When a character cuts off his or her hair, it often symbolizes a rite of passage or bout of character growth. A princess striking out on an adventure, or a new recruit at boot camp, for instance. Hair is something that takes time and effort to grow, so parting with it voluntarily can be a powerful act.
This is particularly a big deal when women get haircuts, since Long Hair Is Feminine. Yet in fiction, even an accidental hair slicing can leave a character with a surprisingly even cut.
In many religions (Western Christianity, Ancient Egyptian religion, and others) priests and/or monks cut/shave their hair. The cutting of one's own hair is also a part of Buddhist mythology, specifically something done by Siddhartha himself early on in his path to enlightenment, so anime examples might draw from this as an allusion. There are also some cultures, including Native American and many Asians, where a person would cut his or her hair as an act of grief, disgrace, or even rebellion. Furthermore, prisoners and psychiatric patients commonly have their heads shaved, often to prevent the spread of lice, but sometimes also as a demeaning measure.
Having the head shaved can be a punishment prescribed in law, but also something done as "mob justice," an infamous example of which was the thousands of European women who had their heads shaved in front of cheering crowds in the wake of World War II, as punishment for associating with occupying Nazis during the war.
However, an important haircut can also be positive, such as changing one's style after a breakup.
The opposite of a Hair Reboot. If it comes after a Heel-Face Turn may result in switching their Good Hair, Evil Hair around. May also occur after or during a Close-Call Haircut. If it's involuntary, it's likely a Traumatic Haircut. If the hair is changed in order to show a change in characterization, this may also be an Expository Hairstyle Change.
See also Beard of Sorrow, Dye or Die, Expository Hairstyles, and Fan Service Pack.
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In Sket Dance, Switch is a straight example in his Back Story, for his own reasons. Tsubaki also makes such a decision when appearing as a minor character in Bossun's backstory.
Himeko is an inversion and a straight example though. Her hair was shorter when younger and was definitely not blonde, but later she grew it up to go as the image of the yanki she became. Much later, Himeko cuts it just to start fresh when the Sket Dan officially formed.
Sailor Moon: Usagi's hair grows exponentially when she is revealed as the princess in the manga. It is eventually cut back to normal length. In the anime, she almost gets a sorrow haircut upon Minako's suggestion when Mamoru dumps her, but the Monster of the Week apparently makes her forget that she was in the beauty shop for a new 'do.
In the Anime and Manga it was Ryoga who accidentally chopped Akane's hair when she was caught in the crossfire between him and Ranma's fight, in the live action special it was one of the gang members who did it with a sickle.
Heavy Metal L Gaim: In episode 9, to prove that her Heel-Face Turn was real, Lecce unsheathed her rapier, stated that she would cut the most precious thing for a woman, and then cut her hair and offered it to Daba (crying as she did so). That did the main characters believed her.
We see in a flashback why Mireille of Noir has a peculiar "half-bang" style. Lady Silvana is to blame
In Azumanga Daioh, Tomo starts the second year growing out her hair in an attempt to be Lupin III's Fujiko Hime. When the fourth year starts, she has it cut back to her short style from the beginning. This confuses Chiyo-chan, leading her to ask Yomi if she broke up with a boyfriend, causing Yomi to bust a gut at the thought. Tomo just had it lopped off because she figured that was too high of a goal.
In the same period Tomo chopped her hair, Chiyo-chan moved her pigtails' positioning, freaking out Osaka.
Ninamori from FLCL cuts her hair at the end of the 3rd episode.
In Maria-sama Ga Miteru, Sei (the original Rosa Gigantea) has not just one but two Important Haircuts.
Another male example: Ginta shaves his head to apologize to Miki after he accidentally breaks her heart in Marmalade Boy. Meiko also suggested Miki cut her hair before they saw that Ginta had, but Miki laughed it off; back then, her hair was much too short already.
Echoing the above incident, when Yuu leaves Miki (apparently for good, after finding out he may be her half-brother), Miki's efforts to overcome it include cutting her long hair into a pageboy style and piercing her ears.
When young, Anju Kitahara had long hair, but when she returns to Yuu's life she's already cut it real short.
Also spoofed: Miwa has shoulder-length hair which he wears loose, and once he tricks Meiko into believing he has cut it short by tying it in a ponytail.
During the Chunin exam arc of Naruto, Sakura Haruno is discovered by the three Sound Genin participating. Having her hair held by the kunoichi of the Sound Squad (Kin Tsuchi, whose hair is even longer than Sakura's, and who actually mocks her for paying so much attention to her beautiful hair), Sakura cuts her hair to free herself from Kin's grasp. It also symbolizes her wish to stop being a Faux Action Girl and become as strong as Naruto, Sasuke and Rock Lee, who have always been there to protect her.
Oddly enough, in one flashback after the timeskip that shows Sakura training with Tsunade, her hair has grown back to its pre-Chunin Exam length, but it's short once again in Part II.
Later in the Chuunin exams, during Sakura's fight with Ino, Sakura mocks Ino by saying she's the one putting too much emphasis on her looks now. Ino gets pissed off and cuts off her hair with a kunai right there... and actually uses the discarded strands as a tie rope to keep Sakura in place and use the Shintenshin no Jutsu/Mind switch Jutsu on her.
In the Konoha Gakuen Den feature set in a High School AU, Sakura's Important Haircut in this universe (shown in the ending sequence this is based on), is initially thought to be the result of a breakup until Ino produces photos that reveal that Sakura had laid down on the grass and accidentally got gum in her hair.
Two different characters in Simoun give themselves the same Important Haircut at different dramatic moments, with the second one echoing the first, and one of them later follows up with an additional Important Haircut. Also, another pair of characters have a set of Important Hair Clips.
Motoko Aoyama from Love Hina cuts her long hair into a short bob when she decides to become a nun as penance for lying to her sister. Kaolla Su even has a laugh at the idea of her shaving her head bald.
In the second episode of Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge, Nakahara Sunako cuts off the bangs that obscured her face and blocked her view of "the bright creatures" in a dramatic scene. She then almost immediately suffers from The Nose Bleed, now that she can see the tenants.
Sara of Soukou No Strain cuts her hair going into her new identity as she chases her brother.
There's an interesting contrast in Rumbling Hearts — Mitsuki cuts her long hair short to make a break with the past; meanwhile, Haruka's short hair grows long during the three years she's in a coma.
In the same vein as the previous two examples, Shiki's hair in Kara no Kyoukai grew long in the gap between the second and fourth movies, and she cuts it herself during her first post-coma fight.
In YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke goes back and forth between hair styles, though this is typically more about whether his particular style fits his given outfit; the slicked back hair with the green uniform is indicative of his "return to normalcy" delinquent status, whereas other hair styles go with other outfits. It also indicates his mood. Messy is relaxed, and if it starts off slicked back but becomes messy, you're in trouble.
To be fair, this falls more in Expository Hairstyle Change or Slipknot Ponytail, since it's the same length but different styles. At least, up until it goes white, waist-length, and spiky when his demon ancestor takes over his body for a couple of episodes. It goes back to black when Yusuke regains control of his body. It's back to normal the next episode, though Yusuke does mention the haircut courtesy of Kurama, so it's not a Reset Button.
Likewise, Keiko starts out with ponytails, then loses them in favor of shorter hair after they get singed in a fire, but has extremely long hair again at the end of the series.
Variation: in Bleach, Sosuke Aizen does an Important Hairstyle Change when he reveals himself as a Big Bad.
Also, the Vizard changed their hairstyles after leaving Soul Society.
Kouga, the Big Bad of the Zanpakuto Unknown Tales filler arc, had one as well. In this case the hair wasn't important, it was the fact that it was connected to a hair adornment connected with his noble family, which he was disgusted with.
Atobe himself (the series's most popular rival) arrogantly vows to shave his head if he loses his match against Echizen Ryoma... which of course he does, because Ryoma is the main character and Atobe had promised to shave his head in public, with lots of witnesses. Since Atobe is unconscious by the end, Ryoma shaves his head for him. This devolves into a joke, as a lot of things do in Prince of Tennis, when several chapters later, Atobe shows up with his hair intact (although muttering about his beautiful hair) and no explanation for it has been given, which has caused the fans to heavily speculate about it.
This was played differently and somewhat more like an Important Haircut in the OAV's: Atobe is actually conscious and sub-regular Haginosuke Taki asks Ryoma to cut his hair instead. Ryoma seems to consider the offer but Atobe rejects it, swipes the razor from Ryoma's hands and cuts his own hair right there. In the last OAV series, it's proved that yes, Atobe is using a wig.
Kabaji, Atobe's long time friend, also cuts his hair short after Atobe's loss. He cuts it even shorter, practically in a buzzcut.
