Also known as twin tails, handlebars, or bunches. A type of hairstyle where the hair is gathered into two "tails" on either side of the head. Usually, but not always, left loose, braided tails have a more Granola Girl or tomboy connotation. The hair must be gathered above the base of the neck; hair gathered below the jawline generally says something entirely different about the character.
Used as a visual clue that the character is young or immature. This view may have come from the Chinese custom of unmarried women wearing their hair in two buns on either side of the head (which if combined with the twin tails yields a well-known icon). Or from the modern European custom that a grown woman wore her hair up.
If an older woman is trying to disguise herself as a child, expect her to sport pigtails. Also can be found on an older woman if the writers want the audience to grasp that she's child-like in temperament: playful, fun, and possibly innocent. (If the character is evil, this may indicate that she is a Psychopathic Womanchild to some degree.)
Could also show up on a Little Miss Badass.
Pigtails are commonly found on Tsunderes, either full pigtails or a variation ("Tsundere Tails"), which leaves the majority of the hair down with tails on each side of the head. This may be to indicate her childish temperament: prone to physically expressing displeasure and temper tantrums. Twintails are one of the three parts of the ultimate Grade S Zettai Ryouiki (the other two being Grade A Zettai Ryouiki and Tsundere attitude).
Can be combined with Regal Ringlets, in which case they're indicative of both high social status and youth, perhaps suggesting the wearer is a spoiled child. When the tails are impossibly huge and curled, then it's Mega Twintails, which indicates a compromise between femininity and tomboyishness. Another popular variation is replacement or pairing with loads and loads of hair decs.
This is a very common trope in porn to make older actresses appear younger, especially when paired with a Sexy Schoolwoman outfit.
A Super Trope to Mega Twintails. Compare Tomboyish Ponytail and Tomboyish Sidetails.
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The iconic symbol of Wendy's hamburger chain is a drawing of a young redheaded girl with such pigtails (ostensibly a depiction of Dave Thomas' daughter, who the chain is named after).
Soifon, Hiyori, Riruka, Ururu and Yuzu; the former three are Tsundere while the other two are Kawaiiko.
Also Riruka Dokugamine, a straight-up Tsundere, and Loly Aivirrne, an older Yandere.
Death Note's Misa has a pigtail-variation hairstyle. It's interesting to note that she eventually grows out of the Baby Spice look and starts wearing her hair loose and dressing in clothes that are more preppy-cute and less GothLoli, possibly in order to be taken seriously as an actress. Once she gives up her Death Note and its associated memories, she goes back to the pigtails and it seems like any maturity she might have had vanishes into thin air.
Haou Airen: Kurumi, though technically speaking she's 17 and thus a little old for the style. She wears them to emphasize her youth and innocence in contrast to the Crapsaccharine World she winds up in, and keeps them even as she loses said innocence through all the Break the Cutie.
Although it doesn't look like it, Asuka has pigtails. This is perhaps symbolic of her trying not to be a girl, but really is (considering this show, it's hard to tell).
A more noticeable example would be Hikari who, along with the pigtails, comes with a tsundere personality as well.
Mazinger Z offers a lethal example of this trope: The three Gamia sisters. They are three identical, blonde, human-lookingrobots, and each one wears ponytails that are long enough to touch the ground. Each strand of hair is made of Razor Floss and it is sharp enough to slice stones, metal... and, of course, human flesh. And they can move them at will. They showed up again in Mazinkaiser and Shin Mazinger.
Nanoha herself had them as a child. She switched to a ponytail as an adult, although she does still have them in her battle outfit.
Eri from School Rumble. Tsundere to the bone. Harima only has eyes for Tenma, but Tenma thinks that he likes her sister Yakumo. Tenma sends Eri (who secretly has feelings for Harima) to question him about what kind of girl he likes, under some pretense that isn't important right now. Eri asks him what kind of hairstyle he likes for a girl, as he spots Tenma's signature pigtail hiding a few feet away and realizes what this is all about. He decides to drop an un-subtle hint by stating how he likes girls with pigtails — without realizing that Eri also has pigtails. Cue Yakumo walking in with pigtails. (Notably each girl has very different styles of tails, with Tenma having Expressive Hair and Eri being closer to Regal Ringlets, while Yakumo normally wears her hair loose and seems to have only switched over for the sake of the gag.)
