By the Hair

Combat Pragmatism at its finest.

Josh Matthews: Well, it's against the rules.
Bill Demott: Is it Doug Basham's fault for grabbing the hair or Rob Van Dam's for having it?
WWE Velocity, Billocity!

A close cousin to the Standard Female Grab Area where, if whoever it is can't grab hold of the woman's wrist or upper arm, they'll just grab onto her hair instead. Obviously a lot more realistic than a wrist being the weak point, as anyone who has had their hair pulled can vouch for how painful it is. While this typically happens to women with long hair, it can happen with short hair as well; the hair just needs to be long enough to pull. Although it is mostly a female trope, it can happen to men with long hair as well, though examples are rare.

It can be played either for comedy or seriously, depending on the nature of the scuffle. It will normally happen in a Cat Fight, in which case it will be played up as arousing for male onlookers. If it's happening to a mean girl, then it might cause a Hairstyle Malfunction if she's wearing extensions. Vain characters will react strongly to having delicate or elaborate hairstyle ruined in this way. If the girl happens to be badass, then expect her to sometimes overcome this problem by cutting the hair off at the point where it's being held. See also Life or Limb Decision and Giving Them the Strip. Truly dark examples can combine this trope with others like Slashed Throat and Off with His Head! where the vulnerable head and neck becomes easier to exploit when it is restricted in this fashion. This trope can fail as an attack if attempted on someone whose' long hair is actually a removable wig or toupee, although emotional effects like distress or rage might be inflicted if the said target was seriously attempting to maintain a facade of having a good head of hair and end up being exposed by this trope.

Covers the classic "caveman dragging a woman by the hair" bit — the man finds a mate by clubbing her over the head and then dragging her off to his cave by her hair. For the record, while hair pulling is painful, the commonality of the "dragging her around by the hair" bit in film and television is because it's fairly easy to stage and relatively painless. Notice that when the man grabs her by the hair, she immediately grabs onto his wrists. Usually at this point, the puller lets go of the hair, and instead drags the woman around by the arms instead. All the kicking and screaming? She's usually digging her heels into the ground for leverage and trying to help him by making herself lurch ahead.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Muska does this to Sheeta in Castle in the Sky when he takes her hostage.
  • Fairy Tail: When Lucy is captured by Phantom Lord, Gajeel yanks on her hair to make her scream, thus alerting the Fairy Tail guild members that she was their hostage.
  • In Fruits Basket episode 26 Akito does this to Tohru when angry with her.
  • In Naruto during the Chuunin Exams, Sakura Haruno had to fend off a competing team of Sound ninja who came to fight an incapacitated Sasuke. One of the ninjas, Kin, grabbed Sakura by the hair and ridiculed her for spending more time keeping it clean than training her skills. Sakura grew some balls and cut it with her kunai, allowing her to escape Kin's grasp, and emerged with a short pixie-ish hairstyle, which she later kept.
  • Happens in Digimon Adventure during the Cat Fight between Angewomon and Lady Devimon. Rather than just using her powers, Lady Devimon just decides to swing Angewomon around in mid-air holding onto her hair. In her second appearance, she grabs onto Angewomon's hair again to stop her from Digivolving with Aquilamon.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Venus is once apprehended when the villain pins her to the wall by her hair.
  • Soul Eater:
    • A chapter has a rather jarring example: Maka and Soul try to fix the damage Crona's black blood has done to some DWMA members. They even join hands as they use Soul Resonance together, and enter the room where the members are being held. The next thing we see is Soul dragging Maka out by her hair, as his own black blood has started to act up the moment he got close to another source.
    • Stein also does this to Maka when he pretended to want to dissect her.
  • Pandora Hearts: Oz has this done to him by Alice and Lotti.

    Comic Books 
  • When Batman meets Batwoman for the first time post-Final Crisis, he warns her that having long hair is a liability in a fight, since any Mook could grab it. She smirkingly replies that she'll take it under advisement, but the joke's on him since Kate is Genre Savvy enough to know this, and her long hair is actually a wig that covers her real hair, which is much shorter, as well as helping disguise her identity. Later on when someone actually does try this they are quite surprised when they pull off her wig instead, giving her time to escape.
  • In issue 19 of Pocket God, A giant killer robot grabs Kinsee by her ponytail, but Sun cuts her ponytail off before it can kill her.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Emergency! fic Lost and Found, there's a rare male one, albeit with long hair. John Gage has a flashback dream of the guy who'd held him captive for 18 months grabbing him by the hair to drag him into his "punishment room" when he decided John was misbehaving. John's hair had grown longer during his ordeal, though it always was so long it was just within firefighter regulations, even in canon.