In his Kyushuu days, Fudomine captain Kippei Tachibana used to dye his long hair blond, which earned him the nickname of "The Lion". After he seriously injures his best friend and rival Chitose, however, among his penances for such a deed Tachibana cuts his long hair and dyes it back to its natural black. For the Nationals, he keeps his hair short, but actually dyes it back to blond.
When he was Inui Sadaharu's doubles partner, Yanagi Renji from Rikkaidai had chin-length hair in a pageboy style. Four years later, when they meet again, he has cut it much shorter. It's hinted he did so after the end of his first year in Rikkai: a picture taken when he, Yukimura and Sanada were titulars in their first year shows Yanagi with long hair. And if you take a close look at the picture, you'll notice that the actual Rikkai subcaptain Sanada has his hair longer and more messy than he does in the present, and that Yukimura used to have two long bangs while keeping the rest of his hair fairly short.
In the anime, Yanagi's teammate Jackal Kuwahara shaves his head as a tribute to a good friend.
And *again* , Oishi Syuichirou changes his hairstyle every year in all canons. The first one is theorized to be an Important Haircut that came when he became a regular in his second year in Seigaku: his formerly messy hair became a simple buzzcut.
And don't forget the Kisarazu twins using different hairstyles (long for Ryou, short for Atsushi) to distinguish each other. Atsushi's manager Mizuki cut Atsushi's hair short after mistaking Atsushi for Ryou and taking him along for the ride by mistake.
Videl in Dragon Ball receives an important haircut which lasts throughout virtually all the Buu Saga when Gohan asks her to do it, and his flimsy reason being it will get in the way when she fights. Yeah, right! He just prefer girls with shorter hair. Nonetheless, she did it anyway, despite initially being very angry at his silly reason, which indicated she liked him, despite looking observably annoyed.
Aika in ARIA ends up burning her hair at a cookout in one episode after she intentionally grew it out long to be similar to Alicia, whom she idolizes. After this, she switches to shorter hairstyle, and several episodes are spent on her getting used to it. It's not until Al, her crush, compliments on her that she feels satisfied. Her hair stays this way into the next season.
Now and Then, Here and There provides a rather tragic example of this trope. After being repeatedly raped and assaulted at Hellywood, Sara manages to kill one of the rapists and escape into the desert where she proceeds to cut her hair short (despite the fact that she's American and shouldn't appreciate the symbolism).
Or she may have cut her hair so nobody would mistake her for Lalaru again, which pulled her into this mess to begin with.
The moment that Knives in Trigun cuts his own hair begins his descent into madness. Vash, on the other hand, has two important haircuts, the second of which settles his commitment to abide by Rem's advice.
In Slam Dunk, the main character Hanamichi Sakuragi shaves his head as self-punishment after being the cause of the Shohoku team's loss against Kainan. And before him, Hisashi Mitsui cuts his own hair to symbolize his redemption. Later, Haruko Akagi also cuts her hair short; it doesn't seem to be for a specific reason, but by that time she assumes that her crush towards Rukawa is a hopeless one..
Perhaps a deconstruction in Hanamichi's case, given that he gets endlessly mocked for his new haircut. Also Rukawa had previously told him that assuming all the blame for the loss was actually very arrogant of him (of course, being Rukawa, he did it too), making the haircut just another of Hanamichi's over-the-top reactions in the eyes of the readers, rather than an important moment of character development.
In Dirty Pair Flash, Lady Flair gets her long hair shot off as she makes her heel-face turn.
In Elfen Lied, Nyu cuts off her long hair to impersonate Kouta's younger sister Kanae to signify Lucy's guilt over killing her.
In DNA˛, Ami's best friend Kotomi Takanashi keeps at first her hair in pigtails. Later, she cuts it into a pageboy style.
In the manga, Nausicaä receives the haircut (and a scale mail) when leaving for war. Also in manga, Kushana cuts her considerably long braid to honor the death of a considerable part of her men in an Ohmu attack engineered by the Dorok.
In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka cuts his hair before having to leave his village (due to a curse) to seek his destiny, it was a proof of his determination to resist returning.
The second ED of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 prominently features Lockon cutting Setsuna's hair, which seems to be a deliberately symbolic invocation of a particular scene where Lockon shot through some locks of Setsuna's hair.
In Eyeshield 21, Sakuraba gets a crew-cut after quitting Jerry/Jari Productions to focus on his football life with the Ojo White Knights. He also grows a noticeable mustache and goatee.
And Yukimitsu Manabu starts combing his hair forward at the start of the Kanto tournament, before the first game he would actually play in.
In flashbacks we are shown that Hiruma started dyeing his hair shortly after discovering American Football. One character has speculated that this is to further enhance his demonic appearance so as to intimidate his opponents everybody.
Mamori, Musashi, and (briefly) Ishimaru also change hairstyles before the Kanto tournament — this is less likely an Important Haircut than a group meme among the team or the artist getting tired of drawing the same hairstyles all the time.
Prior to setting out for the climactic battle of Weiß Kreuz Glühen, Aya uses his own katana to cut off the waist-length braid he'd grown between series.
The epilogue of the original series shows that Sakura, who had previously grown her hair out in the hopes that it would appeal to Aya, has gone back to her previous bob cut.
Last ExileSlightly twisted for Sophia's hair-down-to-there upon taking the Imperial Throne. Dio's braid is unwrapped, and his bangs re-brushed to show off his Mark of the Covenant, after being brainwashed for the Rite and turned into a remorseless killing machine.
Yumi in the Fafner special Right of Left cuts her hair short once she becomes a Fafner pilot.
In the manga Get Backers, Kazuki chopped off his Rapunzel Hair to express his determination to rescue Fuuga and 'get back his lost time'. The scene took up one full page, so that ought to classify it an important haircut.
In the manga Chrono Crusade, Chrono's braid is cut off during a duel with Remington. This symbolizes Chrono learning to control his temper, which serves to be a key in later battle.
Also, a flashback shows that Chrono used to have long, flowing hair in his true form when he was a Sinner, but had most of it burned away during the battle that gave him the title "Slayer of a Hundred."
On Hana Yori Dango, after some nasty events involving Traumatic Haircut, Tsukushi must cut her ruined hair. Her mom attempts to help her, but Mrs. Makino fucks up so bad that Rui has to finish the work.
In Mrs. Makino's defense, all she did was even out the hair that hadn't been cut. It's not her fault it made poor Tsukushi look like Kintaro.
While not cutting it herself, Layla Hamilton fits this trope in the Kaleido StarOVA, "Legend of Phoenix ~Layla Hamilton Monogatari". After a journey to find herself, Layla goes from her Defrosting Ice Queen persona to a person who won't hide her feelings anymore. Then, she asks Sora Naegino to cut her long blond hair for her.
When we first meet Casca from Berserk she has close-cropped short hair symbolic of her Lady of War persona. In a flashback to her earlier days before joining Griffith's Band of the Hawks, she had long hair, meaning that she probably cut it off soon afterward. After the events of the Eclipse where she gets raped by Femto and Goes Mad From The Revelation, Casca has let her hair grow long again.
Additionally, Farnese, when she joined Guts on his journey, cut her own hair short as a sign of humility and apology for everything she did to him and Casca.
In the movie adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle, Calcifer needs to move the wrecked castle but needs something of value for the energy to do so. He suggests he use Sophie's eyes, but Sophie quickly cuts her long braid and gives it to him. It's enough.
In Eureka Seven, Eureka gets several hairstyle changes reflecting... other changes about her. Her hair is cut in the episode Acperience 2, and grows back in Acperience 3.
Talho also trims her normally unkempt hair as part of her complete outer (and inner) makeover in episode 30.
In Skip Beat!, after discovering she has been deceived and used as an step by the person she loved the most, Kyouko not only cuts short her hair, she also dyes it, as a symbol of her new attitude and personality.
In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke allows Kaname to cut his hair. Although his look doesn't change appreciably as a result, the scene serves as an indication of just how much he trusts her: Sousuke is a Child Soldier with No Social Skills conditioned to assume that anyone is a potential enemy and to never leave himself vulnerable, and the fact that he can allow Kaname to handle a pair of scissors around his head and behind his back with no more than a calm "Please don't cut off my ears," - and in fact not only allows her to cut his hair but actually falls asleep while she's doing it - is very important. This is probably the closest and most intimate they ever got to each other; when she was cutting near his forehead, Sousuke was blushing like hell and breathed suspiciously quickly for obvious reasons - he was either embarrassed, aroused or both. Looks like no amount of conditioning can defeat pheromones from a similarly aged girl when you are 16...
Liechtenstein in Axis Powers Hetalia already has short hair in her introduction, but the dialogue with her older brother Switzerland points out that she has just cut it, since it's the first time he has seen her like that. When asked why, she tells him it's both because she's more comfy with shorter hair and because she wants to look and be more like her very tough older brother. This is slightly expanded in the anime: the episode featuring Liechtenstein and Switzerland opens with her sitting in front of her mirror and cutting her braids.