Maka from Soul Eater, like Misa, has her hair in thin pigtails (however, they are her hair completely parted and tied, unlike a few streaks in Misa's case). She's generally nice, but... yeah, she also has her Tsundere streaks. Although, the pigtails may be more to signify her somewhat tomboyish personality (she never really shows interest in girlish things, and is more into defeating her enemies and becoming stronger and smarter).
Chiyo-chan, who skipped to high school when she was 10.
Yomi has them in the supplementary lessons.
The title character from Yotsuba&! (written by the same author as Azumanga Daioh). She's five and very energetic and cheery.
Konata from Lucky Star straight-up calls Kagami a Tsundere for being moody and having pigtails. On the other hand, Yutaka's pigtails carries the innocence connotation. This duality was lampshaded when the Hiiragi sisters exchanged hairstyles and Konata thought Tsukasa looks infantile in pigtails. In another episode, Kagami floats the idea of cutting her hair and Konata begs her not to because "pigtails are the classic Tsundere hairstyle!"
Somewhat subverted with Lenalee from D.Gray-Man; while she exhibits a sweet personality, she can and will mess you up if you threaten her or her friends. (The twintails were later sheared off after a battle.)
A lot of Magical Girl leads favor the Girlish Pigtails to emphasize their youth, innocence, and cuteness (though there are alsoplentywhosubvert it by having a different personality type):
In Sailor Moon, the title character has her famous combo of Odango and twintails, and Chibi-Moon's hairstyle is based on her mother's, but is more poofy and pigtail-like — Chibi of course being a small child, and Usagi being rather childish in attitude.
In Shugo Chara!, Amu's innocent and cutesy Amulet Clover form has pigtails, as does the incredibly immature Yuki Yaya. Also, the tsundere-ish Utau Hoshina, Amu's younger sister Ami, Amu's Amulet Diamond form, and Diamond have them too, although Diamond is a definite aversion.
Love of Fresh Pretty Cure! has a small set in her normal form which ends up growing to ridiculous lengths when she becomes Cure Peach.
Tsubomi of Heartcatch Pretty Cure gains a set when she meets up with Erika as part of a makeover, but loses it when she becomes Cure Blossom. On the other hand, Itsuki gains pigtails (along with a lot of hair) when she becomes Cure Sunshine, probably to emphasize her switch from crossdressing Bifauxnen to minidress-wearing Cure.
And Miyuki of Smile Pretty Cure continues the tradition, having pigtails in both forms. Reika kinda goes overboard in her Cure form - she gains four of them.
Kokoa from Rosario + Vampire. Tsundere to the hilt (a trait which the manga and the anime address in opposite directions), loves her big sister Moka while at the same time wanting to defeat her in battle.
Nagi is both a Tsundere and a somewhat innocent little girl.
Izumi and Ayumu both share the "innocent young girl" and hair decorations look without the tsundere or length to take away from it.
As a little girl, Rosette from Chrono Crusade had twin braids. As she got older, she wore two pigtails at the top, but keeping the rest of her hair out and flowing, probably signifying that she's still somewhat innocent (being a nun and an idealist), but maturing into adulthood, as well. (Not to mention she's more than a little Tsundere.) In the manga's epilogue, she's shown in her twenties with the pigtails missing completely.
Azusa in K-On! has these. Fittingly, she's the closest thing the group has to a Tsundere.
Hilariously, the first time she's seen playing a guitar, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are shown as a background image, both with enormous pigtails.
Like Yotsuba above, Temari has quadruplet tails along with some Tsundere tendencies.