    Films — Animation 
  • Rapunzel in Tangled has this happen to her a couple of times, understandable since she has over 70 feet of hair. It even gets used as a gag at one point. She also uses it to subdue other people, notably when she ties Flynn up after he breaks into her tower.
  • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Scuttle attempts to stop Morgana by pulling her hair with his talons.
    Scuttle: You are a very! Bad! Lady!
    (Morgana whacks him with the trident)
    Scuttle: (dizzy) Very bad.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The 10th Kingdom, when Virgina's hair is cursed to grow fifty feet long, the Huntsman drags her through the forest by it and even uses it to chain her up.
  • In one Harry Potter film, Bellatrix grabs Harry by the hair after his face got hit by a spell from Hermione.
  • Matilda: On Matilda's first day at school the Trunchbull grabs a young girl by her pigtails and throws her over the fence. The girl learns her lesson and makes sure the Trunchbull never sees her with pigtails again.
  • The film We Are Not Angels has a flashback where the main character thinks of his abusive father, who did this to his mother. She asks for scissors, ostensibly to cut her hair, and stabs her husband through the thigh with them while he's off guard. Smash cut to the protagonist sighing that women with long hair are prettiest and we have a really weird Fruedian outcome of this trope.
  • In Sixteen Candles one girl at the party gets her hair stuck in a locked door, leaving her stranded for a lot of the night.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles when Thimbletack gets annoyed that Mallory destroyed his nest, he ties all of her hair around the iron bedstead. Naturally Jared gets blamed for this too. The next time we see Mallory her hair is up in a ponytail but when it's down at the end of the film, it seems their mother just untied the hair rather than cutting it to free her.
  • The Three Stooges: A common way for Moe Howard to yank Larry around. Sometimes others would grab a hunk of his hair too. Another gag would have Moe, after manhandling Larry, to try this on Curly ... nyuk nyuk nyuk.
  • John dispatches a mook in John Wick by grabbing his beard, using the leverage to smash his head against a table, and quickly double tapping him.

    Literature 
  • Played straight in one of the Aubrey And Maturin books, in which Barrett Bonden engages in a bare-knuckle contest with his plait tied around his head, with predictable consequences
  • In Murder at Drumshee Colm apprehends Mahon and Ita by grabbing onto one of Ita's long plaits and holding a knife at her throat.
  • In Sisters... No Way! during an argument at the breakfast table, Aishling grabs Cindy by her hair to try and calm her down.
  • In The Last Battle the last Tirian sees of Jill is a Calormene soldier dragging her away from the battle by her hair.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide warns men and women to cut their hair short to prevent this from happening. (Quickly shot down by most long-haired people, who state that tucking their braid into their shirt is functionally the same.)
  • On Gor a semi-standard way to control a slave girl without using chains is for the man to hold his hand at about waist-height, and the girl places her head there where he grabs her hair and basically pulls her about.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love.
    Lazarus Long: Not only does long hair need a lot of timewasting care, it gives your opponent something to grab in close combat and can obscure your view at a critical moment — either one can be fatal.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga novel Cetaganda, a Cetagandan haut-lady is imprisoned by trapping her hair, which works because her culture has strong taboos around hair-cutting, so it's effectively a Life or Limb Decision.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events book "The Wide Window" the person who looks like neither a man nor a woman grabs Violet by her hair, swinging her over his shoulder. Strangely, little reference is made to how painful this must have been, and it doesn't seem to have damaged either her hair or her neck.
  • When women sneak into the men's quarters and abduct Jerin in A Brother's Price, they seize his long-braided hair, and he screams.
  • Older Than Print: It's often lost in the translation, but if you read the original text of Beowulf, you'd see that the title character actually resorted to this in the battle with Grendel's mother.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a BBC series that modernised fairytales, the episode of Rapunzel has the stepmother grabbing onto her daughter's long hair to stop her from leaving. The daughter grabs the scissors and hacks the ponytail off to escape.
  • The Ghost Whisperer episode "Last Execution" Melinda was washing her hair in the sink and a ghost caused it to get caught in the garbage disposal. Jim had to cut it to free her.
  • Karen in Coronation Street loved doing this whenever she got into Catfights with Tracy Barlow. The universe gave her some form of comeuppance when her long hair got caught in one of her sewing machines, forcing her to remove her extensions.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Lucky Charm" Elliot and Carla get into a catfight that only ends when Elliot gets her watch caught in Carla's hair, restraining them both from moving.
  • Lifetime Movies love this one. If the movie involves an abusive husband (which they oft do), expect to his him drag his wife, kicking and screaming, down the hallway, often to the bedroom.
  • During his Paso Doble on Dancing with the Stars, Joey Fatone grabbed his partner Kym by the hair and dragged her about ten feet across the floor.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "What's My Line?", Buffy does this to Kendra after lampshading the Cat Fight trope.
    • In "The Initiative", Xander comes across vampire Harmony and after mutual Badass Boasts, they have a comical Wimp Fight that ends with them agreeing to let go of each other's hair on the count of three, then go their separate ways and never speak of this again.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The heroine in Irish mythology Grace O'Malley had long black Rapunzel Hair and her father joked she wouldn't be allowed to become a sailor because the hair would constantly get caught in things. She took the joke a bit too literally and shaved her head before becoming a captain.