Parodied in a strip with young England and young France. Tired of being bullied, England lets his hair grow to look tougher, but soon it's matted and ruined so France offers some help... and actually cuts it to its former short shape, much to England's horror.
According to author's notes, Female!Japan used to have long hair in a Hime Cut, but once she broke off her 200-years long isolation, she cut it shorter to prove that she could now interact with the rest of the world.
The lead character of Kaze Hikaru has already cut her hair at the beginning of the series to join the Shinengumi, but Okita Souji remarks on the depth of her sacrifice.
Haruhi cuts her hair short in the first episode. Before cutting her hair, she was indifferent to all classmates, changing her hairstyle every day of the week, increasing the number of ribbons each day. When Kyon questions this, the usually aloof Haruhi has a short debate with him, ending with Kyon implying that he finds it unnecessary. The next day Haruhi shows up with her hair cut (to everyone's, especially Kyon's surprise). This event marks the beginning of her opening up to Kyon and creating the SOS Brigade, which is crucial to the series.
In the Disappearance arc, the alternate-timeline Haruhi still has long hair and is still snarky and antisocial. This shows how much of an impact Kyon had on Haruhi in the old timeline.
In the manga Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, known as Hana-Kimi for short, Mizuki cuts her hair in the first few pages because she wants to disguise herself as a boy. This is to sneak into an all-boys' school as a student so she can get close to a student athlete she admires. The gender-reversal is so key to the plot that the reader does not actually get to see Mizuki with long hair. When she is depicted cutting it, her head is not shown until after she has cut it short. later, Mizuki is shown in a flashback taking place before she cut her hair, but some clever art tricks are used so that the sight of her with long hair is again denied.
And male lead Akiyuki's grows out after he gains complete control of his powers.
Gets a lampshade hung on it in the dub of the OVA of Master of Mosquiton when Inaho cuts off her ponytail to signify her search for the O-Parts and Mosquiton, the Genre Savvy vampire, complains about her doing "the hair-cutting thing."
In the Kino's Journey prequel movie/episode "life goes on", Kino has her long hair cut into the shorter style seen throughout the series as the result of it being stained with blood from the first person she killed.
Nuriko cut his hair off when he found out he had feelings for Miaka
In Gurren Lagann, Nia's hair is cut by two bullets from Yoko's sniper rifle the episode after she decides to shun her previous life. Unlike many cases, this time the accidental cut doesn't give a clean cut at all, and she has Yoko clean it up, showing that they finally trust each other.
There is a sort of inverted example in SHUFFLE! Asa Shigure's short hair grows longer when she uses magic to save Rin's life after he attempts suicide... to force her use said magic and stop bottling it inside her body. This change signifies that Asa has finally come to terms with her heritage as a half-demon and the daughter of the first being experimented on by the gods and the demons.
Eunhyung from the Boys LovemanhwaLet Dai gets her hair cut boy-like short after being brutally gang raped. She also adopts a more masculine attitude that borders on tomboyish. Somewhat subverted in Naru whose hair style keeps changing all the time since he often uses wigs.
Naru Taru has a few examples of this: Akira cuts her beautiful long black hair after Komori comments on how nice it is. Shiina adopts a shorter haircut after the death of Hiro-chan and she also cuts her father's hair.
Somewhat subverted in Boys Love manga Doushitemo Furetakunai in which Shima cuts his hair shorter to signify that he renounces any hope of keeping up his relationship with Togawa only to have Togawa calling him out on it so that he ends up going back on his resolution. Shima at one point reflects that girls tend to cut their hair when they're dumped thus acknowledging the validity of this trope.
Both subverted and respected in the Boys Love manga Koi ga Bokura wo Yurusu Hani. Yamazaki tries to change his hairdo to make it look less girlish in an attempt at revamping his image but it does not work. Miku gets a radical haircut once she finally decides to accept the relationship between Eiji and Yamazaki, thus moving on from her emotional hang ups.
After accidentally causing the ribbon to run out of time and getting Hime-chan stuck as Hibino Hikaru, Erika from Hime-chan no Ribbon cuts off her gorgeous, extrememly long blonde hair so that she can impersonate Hime-chan at home and school until they can find some way to reverse the transformation. The next time we see her after she goes back home, her hair has grown out to shoulder-length.
While only shown for a moment in a 'growing up' montage MÄR's Ginta gets his hair cut at one point during his first trip into the Shuuren no Mon.
In Captain Tsubasa, Kumi Sugimoto cuts her Girlish Pigtails midway through the WYC arc, to offer it as a sacrifice to a Shinto goddess and bring good luck to the Japanese team.
An unintentionally hilarious example in Dragonaut. Kazuki gives himself a haircut following a Wangst-fueled hissy-fit (one of many.) The result has been described as looking like his head got raped by a lawnmower.
In Claymore, Clare gets her haircut during her final exam and first yoma hunt, to use the hair as a decoy.
Sakura Gari: Masataka gives one to Souma to signify his Missing Mom Abigail's definitive passing, and Lord Saiki's acceptance of such a fact.
Subverted in Wandering Son: When formerly depressed trans girl Nitori cuts her hair short, everyone thinks she's decided to be a boy after all, when in fact she wanted a "pixie" haircut like the female model in a magazine (think Mia Farrow in Rosemarys Baby). It's used as a plot point though, it shows how much she's growing out of her androgyny.
Played straight in the same series with the resident trans boy, Takatsuki. He cuts his hair early in the first volume, from a bob to a pixie. In middle school he grows it back into a bob due to a female friend of his saying he looks better with it. After being told how it makes him look like a tomboy and he's "cute" with it, he cuts his hair. At the beginning of high school he begins letting his hair grow again though.
In Heat Guy J, Giovanni has to go destroy J, even though he knows it will hurt someone to whom Giovanni and his best friend owe their lives. Before he does so, he tries to look like a different person by shaving his mullet into a mohawk and dyeing it blue. Meanwhile, his best friend looks on nervously, knowing that this isn't going to go well.
Kaitou Saint Tail kept her long, red hair down as Meimi, but kept her hair in a pigtail as Saint Tail. At the end of the manga series, after she'd quit being Saint Tail, she cut her hair short.
In Fruits Basket, both Rin and Akito get important haircuts. Rin has her long hair hacked off by Akito when she's locked up. In this case, the Traumatic Haircut is symbolic for both of them. Akito is enraged and hates long, black hair because it reminds her of her mother, Ren (A Smug Snake who abuses her daughter constantly, and in fact is the one who manipulated Rin to act against Akito which is what got her caught in the first place); Rin, meanwhile, wears her hair short for the rest of the series and it symbolizes how she is calmer and eases up on her determination to break the curse (which was pretty much driving her to an early grave, due to her being an Ill Girl). Akito gets an inverse at the end, when she grows her hair out to symbolize how she's free to live her life as a woman, rather than forced to hide her identity and pretend to be a man.
Fairy Tail: A few instances, most notably when Fried Justine shaves off his waist-length hair after Laxus is excommunicated from the guild. Lampshaded in Lucy's narration when she remarks that he "seems to have taken the old-fashioned position of 'contemplation = head-shaving'." Notably, he grows it back to its original length not much later (probably with the aid of, y'know, magic), so it's possible it was either done for the sake of the joke, or else someone pointed out that he looks silly with a shaved head.
Bleed Kaga from Future GPX Cyber Formula cuts his long braided tail in the final episode of SIN and dyes his hair black, a symbol of wanting to settle the score with Hayato.
In Corsair, Ayace cuts off Canale's hair instead of killing him as requested, leaving the severed hair at Canale's family mansion (now on fire) as symbol of his old life and encouraging him to move on and live.
Pandora Hearts: Leo gets one in Retrace 61. For a while, he had been using his hair as Blinding Bangs so he wouldn't have to see or here things anymore. By that point, he was "tired of hiding".
During Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa, Alphonse grew his hair out like Edward. It's symbolic, as he wants to be like Ed; he even wore the same clothing as him. Near the end he cuts his hair, to the same style as before he lost his body.
In the Sukeban Deka OAV, Saki rejects the advances of a classmate by saying that she hates guys with long hair. In response, the boy whips out a set of clippers and shaves himself bald right there in front of her. He doesn't graduate to love interest, but he does become one of Saki's allies.
Perhaps in an inverted example, in Book Two of the manga Ooku, Abbott Arikoto grows his hair out when he breaks his vow of chastity.
Ayumu from Life cut her hair when she began middle school, around the same time she became depressed and started to Self Harm herself. She cut it shorter later in the story, when she became more happy with herself.
The protagonist of Vitamin by the same mangaka cuts her hair in the last chapter, to show she's become more confident.