Tsunade and Moegi also sport pigtails. Tsunade's are smaller and less obvious, possibly matching with the immaturity of her addiction to various vices and early tendency to run away from problems. Moegi is younger, and the pigtails correspondingly larger.
Naruto's Sexy technique dons them. Seems to be in line with Naruto's immature personality.
Mako:(teasingly) How old are you? Yuuki:(also teasingly) You're such a baby! Nodoka:(in a huff while hugging her penguin) I'm going to sleep now! Hisa:(thinking to herself while she watches everyone) Even though she's usually so resolute, Nodoka can be unexpectedly childish at times.
Cynthia Lane from Overman King Gainer sports a pair. This definitely highlights her immaturity along with her inability to differentiate actual Overman combat from mecha video games.
Videl has pigtails in her first few episodes of Dragon Ball Z. She had them cut mostly because she blackmailed Gohan into training her in using his abilities and he had pointed out that long hair is distracting for flying, much to her annoyance. (She had thought he liked girls with short hair.)
In Black Lagoon, Balalaika'sStart of Darkness episode "Little Soldier Girls" reveals that she wore her hair like this prior to enlisting in the Soviet Special Forces. This serves to highlight the contrast between the innocent girl that she was, and the nihilistic Blood Knight that she becomes.
Sakura Yoshino in Da Capo. Subverted in that she never ages, and that she permanently looks young. By Da Capo II, she is in her sixties yet she looks shorter and younger than Yume.
Shirley also has the look occasionally, emphasizing her moe appeal, as well as wearing twin Celtic braids on occasion.
Nunnally also sports the same type of hairstyles as Shirley (twin pigtails in some audio dramas, and the braids near the R2 finale).
And although it may be overlooked, both Marianne vi Britannia and her Soul Jar, Anya Alstreim, have the version that emphasizes their girlishness. In Anya's◊ case, the look may have been influenced by the one Marianne wore in her youth as a Knight of Rounds.
Alice, from Nightmare of Nunnally, also wears Girlish Pigtails. In her case, it emphasizes her tomboyish and slightly Tsundere nature as opposed to Nunnally's epic moe. In the end, both characters cut their hair. Ironically, it makes Alice resemble her dead sister and Nunnally resemble her 7-year-old self (pre-blindness)... who wore Girlish Pigtails...
In the Tenchi Muyo! series, Word of God states that it's actually a custom for female Juraians, especially those in the Royal Family, to wear their hair in pigtails, thus explaining Sasami and Ayeka's hairstyle. However, it's more of "Let's not radically change them" when you get to Pretty Sammy or Sasami: Magical Girls Club.
Wendy Garret of GUN×SWORD sports twin braids which suspiciously resemble the mascot of a certain hamburger chain. They tend to make her look even younger than her implied age (probably early teens), and on the rare occasions when she wears her hair down, she looks older — so much so that in one scene, her traveling companion fails to recognize her without the pigtails.
Sasa from Wandering Son traditionally wore pigtails, though she stopped putting her hair in pigtails once she became a high school freshman. On the other side, Chi who typically has her hair out began sporting her hair in braids. It comes off as an Expository Hairstyle Change, Chiba wanting to be more adult and becoming more mature while Chi is still a childish Genki Girl. Alternatively Chiba wore pigtails in middle school (though only while at school), but it comes off as Tsundere pigtails.
Shiroyama of Beelzebub has a cute pair of pigtails, complete with bows in them. Oh, by the way, this◊ is Shiroyama.
Later on, there's Futaba and Chiyo, both of whom are four year old girls, and Azusa from St. Ishiyama, who's a cheerful ditz.
Aria Kanzaki and Riko Mine from Hidan no Aria both sport twin tails, Aria being a tsundere and Riko being straight-out immature and bratty.
Hinata Kawamoto from Sangatsu No Lion, who's a middle-schooler going through the many follies of her youth such as teenagers' generalized lack of punctuality and the fumbles experienced during her first crush, sports these most of the time.
