage, and the style was worn only by adult samurai males who had completed a genpuku ceremony and earned the right to wear the two swords that identified them as adults and samurai.

The female samurai character who appears in Claws of the Cat also wears a chonmage, but without the shaven pate.

What’s your favorite historical hairstyle? Do you know any other interesting facts about hair in history? I’d love to know – please tell me in the comments!