Franky from One Piece cut his hair to a buzz cut after the Time Skip, but can revert to his old style or change to a new one by pressing his nose for more than three seconds.
It doesn't really seem to be important so much as funny, however, as the hairstyles Franky's displayed so far include his original pompadour, his new buzz-cut, a mohawk, and bull horns.
Yozora of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai sheers her long locks after an incident with a firework, and getting a bucket of dirty water dumped on her to put it out. The important part of this is her short hair finally brings Kodaka around to realizing, she's his Forgotten Childhood Friend, Sora.
In the Strider manga, Hiryu cuts off his ponytail at the end of the 2nd chapter, and leaves it in his friend Sheena's grave, now fully-determined to destroy the Mega Corp. and anyone responsible for their mind control project.
Ena from Yotsubato had even longer hair in the early chapters, suggesting that she cut it a bit shorter during the early summer vacations.
In the 3rd Tenchi Muyo! OVA, Noike lops off her long hair early because she absolutely hates the idea of having long hair, saying she'll wear a wig for important matters. For those not in the know, Juraians have incredibly long hair as tradition. Noike's adopted.
Not an actual haircut, but supplemental information revealed that Ayeka actually has blue hair and that she had it geneticly modified to impress Yosho.
In the manga HorimiyaMiyamura gets one to prevent the other students from talking badly about Hori for having 'such a bad taste in guys'.
In the "Season of Mists" Story Arc of The Sandman, Lucifer — depicted as looking like an ordinary if rather good-looking human apart from the great big wings growing from his back — resigns from being Ruler of Hell and goes off to live among the mortals; in a gesture combining practicality with the symbolism of the Important Haircut, his last act as Ruler of Hell is to ask the Sandman — his enemy on the best of days — to cut his wings off. He doesn't bother with anaesthetic.
The very opening scene of the pseudomanga Shutterbox depicts the romantic lead cutting the blue dyed streak from his hair before going off to drown himself.
When Superman came Back from the Dead, he had shoulder-length hair (worn in a ponytail as Clark). During the preparations for his wedding, he had it cut to its previous length.
In the beginning of Kingdom Come, the isolated, retired Clark Kent has long hair, which he cuts when he decides to become Superman again. Rather a shame, since he looked surprisingly good with long hair.
Nightwing grew a ponytail during New Titans, and lost it by accident in an early issue of his solo series, giving him a distinctive look he maintained for some time.
Likewise, he lost the haircut he'd been sporting more or less constantly since 1940 in New Titans under the advice of Starfire, who turned out to be a sinister doppelganger.
In the ElfQuest comics, when her lifemate is killed, the usually mild-mannered Clearbrook slices off her waist-length braid and drapes it over his dead body, then turns into a revenge-mad Mama Bear for a while. Centuries later, when she's back to her normal serene self, we see her hair has grown back. Word of God explicitly labels her hair as a symbol of her sexuality, which she was unable to experience fully while mourning her lifemate.
After an extended period offworld and near-transformation into a predatory alien, Storm of the X-Men steadily veered away from her serene nature-lovingTechnical PacifistTeam Mom persona to the point of stabbing a woman in the heart during a duel for rulership of the Morlocks. This culminated with her showing up to Wolverine's wedding in leather pants, a matching tube-top with vest, and a mohawk (her clothes and much of her hair were burned earlier that week, but less jarring salvage options were available even in Tokyo).
The mohawk was meant as a joke by Paul Smith, the regular artist of the book at time. He did include some feminine hairstyles among the potential new looks.
Referenced in Ultimate X-Men. After Hank McCoy aka Beast was killed in a Sentinel attack (don't worry, he got better) Storm, who had been his girlfriend at the time, smashed up her room, started dressing in black leather clothes, and gave herself a punk-rocker haircut.
Recently, she went back to the mohawk. After her marriage with the Black Panther went belly up due to Avengers vs. X-Men, she decides a change is in order and asks Wolverine to lop up her hair with his claws. It's something of a mixture of the mohawk and her usual long hair.
This trope, like nearly every other predominant comic book trope of the era, gets played with during Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man. After the murder of his wife and children, he heads off to get vengeance, but not before switching over to a leather costume and cutting his own hair with a trimmer. When Mirror Master sees him, though, he says it looks like he ran his head under a lawnmower.
Another Morrison example—in The Invisibles, Jack Frost cuts his previously long hair into a shorter style upon finally accepting The Call. This is foreshadowed earlier in the series, when Boy tells him he should cut his hair as at its current length it would get into his eyes when he was fighting — the obvious symbolism of the haircut being that he is now ready to begin said fighting.
In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, Princess Sally grows her hair after a year-long Time Skip. This is symbolic of the changes she'd gone through the year apart from Sonic, and coincided with a redesign for a lot of the other characters and her own apparent mental breakdown. Later on, while under a new writer, Sally decides to cut her hair again, going back to her old hair-do, to signify that she's got her head on straight again.
Y: The Last Man. Agent 355 cuts Yorick's hair after the traumatic events in "Cycles".
The Silver Age origin of Lex Luthor is that he turned evil after Superboy accidentally made his hair fall out. Really. (Oh, okay, there's some stuff about pride and betrayal and destroyed experiments, but the baldness is the important thing.)
In Meridian, minor character Feabie cuts off her braid with a dagger to prove to her unrequited love Jad that she can be as serious and useful as his missing girlfriend Sephie (the protagonist). Metafictionally, this was meant to make them more distinct from each other, as both Sephie and Feabie had long blond hair.
Thunder from The Outsiders loses her distinctive blonde wig and grows out her hair during the One Year Later jump in The DCU. It's later revealed that the team has gone underground and that she's in a same-sex relationship with teammate Grace. Make what significance of that you will.
:* In the original incarnation of the team, Halo gets one after learning her true origin (she was evil and is dead, fused with an alien energy being) so she less resembles the evil dead girl.
Lisa from Funky Winkerbean lost her hair twice in the strip's run. First, a building fell on her and her head had to be shaved for brain surgery. Then there was the cancer.
Catwoman has a history of giving herself important haircuts. Most recently, she hacked off her hair in a public bathroom after giving up her daughter for adoption, trading longer mommy hair for her usual short action-ready style.
Haircuts are very important in general in Scott Pilgrim. Ramona changes her hair color and style constantly, and her not getting a haircut is a plot point. Scott is afraid to cut his hair because his last girlfriend broke up with him immediately after he got a haircut (for unrelated reasons), but finally Ramona cuts his hair for him, a major step toward him getting over Envy and moving on.
In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem loses all of his hair to a malfunctioning shower unit within hours of returning to The City, having come down from the mountains looking decidedly woolly.
Shade, the Changing Man - Kathy's Important Haircut came after getting over the loss of Shade and becoming romantically attached to Lenny. The editor confessed in the letters page that she had also gone through several hairstyles of her own while getting over emotional pains. Kathy returned to long, natural hair while pregnant with Shade's child and since she was murdered not long after, that's how she's always remembered.
And then there's Shade himself, who gets a new haircut every time he dies.
Queen Hippolyta cuts her own hair in the Circle arc before going to beat up invading Nazis.
The X-Wing Series comics show that Wedge Antilles and Soontir Fel, the two Corellians who are second only to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, respectively, in piloting skills, both had very long tied-back hair when they were young. Wedge apparently had his cut after his parents were killed, since his next-set appearance of only a few years later has him with short hair. Soontir's hair is entirely shaved off when he's signed into the Imperial pilot academy. Major changes for both of them.
In Ball and Chain, Mallory cuts her long hair short in a vain attempt to convince herself that she's over her impending divorce. And we do mean vain. The first thing she says when she's finished is "I hope he... I hope I like it. I do. I like it."
In the original Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, early in Jim Steranko's classic period, the formerly scraggly Army Commando gets a thorough professional shave and hair to finally change his look into the clean shaven and sleek spy hero.
When the Civil War finally begins, Nikolai Dante cuts his hair short (off-panel) to represent his acceptance of the Romanov name. During the Amerika storyline, he finds a poster of himself from his swashbuckling days, and the toll the years have taken on him become painfully apparent.
When Ben Reily took over the role of Spider-Man, he was forced to cut his hair short and dye it blonde because too many people were mistaking him as Peter Parker.
In the Kim Possible fanfic "Broken Heart, Broken Mind", a resurrected Eric arranged to swap Kim's headache medication with a powerful mood-altering drug, prompting her to bitterly denounce Ron (less than a month before their planned wedding, no less), and then attempt suicide. While recovering from the drug's effects, Kim was forced to face the fact that what she said while under the influence hurt Ron deeply, and that she had taken him for granted all too often in the past. Later, Kim and Ron face Eric's army of android clones of Kim. Prepping for the battle, Kim asked Ron to cut her hair short with the Lotus Blade. In this case, the Important Hair Cut served two purposes: the traditional transformation from "old Kim" to "new Kim" as Kim acknowledged how she had taken Ron for granted, and also the more practical purpose of allowing Ron to tell the real Kim from the Kim-bots, so he wouldn't kill her by accident while slashing robots.