In general, whether younger or not, more female anime and manga characters have these than the female characters from Western Animation, and etc.
Tamako Market has Tamako, a simply, happy-go-lucky girl with pigtails.
In Fairy Tail, Lucy's signature hairstyle used to be one pigtail at her right temple and the rest of her hair loose, but post-Time Skip, she has taken a liking to this trope and almost always has her hair in two pigtails at her backhead. Wendy, who is the Token Mini-Moe of the series, also regularly wears her long hair in pigtails.
Archie Comics' Betty Cooper can be seen with this hairstyle sometimes, though she usually prefers the single ponytail. She fits the "tomboy" stereotype to a T, though this is usually her girlish, younger side showing.
Jules from Bazooka Jules has two small pigtails that grow all the way down to the floor when her powers activate. She can be a little childish at times and despite being a teenager she's still into Hello Kitty.
Films — Animation
Sheeta in Castle in the Sky... at least until Colonel Muska shoots them off — which, not coincidentally, comes at the point where Sheeta stops running and confronts him for the last time.
An odd use: in Matilda by Roald Dahl, the evil schoolmistress Agatha Trunchbull hates pigtails and punishes all who wear them. A girl protests that her mother likes her pigtails. Trunchbull responds "yer mum's a twit!" Then she grabs the girls by the pigtails and throws her over a fence. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that a woman who hates everything about children would of course hate a childish hairstyle like pigtails.
Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch. In the spin-off to the television series adaptation Weirdsister College she cuts them off, which is probably symbolic of her growing up.
In Anne Rice's hardcore-bondage-porn novel The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, in one bizarre pony-play scenario the heroine — aged FIFTEEN — is forced to wear her hair in braided pigtails that start near the top of her head, to make her look even younger than she is.
Ivy from Dollhouse similarly has pigtails, which suits her personality as the second least mature member of the Dollhouse staff. (The first being Topher.) Echo dressed as Kiki in the episode "Belle Chose" also sports them, to show how ditsy her persona is meant to be.
One time on Murphy Brown, Corky was staying over at Murphy's home and acted as if it were a slumber party. Corky said, "We could braid each others hair!" and braided Murphy's into pigtails; when Eldon came over and saw Murphy, he said she looked "like an old Heidi."
Sarah Walker from Chuck, when she's undercover as Weinerlicious girl and later, Orange Orange girl. Provides a great contrast to the sexy, sophisticated spy look she sports when it's time for missions.
Subverted by the rogue Vala in Stargate SG-1, who is anything but childlike or innocent. Given the character, though, it's possible she's doing it deliberately to mess with people.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy sports pigtails during Giles' dream sequence in the episode "Restless". Buffy's attitude in the scene is that of a much younger child, and Giles is essentially her father.
In the spinoff, Angel, Wesley ends up in a not-entirely-healthy relationship with Lilah, who is aware of Wesley's unrequited interest in Fred. So, just to get Wesley's gears spinning, she does a Fetish Fuelinvoking impersonation, complete with pigtails to show how she sees Fred's relative immaturity.
When Jordan from Scrubs is posing as a younger woman to impress her new gynecologist, she sports pigtails.
Twin braids is the Telenovela shorthand to say that the heroine is truly, totally innocent. Except in Maria Jose, where in addition to the innocence connotation it showed the indigenous roots of the heroine.
In an episode of Arrested Development, Maeby tries to fool the security guard at her grandmother's apartment complex into giving her the mail by putting her hair in pigtails and riding up to the security booth on a razor scooter. Her response when he points out that she's a little old to be getting all that mail: "Babysit me!"
La Chilindrina from El Chavo del ocho has pigtails that are always uneven (in early episodes, they used to be long twintails until El Chavo cut them short in a barber episode). La Popis also shares this hairdo, but her hair is so short that her pigtails are only noticeable in the animated version of the show. Since the cast of the show was composed entirely by adults, this hairdo served as one of the visual clues to identify these characters as young and immature.
