Chonmage: The hair of the samurai


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They say that the hair is the frame of the face, but in addition, it also has great importance in the cultural aspect. O Chonmage (丁髷) is the name given to a traditional Japanese hairstyle used by samurai in ancient times. 

In this hairstyle, the front part of the head is shaved and then the lower part where the hair is longer is oiled and then a folded ponytail is tied on the top of the head.

This hairstyle became common in Japanese society, but initially only samurai men wore it with the aim of holding the Kabuto (兜, 冑), a Japanese helmet that was part of the armor. This also contributed to the fact that the head did not sound too much because of the heat, since the shaved part favored it to be more airy.

There is a different way to get rid of unwanted heat, right ?! Let's now know a little more about this hairstyle

Chonmage: the hair of the samurai - samurai hair

When did samurai hair come about?

The origin of this peculiar hairstyle has to do with the use of ancient hats by the nobles in China around the Heian period (794 and 1185). But it was only in the Asuka Period (592 to 710) that Chonmage fell in love with Japanese culture.

But it can be said that Chonmage is related to the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). This period was marked by heavy restrictions and political and economic isolation in Japan and a harsh internal control that regulated fiefdoms through the code of laws.

It was at this time that Japanese men had to adhere to the original Chonmage hairstyle in obedience to the requirements of the time. In addition, they had to shave their beard completely.

Chonmage: the hair of the samurai - Cabeloamurai

Pride of samurai hair

The hairstyle became popular with citizens due to the changing appearance of the samurai. Except that the pattern was not followed completely, other variations of Chonmage appeared. And as the hairstyle was introduced in society it became a symbol of pride among the population. What was previously limited only to civil servants of the Japanese empire, has become something that anyone could join.

Chonmage: the hair of the samurai - chonmage

The samurai hair today

After the Meiji period went through a restoration process, Chonmage was no longer used (19th century). This hairstyle is currently still seen by actors Kabuki and it is very common to be used by sumo wrestlers. 

However, the fighters did not adopt the front of the shaved head. When they belong to the sekitori category they usually wear the hairstyle with a tuft known as ginkgo leaf (õichõ). 

The final part of the tuft is spread as if it were an open fan. There are specific hairdressers to style the fighters called Tokoyama.

Chonmage: the hair of the samurai - cabelodesamurai

Samurai hairstyle in the movies

Who has never watched a movie or anime with samurai? Especially the films help a lot when we want to know with images how was determined time and culture.

When it comes to transmitting the reality of clothes and hairstyles of the time, feature films go to great lengths to get as close to reality as possible. 

In order to write this article, I was inspired by some films in order to better understand how Chonmage was used by samurai. This hairstyle appears very well in the film 13 Assassins. This film is inspired by "The Seven Samurai". 13 Assassins takes place in 1844 and tells the story of 13 samurai who are summoned to kill a powerful local leader. The most interesting thing is that they use Chonmage in its original form, as well as the costumes during the fights.

Chonmage: samurai hair - samurai cut

Now in the drawing category, most of them must have seen some scene from Samurai Jack, this drawing is North American, but it has its inspiration in Japanese culture.

In this drawing a samurai has the objective of defeating a magician only that he is transferred to the future. To characterize the samurai character well, the creator was concerned with portraying Chonmage but a little differently. The character does not have the front of the head shaved and his bun is at the top of the head.

Chonmage: the hair of the samurai - samurai hack

The samurai coke or topknot

The fact that Chonmage has fallen out of use does not mean that it cannot have its variations today. You may have heard of the samurai bun which is also known as topknot. It is likely that this hairstyle is the modernization of Chonmage.

This hairstyle does not have a pattern, but basically the top part of the hair is made a bun while the bottom part is left loose or else it is shorter with a closer cut. Or simply long hair tied up with a more stripped bun.

And would you dare to adopt a style adapted from Chonmage?

Chonmage: samurai hair - modern samurai cut
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