Films — Animated
In Mulan, the Disney film (pictured above), the title character cuts her hair off with a sword in a half-practical (making her upcoming Sweet Polly Oliver charade easier), half-symbolic (breaking off with her past) move.
This happens in Tangled when Flynn cuts Rapunzel's hair as she is about to heal him, intending to free her from captivity. In the process, he causes her hair to lose its magic powers, thereby revoking Mother Gothel's immortality and having her go through Rapid Aging to the point of death.
Films — Live-Action
At the end of Gate Of Hell, having committed murder and dishonored himself, the samurai protagonist slices off his queue and says he will become a monk.
In Mean Girls it happened off screen. After Regina spread the rumor in middle school that Janis was a lesbian, Janis dropped out of school for the rest of the year; when she returned in the fall, "all her hair was cut off, and she was totally weird."
In The Crying Game, Fergus gives Dil a haircut so Dil will look like a man (and thus, to protect Dil from the people hunting Fergus down).
In The Parent Trap, Annie has to cut her hair in order to pose as Hallie. She isn't too happy about it, especially since Hallie (an 11-year-old) is cutting her hair. Sharon in the Hayley Mills original also had to cut her hair.
Example and subversion: In Shaolin Soccer, the hero's main love-interest has two important haircuts - the first one failing badly, and the second one turning her into an unbeatable goalie.
In the movie Sliding Doors, the version of Helen that did find her boyfriend in bed with another woman had an Important Haircut, allowing the audience to easily distinguish Single, Empowered, Blonde Helen from Cheated-on, Dowdy, Brunette Helen.
Evey Hammond is shaved bald in the V for Vendetta movie at a crucial moment in her character development. A band even named themselves "Natalie Portman's Shaved Head" after this scene. Yes, really.
Parodied in Shoot 'em Up, where the protagonist spots a mook with a ponytail, comments on how much he hates middle aged men with ponytails, then shoots it off of his head.
Also parodied in Coming to America; Prince Akeem goes into a barber shop and asks for a "real American haircut". The barber whacks off Akeem's ponytail with one snip of his scissors. "That'll be ten bucks eight dollars."
Used to effect at the end of Elizabeth, as Elizabeth I of England declares herself the Virgin Queen.
In The 10th Kingdom the main character Virginia is placed under a curse that causes her hair to grow at an incredible rate. When using a magic axe to undo the curse, another character renders her hair even shorter than at the beginning of her adventure. After the haircut, Virginia seems to have lost some of her naivete and indecision.
The female protagonist of G. I. Jane shaves her head during her special operations training.
In Seven Samurai, we first see Kambei as he shaves his head to disguise himself as a priest and take care of a hostage situation. This would dishonor a normal samurai to cut his hair in such a fashion as well as use such a duplicitous trick. However, the scene serves as an Establishing Character Moment that Kambei doesn't care about such things, which inspires some peasants to hire him.
Richie's Important Haircut in The Royal Tenenbaums coincides with an important suicide attempt. He spends most of the movie as a has-been tennis player, and like his siblings wears pretty much the same same hairstyle and clothes as he did when he was young, so the new, shaven style is a sign of his moving on.
Smoke Signals had Victor Joseph cut his hair with a folding knife when faced with the family mementos kept by his runaway father. He had previously told his braided traveling companion that long, free-flowing hair is an Indian man's sign of pride.
In Willow, Willow's wife Kaia lops off her braid and gives it to him as a keepsake near the start of the movie.
In the film of Stardust, Tristan gets a haircut from Captain Shakespeare, symbolising his change from village shop-boy to romantic adventurer. Oddly, this involves him having longer hair, to Tristan's visible surprise.
Reese Witherspoon's character Vanessa Julia Lutz gets an unwanted Important Haircut in Freeway.
Jim of 28 Days Later shaved and cut his hair at Frank's place, just about when he stopped being the baby of the team and became competent and sure of himself.
In Empire Records, Deb comes to work on the day the movie is set, goes into the bathroom, and shaves her head.
In Shanghai Noon, the antagonist Lo Fong cuts off Chon Wang's braid, which is a very important status symbol to an Imperial Guard to the Emperor of China. Without this braid, he would not be allowed to return to China on punishment of death, and so because of this, his primary objective changes and he starts to embrace the "Western world".
In the film The Last Emperor, Pu Yi (the last imperial ruler of China) cuts his own braid off, but rather than it being a symbol for the loss of his power it's instead a sign of his resolve to break with the past and take an active role in ruling The Forbidden City (which, up until that point in his life, he had merely been a figurehead ruler for.)
Sunshine (2007). After a fight with a fellow crewmember, engineer Mace shaves and cuts his hair short to show that he's going to focus on the mission from now on.
In Hostage, our hero played by Bruce Willis starts out as a stressed out big city hostage negotiator with a full, bushy beard and long, unkempt hair. In the second scene he is now a small town police chief who is a stickler about the dress and deportment of his officers; he is clean shave, head and face, having left the insanity of his former job behind.
In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick begins as a furry man-on-the-run. While he jacks his pursuer's ship and finds the man he thinks hired them, it is just after shaving that he definitively switches from being the hunted to the hunter.
In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle crops his hair short and then shaves it into a mohawk just before his assassination attempt, showing his trip off the deep end.
In Mongol, Jamukha shaves his head to mourn the killing of his brother by Temudgin's guards.
In Sleeping With The Enemy, Julia Robert's character cuts her hair as part of her transformation from battered, submissive wife to free woman.
In Splendor in the Grass, Deanie (Natalie Wood) cuts her hair, to get rid of her "nice girl" looks.
The opening credits for Full Metal Jacket consist of a montage of all the maggots new recruits getting shaved in preparation for basic training.
The transformative moment in The Legend of Billie Jean is when Billie Jean hacks off her hair. She goes from a long blond beauty to an avenging rebel. This occurs after she sees The Passion of Joan of Arc; she is adopting the hairstyle of that movie's heroine. More soberingly, Putter does the same thing out of defiance after her mother hits her.
The protagonist of Cthulhu (2007), shortly after arriving back in his hometown, shaves his head similar to his estranged father. As this happens early in the movie I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to symbolise, though it's apparently a case of Real Life Writes the Plot — the actor had shaved his head for another role, yet was playing a college professor).
After being raped, Asia Argento's character in The Stendhal Syndrome hacks off her hair. This also turns out to be an indication that she has developed a serial-killing split personality.
In Blow Dry, Christine (Rachel Leigh Cook) cuts off her own hair so her scheming dad (Bill Nighy) can no longer use her as a hair model in the annual British Hairdressing Championship. This drives home the point that she refuses to help him win by cheating.
Kingdom of Heaven specifically the Director's Cut. Sybillia, Queen of Jeruselum cuts her hair when she renounces her throne after she mercy kills her son before he suffers and dies from leprosy like her brother.
This happens in the sequel to The Boondock Saints. Connor and Murphy MacManus have been in hiding in Ireland for years, growing hair and beards worthy of Christ himself. When they are called out of retirement, they immediately shave it all off, returning to their first-film appearance (with some Perma Stubble for good measure.) Later, they wonder why they did it.
In The A-Team, after breaking B.A. out of prison, the others give him a razor but he simply cuts his hair short rather than into his usual mohawk, as he now rejects the violence it represented to him. Later, after he accepts that violence can be right and necessary, this shift is emphasized by the dramatic reveal of the mohawk's return.
In The Candidate, one of the first signs that Robert Redford's principled-liberal-insurgent title character is starting to get co-opted by the system is when he gets a haircut.
In Frida, Salma Hayek's titular character gets drunk and cuts her hair in reaction to her marriage failing and then creates a well known painting of the event.
In The Long Kiss Goodnight, Geena Davis's character has an Important Haircut (while also dying it blonde) after we've seen the Charly Baltimore personality completely take over (or appear to) and the Samantha Caine personality disappear (maybe).
In Single White Female, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character Hedy gets a short haircut and has it dyed red at a salon similar to Bridget Fonda's character Allie in order to be more like her. She later dyes it back to brunette while holding Allie hostage.
In horror/coming-of-age film Excision, disturbed teenager Pauline gives herself one of these right before she performs a lung transplant on her little sister in the garage.
In Princess of Thieves, Gwyn gives herself one when she decides to follow after Robin, in an attempt to follow him to war.
Near the end of Withnail and I, Marwood (a.k.a. "I") cuts off his unruly curls for a more upstanding, adult 'do. Not only is this more appropriate for his first professional stage role (the lead, no less), it also symbolizes his moving on with his life and leaving Withnail behind.