Rikki Chadwick from H2O: Just Add Water frequently wears her hair in pigtails. Ironically she is the most tomboyish of the group but is the most free spirited as well.
Phoebe, the most free-spirited of the girls on Friends occasionally wears her hair in pigtails.
Mona Vanderwaal from "Pretty Little Liars" displayed two pigtails, as well as glasses, in flashbacks prior to Alison's disappearance, to emphasize her status as 'loser'.
Cindy Brady wore these for three whole seasons to keep up the appearance of The Cutie, much to the chagrin of actress Susan Olsen. In season 4 they were changed to braided pigtails, and finally she got to start wearing her hair down in the last half of season 5.
Maureen McCormick also wore pigtails for virtually all of Season 1. She let her hair down for only a couple of scenes, including one where Marcia was going to the school dance, before wearing her hair down to start Season 2. Eve Plumb wore her hair in a clip for most Season 1 episodes, but wears pigtails during the Grand Canyon episodes.
Liz Skinner in 1970 Brit sci-fi Timeslip has girlish braids. Partly to identify her as a bit of a tomboy (though not as noticeably as some tomboys on television), but mostly to make her look younger. Her character was originally written to be just 12 years old, but later scripts revised her age up to 15; the reason for this being that the actress chosen was actually 18 at the time, and it was all they could do to convincingly make her look 15.
Laura Quinones in Carrusel wears this hairstyle. She is one of the girlier girls in the class, as well as rather immature (except for being very precocious when it came to romance), and not a good student.
In the first season premiere of Terra Nova, Maddie is shown with pigtails at first, in order to make her seem older after the 2 year Time Skip. Zoe also often sports them, but that's because she's 7.
Olive on A.N.T. Farm sports pigtails as a part of her little girl disguise on the episode FraudulANT.
Mythbuster Kari Byron, practically Once an Episode. Sometimes it's for style, and sometimes just to keep her hair out of her face (or the machinery), but it always indicates that the build team is deliberately hamming things up or testing something particularly outlandish.
Cammy and Rainbow Mika from the Street Fighter series have versions of this hairdo. While Cammy's braids seem to be there just to emphasize that she's young, Mika's twin tails seem to hint at her personality, which contrasts with her being one of the largest females, in more ways than one.
Subverted by Paragon Branka of Dragon Age: Origins. Technically, she wears her hair in pigtails, but there's no sign of the usual girlish innocence associated with this style: she's an evil and somewhat Ax-CrazyMad Scientist.
Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII. She's portrayed as both child-like and childish by the game.
Elise sports these in Tales of Xillia 2, which could be viewed as being symbolic of her having gotten over her shyness issues from the first game. You can also give them to anyone in the party (Guys included) once you find the appropriate accessory.
The Spiral Tailed Helm in Spiral Knights sports huge Pigtails, providing characters with a feminine appearance.
Ar tonelico's Misha bears the rare tomboyish braided pigtails.
Dark Souls: This is one of the female hairstyles players can choose. According to Miyazaki, a female graphic artist asked that this hairstyle be included when she had to leave development due to illness.
Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw sports these, along with the requisite child-like girlishness.
Rebecca Walsh from Rumble Roses displays pigtails in two different colors depending on how you pick her: red as Candy Cane (the tomboyish Tsundere Punk Rocker, which is her default), blond as Becky (the girlish cheerleader).
Pretty much every game that offers a Virtual Paper Doll mode will let you put pigtails on your female character. There are even some, like Pro Evolution Soccer, where you can have your created players wear them! (bear in mind that most soccer games are Always Male, and this one's no exception).
Komachi Onozuka of the Touhou Project. She also wields a rather hefty scythe.
Hatate Himekaidou, Aya's rival who is often portrayed in fanon as younger and less experienced than her.
The female protagonists of the JohtoPokémon games have pigtails.
Ling Xiaoyu from the Tekken series has them to go with her Genki Girl disposition.
Squigly from Skullgirls sports these, at least until her parasite Leviathan pops one off so she too can see.