    Pinballs 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • It's a common dirty heel tactic in women's wrestling for the heel to throw her opponent across the ring by her hair. Sometimes also happens for extra leverage in a submission hold (a common one in Diva's matches is to stand on their hair while they're on the ground, then pull them up by the arms; shoulder, neck and hair pain all in one shot.) Can sometimes happen to men as well if the hair is long enough.
  • It used to be a tactic in intergender tag matches for the man on the team to grab the woman by the hair and slam her down to the mat when she hit the ropes.
  • It's now so widely seen for the hair to be grabbed as leverage during a snapmare, it now has a technical name - "hair-mare".
  • One advantage of Bald of Awesome / Bald of Evil is immunity to this.
  • One of the Fabulous Moolah's signature moves was to simply grab someone by the hair and whip them across the ring by it.
  • Low Ki tried to give Sabu a hair assisted tornado DDT in their first Impact Championship Wrestling match. It didn't work.
  • Prince Nana dragged Daizee Haze this way as a trap to lure out Roderick Strong and Matt Sydal. Daizee Haze had actually betrayed Generation Next and joined the embassy, as Strong and Sydal (and Jade Chung) painfully discovered.
  • During their Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon 2005 after The Undertaker was knocked against the cell, Cowboy Bob Orton, who was outside, grabbed his hair, holding him in place and allowing Randy Orton to beat on him a bit. Eventually, Undertaker used pure brute force to pull Bob against the cell and break his grip.
  • Melina once tied Beth Phoenix's hair to the ropes as well but it didn't hold for very long.
  • During a triple-threat steel cage match, non participant Velvet Sky tied Awesome Kong's hair to the cage. The tactic neutralized Kong for the rest of the match, ending with Angelina Love pinning Taylor Wilde. After the match, Kong had to be freed with scissors.
  • Before the main event of Vintage End Of The Line, the referee found a ring of hair pullers circling around him, instigated by Brittney Savage, La Rosa Negra trying to make her let go of Santana Garrett, Luscious Latasha in turn trying to help Savage...
  • Gail Kim really benefited from this. During a ladder match with Taryn Terrell, she tied Taryn's hair to the ropes which kept her stuck long enough for Gail to climb the ladder and retrieve the contract.
  • Eddie Sapaluci took down Jim Nye, science guy, in a Fringe Pro match by reversing an Irish whip by his beard, causing him to face plant.

    Video Games 
  • In The Walking Dead, Lee gives Clementine a haircut so that the walkers won't have something to grab onto.
  • In Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, when Stacy reveals herself to be a traitor, Frank angrily tries to stop her from escaping by grabbing her ponytail, only to find she was wearing a wig and her real hair is a boyish haircut.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Alexander the Great ordered his soldiers to shave their beards to deny their enemies something to grab onto preparatory for cutting off the head.
  • Ditto for the Romans. The military crew cut was invented by them so their enemies couldn't grab onto it during battle.
  • Long hair is strongly advised against for American Football players, as grabbing an opponent by his hair is completely legal.
  • Many women's self-defense courses offer specific instruction in what to do if grabbed by the hair in various positions (from behind, from the front, etc.) Short-haired students are grabbed by the collar instead, and learn the same technique.


Alternative Title(s):

Caveman Carry