We're the Millers: David's transformation from drug dealer to wholesome American father.
In the 2011 movie of Coriolanus the Volscian soldiers start shaving their heads in imitation of Coriolanus, and the 'gold throne' from the play is the barber's chair they use for this initiation. The bearded Volscian leader Aufidius is not happy.
Subverted in The Room. A lot of attention is paid to Mark shaving his beard (complete with dramatic music), but it signifies nothing. At all.
In Culhwch and Olwen, the hero Culhwch seeks the help of his cousin King Arthur to win Olwen, the daughter of a giant, from her father. Arthur, in traditional fashion, offers Culhwch any boon he may wish for (although they subvert the "rash boon" trope of romantic literature by having Arthur qualify his offer with a list of important items that Culhwch may not ask for). One of Culhwch's requested boons is a haircut from Arthur, marking a right of passage for the youth. Furthermore, Olwen 's father, the giant Ysbaddaden, requires many onerous tasks from Olwen his knightly companions before granting his daughter's hand, culminating in a request for a shave (because shaving his mighty hair requires such obscure, powerful tools that it may as well be pointless). During the shave, they shave him down to the bone, and he grants his daughter's hand before being beheaded. This Welsh tale dates back to at least the 11th century.
Many religions have prohibitions or rules in regards to hair. In literature, the most famous example is probably the Biblical Samson (Book of Judges), whose parents were visited by an angel who allowed his barren mother to become pregnant if she would abstain from unclean meat and alcohol and never cut the child's hair or shave him. This essentially constituted a pre-natal initiation into a Jewish ascetic cult, and this super out-of-proportion before-birth devotion granted Samson the mystical power of invincible strength, allowing him to become one of the judges who were leaders of Israel. The major part of his story is a negative Important Haircut that eventually results in his blindness and death, making even the inversion of this trope Older Than Feudalism.
Surely in a night Ar of Moab is devastated and ruined; Surely in a night Kir of Moab is devastated and ruined. They have gone up to the temple and to Dibon, even to the high places to weep Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba; Everyone's head is bald and every beard is cut off.
In Hiromi Goto's The Kappa Child, the main character gets her hair cut very short and finally begins to mature and take charge of her own life.
In Pat Murphy's Adventures in Space and Time with Max Merrywell, Susan's repressive mother always made her keep her hair long. She gets a short haircut and feels much freer and happier.
In Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray, Tiara freaks out about her life and starts hacking her hair off with an ax. Petra manages to fix it, giving her "warrior princess hair."
In the Baby Sitters Club series, Mary Anne has one when her father stops being overprotective of her.
In "The Little Mermaid" (the original story) the mermaid's sisters give the sea witch their hair in exchange for a knife that will grant the mermaid her tail back.
Inverted in Jane Austen's Emma, as the haircut is important only because all the other characters think it isn't. It later turns out that the haircut wasn't his real reason for the trip. He went to buy a pianoforte for his secret fiancé.
"Emma's very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut."
Happens to a few characters in the Sword of Truth series, where one section of the world puts a lot of stock in the length and style of women's hair. Two examples: In the first book, the hero gives Rachel (previously little more than a slave, with her hair deliberately chopped up) a haircut evening out her locks after she runs to freedom. In the second book, the Mother Confessor (who, as the de facto ruler of the land, has the longest hair around) has her hair chopped off before she's sentenced to be executed.
In New Moon, the second book in the Twilight series, Jacob and his friends get short haircuts after joining the reservation gang. Turns out long hair makes shaggy werewolves.
Two of the main characters in The Outsiders cut their hair off while on the run from the law. Important as their hair is the most obvious symbol of their Greaser status.
In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry has his shoulder-length hair cut off shortly before his wedding, to symbolize leaving behind his immature playboy lifestyle and becoming more like the responsible adult Clare fell in love with in the first place. Conveniently, this also means his future self can convincingly stand in for him at the wedding ceremony itself (since cold feet and nerves in his present self end up triggering his time travel).
Cao Cao chops off his hair to impress his men after transgressing against a rule that had execution (by decapitation) as its punishment. Calling it an attack on the head, his men were doubly careful to avoid breaking the rules when they saw that the highest ranks were still subject to punishment.
Subverted by Zhao Fang. When Cao Xiu questions Zhao's motives for defecting, Zhao threatened suicide. After being stopped from killing himself, he cut off his hair as a pledge. Zhao's defection was fake, though, and Cao Xiu would end up severely defeated in battle.
In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Jo March cuts her long, beautiful auburn reddish hair and sells it to a wig maker to raise money for her mother's trip to where their father is in a Union Army hospital. It was her one real beauty and a great personal sacrifice to help her family; her sister Meg catches her crying later that night and Jo is embarrassed as she explains it's for her hair (she would cut it again and again if she couńd, but her tears are her last sign of vanity).
Subverted in In Enemy Hands. Honor's brutal State Sec captors think giving her a clipper-cut is inflicting yet one more humiliation on a woman condemned to hang. Unfortunately for the 'black-legs', Honor deliberately wore her hair that short throughout most of her earlier career and only grew it out during her time in 'exile' on Grayson; she finds their resulting consternation a little funny, and is actually more worried that they're not feeding her enough.
In Ben Elton's novel Dead Famous, Sally, a contestant on a Big Brother-style game show, expresses a desire for an Important Haircut and cuts and dyes her hair while staying in the house. It turns out to be a very important haircut, because the show's producer planned to murder one of the girls to boost ratings, and "pre-recorded" the scene for all five female contestants. Sally was the first target but was not killed because she no longer looked like the fake Sally on the videotape.
In the short story The Gift of the Magi, Della has her long, beautiful hair cut and sold to get enough money to buy a Christmas present for her husband.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story called "Bernice Bobs Her Hair."
In the book Adorable Sunday, the title character Sunday poor kid cuts off her hair so her mother will let her stop being a child model.
Venus does something similar in Venus and the Comets.
After Turtle loses her waist-length braid in The Westing Game, she starts acting more mature and calling herself T.R. instead of Turtle.
In the Dragonlord series, the Yerrin clan only cut their hair when banished from the clan. A Yerrin without a clan braid is a man (or woman) without honor. Baisha, a villain in Dragon and Phoenix, cuts his own hair after murdering a kinsman and running from home.
There's a subtle one in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. After Lymond sells his body to the repulsive Aga Morat to protect Jerott, an oblivious Jerott ribs Lymond about his recent haircut. Though Lymond reveals nothing, an astute reader can extrapolate that the haircut was a reaction to the traumatic experience.
In Holly Black's Valiant Val shaves her head on a train shortly after catching her boyfriend cheating on her with her mom.
Niall in Wicked Lovely, albeit in the backstory. He cut his hair really short after the whole 'getting raped and tortured by dark court fey' thing, for the three reasons of (according to Word of God): Irial liked his long hair, and Niall blamed Irial for everything to begin with; so as to not hide the scar on his face; and because long hair is a good 'handle' to hold someone down. When he became Dark King he let his hair grown again to signify getting over it.
In Animorphs, Ax once mentions an Andalite custom where someone who has disgraced himself gets his fur cut short in a particular style. The idea is that one's honor slowly returns as the hair grows back. He gives this kind of haircut to Andalite!Tobias, but this is an aversion—he just doesn't want it to be as obvious that the two of them are identical.
In the Jacqueline Wilson book Double Act Ruby cuts her hair (previously the same as her sister Garnet's) to show that she no longer wants to be a twin.
In The Girls Series Magda gets her blonde hair cut into an unflattering style and dyed back to its original colour when some boys get the wrong idea about her, which had led to a borderline Attempted Rape. Once she regains her confidence, she has it cut even shorter into a better style and dyed bright red.
In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine mentions wanting to cut her hair off after her fiance died. She decides to cut her hair shorter later in the book for no particular reason, though This Troper's English teacher suggested that this, taken with the above, was Foreshadowingher own Death by Childbirth.
In Kij Johnson's Fudoki, the main character, a Heian court lady, regards it as a liberation from oppressive ceremony when she's finally elderly enough to retire to a monastery. Even though her attendants initially only cut off a symbolic few inches of hair (because it's servants who wear theirs shoulder-length), she feels relieved by the lightening of weight as well as the meaning of the haircut, and intends to chop it all off once she leaves.
In the short story that is a prequel to Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor duology, Tarma's hair is cut off by her Goddess to show that she has been accepted as Swordsworn.
In the Dragonriders of Pern novel Nerilka's Story, Nerilka shears off the long hair that was her one vanity before leaving her life as a Lord Holder's daughter to work as an anonymous healer's assistant in the plague tents.
In Poul Anderson's "A World Called Maanerek", the "tension release" using Sonna starts with her lobotomy — the doctor explains that first they will remove her hair, which will be interesting in itself, since many primitive women are proud of their hair.