Jinx, the Loose Cannon from League of Legends, whose long, braided pigtails reach almost down to her feet. They look very similar to Cammy's from the Street Fighter series.
Although it's hard to tell, Kotomi has these. Definitely the childish kind, as she's been sort of caught up in the past since her parents died.
Also, Sunohara's little sister Mei, though she's actually a child.
Partially subverted with Rin Tohsaka in Fate/stay night. She's a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued young woman, but for all of her maturity she's a young girl at heart. Also a Grade S Zettai Ryouiki.
Satsuki Yumizuka from Tsukihime. She's the only (well, sort of. She was supposed to be, anyway) love interest who actually does start basically normal and unaware of all the bad things going around. Bets on a hairstyle change if she "lives" to feature in Tsukihime 2?
Ange Ushiromiya is probably one of the more mature and level-headed characters, but she still uses hair clips that Battler gave her when she was much younger. Lampshaded by a few characters who say they make her look very childish.
Subverted with Tsukiko, who is an evil cleric/wizard, a convicted criminal, and a necrophiliac. But also kind of immature, so it sort of fits with the Psychopathic Womanchild angle.
Roy's mother, Sara Greenhilt, also sports Girlish Pigtails in her afterlife incarnation. Despite Sara dying as a gray-haired old woman, she never stopped seeing herself as the 19-year-old she once was.
anti-HEROES has Zurie. This is to denote that despite being a high-ranking member of the Ivory Veil, she's still quite immature. Her bunches also have shades of Regal Ringlets.
Griffon of Rooster Teeth Comic drew herself with pigtails, even though in real life she usually wore a ponytail. It ties in with her more Woman Child depiction in the comic, when in real life she's viewed as an Action Girl.
This is the trademark look for Hope from Alone in a Crowd although she prefers to call them "Hopetails".
Amber from Matchu has gigantic pigtails that reach the floor.
This is one of the most common appearances for female characters in Mountain Time. However, it's done more to emphasize their sex (the main difference between males and females in the comic is that the latter is always shown wearing a skirt) rather than to suggest youthfulness or innocence. In one comic, the pigtailed female comes off a bit like a prostitute. Or not. It's hard to say.
Trope-tan is sort of an example, which says a lot about us if you think about it. (Even though her hair is really supposed to represent Lumper vs. Splitter.)
The Nostalgia Chick. As time went on, it was to show that even though she tries to be adult, she's really a childish sociopath. When Chick as a good person appeared in the Critic's holiday special, she had a neat ponytail.
Nella and Elisa had their turn when they did parody commercials for "realistic baby dolls". Baby Colic, Baby Scarred For Life, Baby Death Wish... that kinda thing.
Pictures of Dokihas her donning these and this is sort of a subversion because she is an adult, not a child, though apparently they are to show that she is, at times, rather girlish
Then there is Brownie and, actually, this is inverted because she is an adult but is more like a bratty teenager and can be passed off as one, though, she did wear these as a child.
Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls. While all the girls are in grade school, Bubbles acts the youngest.
Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series didn't have pigtails at first, but her partly childlike behavior seemed to warrant them (and they fit with the hat). She also didn't have them when she was a psychiatrist. Like pretty much everything else about her, this was ported to the comics.
Box Lunch from Danny Phantom. Fitting since she is the youngest ghost to appear in the series.
Sonia and Leah Glady from the French cartoon La Famille Glady. Weirdly, Sonia is actually Leah's mother, and yet she uses very childish 'tails.
Loopy from Life with Loopy, fitting, as she's the youngest kid in the show (at seven).
Despite being at least 14, Hay Lin of W.I.T.C.H. goes through various forms of pigtails during the series. The comic DOES show her with her hair down at certain points, but for the most part, she has her hair up in pigtails.
Dodie from As Told by Ginger as she is the perkiest and most immature of the Power Trio. When she starts in high school she wears her hair down. In fact whenever her hair is out of its pigtails, she appears to be trying to act more grown up or sophisticated.