A theme throughout the entire novel The Wisdom of Hair: the author, Kim Boykin, explained, "The thing about this story that seems to resonate with women is that we believe if we change or fix our hair, we can change our lives. I noticed this watching women come and go from my mom's beauty salon growing up and believe that will never change."
In Kathryn Hulme's The Nun's Story, the nuns have their heads shaved once they take their vows. The film adaptation renders this as just a very short haircut.
A great deal of fuss was made when the title character of Felicity cropped her mane of curls between seasons.
Subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: after Buffy has sex with Spike for the first time and regrets it, she gives herself a haircut because he had complimented her hair. After this cut, she's in a salon trying to get it repaired. She also quickly gets back together with Spike, as it takes more than a haircut to change your life when you're suffering from chronic depression.
In the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway ditched her librarian bun. This was less about symbolism and transition, and more about looking less ridiculous. Likewise Kes ditched her bobbed wig for long flowing locks, but that was probably to save Jennifer Lien from having to spend hours getting those pointy ears stuck on.
Starbuck gives herself an Important Haircut in the third season after getting chewed out. She puts on a clean uniform, cuts her hair, and goes to apologize to a family she had offended.
Adama importantly shaves off his mustache.
Chief Tyrol's shaved head is used as a sign of his gradual mental descent.
In Breaking Bad, Walt's decision to shave his head rather than deal with the hair loss from chemo coincides with a truly phenomenal Crowning Moment Of Awesome: at the end of the episode in which he goes bald, he uses a bag of crystal meth to gain entrance to the den of a druglord who had just hospitalized his partner... then blows up the room with what he reveals to be, in fact, fulminated mercury. Took a Level in Badass, indeed.
Walt gets another one at the end of the series, bringing his Character Development full-circle. He grows a full beard and grows his hair out while hiding out from the law in New Hampshire, after his true identity as Heisenberg goes public. He keeps it when he becomes The Atoner in the final episodes, and returns to Albuquerque to rescue Jesse from the Aryans and get his drug money to his family.
Averted in Charmed when Phoebe got a pixie haircut. Piper briefly comments on Phoebe's new hairstyle in the first episode of season 6, but that's only because Alyssa Milano showed up with it right before they started filming that season.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, at approximately the same time Ben Sisko was promoted from Commander to Captain, he shaves his head and grows a goatee. (Actor Avery Brooks was initially forbidden from appearing with a shaved head, which had been a trademark of his long-standing character in another series. Eventually, it was evidently decided that the actor had transcended the earlier part.) Also, about the same time Kira Nerys is promoted from Major to Colonel, her hair goes from short and boyish to shoulder-length.
Peter Petrelli, in Heroes, has his floppy fringe cut off while Sylar is attempting to remove his brain. This could well be in response to repeated requests (by not only other characters in the show, but also fans and the actor himself) for him to cut his hair. Elle later adds to this by giving him a more complete hair cut. Claude would be proud.
Lorna Dickey in Waterloo Road gets hair extensions. And then kills herself.
In the first episode of Scrubs season three, "My Own American Girl", Elliot decides she is sick of being a pushover and decides to reinvent herself by cutting her hair to shoulder length, using a lot more makeup and wearing sexier clothes. She tones down the look in later seasons however.
Matt McNamera on Nip/Tuck shaves his head as part of the coping process after finding out that his parents blackmailed his much-older transsexual girlfriend into leaving town — although before becoming a Neo-Nazi, oddly enough.
Xena: Warrior Princess actually used this trope as an essential part of its story in the fourth season. The season premiere had Xena seeing a vision from the future in which she and Gabrielle were crucified. Gabrielle had short hair in the vision, and sure enough, toward the end of the season Xena was forced to throw her chakram through Gabrielle's hair to beat the episode's villain. Both of them realized afterward that it now looked like it did in the vision, though that didn't stop Gabrielle from keeping it that way for the rest of the show's run.
Lionel Luthor has his head shaved at the end of "Covenant", the season finale of the third season, while we're shown his son choking to death on poisoned wine and Chloe Sullivan being blown up. The dramatic effect was somewhat lessened the next season, when it turned out that they had both miraculously survived, and one of the attempted murders hadn't even been committed by Lionel.
Lana Lang also chopped off some hair to try and Take a Level in Badass through training with her personal Yoda. Somewhat subverted unintentionally in that that didn't pan out.
Drug dealer in training Namond Brice has a distinctive frizzy ponytail that his compatriots all urge him to cut, since it makes him easily identifiable. He finally braids it, only to realize shortly afterwards that the drug trade isn't for him and be adopted by a former cop. He's next seen months later, with the frizzy ponytail again. This sequence was inspired by De'Andre in the original The Corner.
Omar Little also shaves off his cornrows between seasons three and four: right after he kills Stringer Bell and puts an end to his quest to avenge Brandon.
Marian cuts her hair at the beginning of series four of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, in an attempt to look tougher. The DVD commentary states that the actress had cut her hair for a play in between seasons, and didn't have time to grow it again.
Lori cuts Jessi's hair near the end of season 2 of Kyle XY when Sarah, who has shorter hair, comes and she leaves her "father". Lori even utters the line "Once we do this there's no turning back."
Boy Meets World actress Danielle Fishel wanted to get a haircut, but the higher-ups didn't want Topanga to lose her trademark locks. The only way they would allow it is if Topanga getting a haircut was made into a major story point, which became the second episode of the 4th season. It's parodied in a later season when Eric cuts off his long hair claiming it to be symbolic of her personal growth. It's also the season Eric becomes a lot dumber and wackier, so make of that what you will.
Happens in 24. At the start of day 2, Jack, still mourning for his wife and dealing with the fact that his daughter hates him now, is seen with straggly hair a unkempt beard (Perma Stubble in the extreme?) After struggling with the decision, we see Jack in the bathroom, fresh from cutting his hair and shaving the beard. A soon as you see that you know some serious shit is about to go down. It's business time, dammit.
Jack's hair is also notably shorter in the later seasons than it was in the first.
In season 7, Tony Almeida has his head almost entirely shaved and starts growing stubble as part of his Evil Costume Switch. Meanwhile, ex-CTU Director Bill Buchanan grows his hair out a bit after becoming a Rogue Agent determined to route out several conspirators in the government that are working with the terrorists for that season.
After the rather brutal second season opening of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John cuts off his long mop of hair. That episode implies it's to show how many levels of badass he's taken, and the next few episodes suggest that he's rebelling in the face of having watched his mother kill a man (the preceding episode made a point out of Sarah's unwillingness to kill humans), but a later episode reveals that it's actually very justified, because it was John who had just killed a man for the first time, and self loathing is a normal reaction.
In Grey's Anatomy, George cut his hair after he was burned by Meredith. Everyone even commented on how weird and stupid it looked too, and the reply was "the man has issues."
After Derek Shepherd's season 5 Heroic BSOD, he comes back to the hospital to remove Izzie's brain tumor, but the real sign that he's back is when, after the surgery and a talk with the chief, he shaves his beard, returning to his original McDreamy Perma Stubble look.
In the Australian TV show Phoenix (1992-3) undercover cop Laz Carides is reluctant to give up his independence to become a member of the suit-and-tie-wearing Major Crimes squad. His eventual acceptance of his new role is shown when he cuts off his (much commented on) ponytail.
Used in the second season of The L Word when Shane gives the newly-out Jenny a short haircut.
In NCIS, Gibbs grows a neat, somewhat disturbing moustache after returning from his 10-Minute Retirement, then shaves it off when he returns to his old self.
Additionally, during the obligatory amnesia episode, Gibbs thinks he is still a Marine, and gives himself the appropriate crew cut.
On the "Game Night" episode, Barney (in his hippie past) gets dumped and gives himself an important haircut and shave.
Also, between Season 1 and Season 2, Lily leaves and comes back with her trademark red hair dyed brown. This was a decision by the actress unrelated to the show, but the creators felt it fit the character, who had just undergone a breakup and other major life changes. The hair remained the same after she got back together with her ex, though.
Then there's Ted's growing a Beard of Sorrow after breaking up with Robin, and shaving it off again when he goes back on the market.
In Deadwood, Mr. Wu cuts off his queue to show his commitment to America and his alliance with Al Swearengen. He later begins wearing western style clothes as well.
Stephen Colbert had this done on him to prove he'd really gone through (a little) basic training to Commander General Odierno. When Colbert hesitated, President Barack Obamaordered Gen. Odierno to do it.
From a Brazillian soap opera: This is gotta be the most upsetting out of all Important Haircuts, complete with Lara Fabian's equally moving "Love by Grace" as background music.
On Iron Chef, when Kandagawa challenged Sakai for the Millenium rematch battles, he espoused a new philosophy about Japanese cuisine changing (if not quite modernizing - he was a strict Japanese traditionalist chef in his earlier appearances) in order to survive in the 21st century. Embodying this change, he shaved his head to remind him of his new commitment. His perfect, sweep victory over Sakai was a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Towards The Republic dramatizes young Sun Yat-sen's rejection of the Qing Dynasty by depicting him cutting off his braid in public and throwing it away.
In the Australian series McLeod's Daughters, Becky cuts her hair using a shard of a broken mirror after taking a job at Drovers Run.
Played with on Reba when Van goes through one to show he blends in with his football team... only to find out after the fact that his teammates tricked him.
Brad from Home Improvement gets a ponytail as a self-expression, much to Tim's initial chagrin. Later on, Emo Teen Mark shaves his head after a break-up.
In Season 7 of The Amazing Race, Joyce had to shave her head to win a Fast Forward (her husband Uchenna was already bald). That was the point at which they stopped being the boring couple in the background, and became threats to win the race (which they did). The fact that another team refused this same task didn't hurt their case, either.
The Fast Forward returned in Season 20, when Big Brother alumna Rachel Reilly fled weeping from the temple, bawling that she paid way too much for her extensions to have them shaved off. No hero's journey hers, although she and partner Brendon Villegas did finish third.
In almost every season of Stargate SG-1 both Carter and Daniel sport new haircuts. Oddly enough Teal'C's beard, and later hair, are the only appearance changes that get commented on and it is negligible that Carter and Daniel's haircuts actually altered their characters. O'Neill's hair just gets grayer.
In the original version of Survivors, Abby gives herself one of these at the end of the first episode.
Glee: Puck has to shave his mohawk in one episode and becomes a lot less cool.
Also, in the Season 2, Quinn is moping over her latest Finn breakup, so Santana and Britney order a haircut to cheer her up.
This is later subverted in the following season when it's shown that while it may have cheered her up in the short term, cutting her hair did nothing to actually fix her problems or touch off any (positive) character growth.
Looking for a new start after Finn's death, Rachel goes to the hair dresser and says she wants something new. She later seen with a shoulder length bob, much to the dismay of the director of the show she's starring in. She later reveals it was just a wig anyways.
Rory cuts off his ponytail for Amy in the Doctor Who series 5 episode "Amy's Choice".
In the season 4 Judging Amy episode "Requiem", Maxine cuts her long hair following the death of her fiance.
In Veronica Mars, flashbacks show Veronica with long, blonde hair. When the show begins, after Veronica is raped (after having been drugged) and her best friend is murdered, she wears her hair short. This is more likely to differentiate the different timeline than that VM cut her hair as a result of being raped or her friend having been murdered. Some of the flashbacks occur after Lily's murder and show Veronica's still long hair. It is also possible that some of the flashbacks occurred after Veronica's rape.
It fits, since the hairstyle also corresponds to a massive personality shift (from The Ingenue to a hard-boiled Snark Knight, among other things) resulting from said traumas and alienation from all her existing friends.
In the season 3 finale of True Blood, Tara cuts her hair short because she "needed to make a change".
Eric's haircut is important since it marks the change from 'jerk' to a more complex character.
Eric: The new me. You like?
Bill: I do. Very much.
Spinner on Degrassi gets an important haircut when he finds out he has cancer, shifting from a generic haircut to a mohawk, until he starts treatment and it goes to just bald. A nod to Snake's haircut earlier in the series for the same reason, just with a different mindset behind it.
Duncan cuts off his trademark long hair (with a knife!) in a dramatic slo-mo scene in the last season of Highlander: The Series.
Sally Draper cuts her hair in season 4 of Mad Men, it turns out creepily similar to her Betty's and emphasises the parallels of their characters.
Also in Mad Men, Peggy's 1950s ponytail is dramatically turned into a 1960s flip 'do by the office's first out-of-the-closet gay man.
An episode of Chicago Hope featured a teenaged boy who had been raised as a girl. After making a pass at his (female) best friend he went home and chopped off his long hair to try and pass as a boy.
Shane of The Walking Dead gave himself one after shooting Otis and using him as a meaty distraction.
When La Femme Nikita unexpectedly got a fifth season, the star, Peta Wilson, had cut short her trademark blonde tresses, thinking the show had ended. The first episode of the season turns this into a symbolic moment in which she crops her Blonde Hair of Innocence (an obvious wig, unfortunately), as she doomedly returns to Section One.
General Hospital. Katherine cuts her hair when she realizes that fiance Stefan wanted her to grow it long so that she would more closely resemble his Lost Lenore Laura.
On Bones, Zach has to forfeit his medium-length unkempt hair for a mature cut to retain his position once he completes his degree, because he has to look professional enough to stand as expert witness for a jury.
In the In Plain Sight episode "Kumar vs. Kumar", an Indian housewife gets her long hair cut short as part of looking more "American" in order to blend in while in Witness Protection. Her very traditional husband objects to these changes in her appearance and personality but they eventually reconcile.
In Boardwalk Empire, Angela cuts her hair into a French-style bob after her lesbian lover moves to France without her. Her husband Jimmy seems to realize that the cut puts distance between him and her.
Michael in the US version of Queer as Folk apparently tries to invoke this from time to time. One episode has a subplot wherein Michael is unhappy with the way his life is going. In one scene, he mentions to Brian that he's thinking about doing something different with his hair, and Brian immediately knows that something is wrong, because every time Michael is unhappy about something he tries to deal with it by changing his hair.
Hitler: The Rise of Evil. Adolph Hitler trims his handlebar moustache into the toothbrush style after being advised by wealthy supporter Ernst Hanfstaengl to adopt a more distinctive look.
Maggie Jordan has a Very Important Haircut (and dye job) in the season two premiere of The Newsroom, signifying that Something Very Bad Happened on a trip to Africa. Later in the season we learn it was because an African boy admired her long blond hair hours before he was killed in her arms.
Detective Olivia Benson chops off her hair in the season 15 premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit after spending most of the episode being tortured by a serial rapist and murderer, whom she beats nearly to death with a piece of an iron bed frame.
Rome. After suffering a Heroic BSOD from murdering Caesar, Brutus bathes in a river and swears to the god Janus that he shall be a new man. When we next see him, Brutus has cut his hair, shaved his Beard of Sorrow, and is paying serious attention to his war against Marc Antony.
Metallica experienced a backlash from their fans when they cut their hair prior to the release of 1996's Load (after a pyrotechnics accident forced James Hetfield to cut his, possibly out of solidarity). Guitarist Kirk Hammett has stated that "Metallica is all about music, not the length of our hair." During Alice in Chains' MTV Unplugged performance (which Metallica attended), bassist Mike Inez wrote on his bass guitar, "Friends Don't Let Friends Get Friends Haircuts..." However, the line was in fact just a Friends reference and the relation with Metallica's new haircuts was coincidental.
Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley cut his signature dreadlocks around the time he started using heroin.
Garbage singer Shirley Manson cut her trademark red hair short and dyed it blonde after splitting from her husband in 2001.
Alanis Morrisette was known for her waist length brown hair and shocked the world when she cut it short, recreating the chop in her video for "Everything".
Amy Lee gives herself one in the video for "Everybody's Fool".
The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song "Almost Cut My Hair" concerns a hippie/counterculture type who nearly gets his hair cut to avoid being harassed by the cops, but ultimately changes his mind and decides to be true to himself by "letting my freak flag fly".
Invoked by many black rappers and a few R&B artists that were known to sport cornrows. It's usually a sign that their music is about to take a more mature, down-to-earth and mainstream-friendly turn.
Given the fact that a girl cutting her hair after a break-up is a centuries-old real-life tradition in Japan, important haircuts feature prominently in Japanese pop music. A particularly obvious example is "Kanojo ga kami wo kitta riyuu" ("The Reason She Cut Her Hair") by Watanabe Misato.
Professional Wrestling uses the haircut as the ultimate insult, which means it is occasionally used as a way to resolve a dispute that has gone beyond It's Personal levels. In Mexico, it is especially considered a "statement victory" if you win with your hair (or mask) on the line, especially if your opponent has the same risk.
Used quite recently in an angle with CM Punk where he began to form a society of straight edge people. He picked three people out of the audience and had them pledge allegiance to him before shaving their heads bald. One included a woman who actually got to join his stable on television.
Kevin Nash lost a hair vs hair match and had his hair cut messily off by Chris Jericho and then tidied up offscreen. This was done as Nash had a role in The Punisher and needed to cut his hair.
One of TNA's most controversial moments had Roxxi Laveaux lose a match and have her head shaved as a consequence. While the shaving was going on the crowd chanted "Fire Russo" and Angelina Love and Velvet Sky picked up the hair and waved it in her face. Behind the scenes this was done so Love and Sky could get over as heels and Roxxi's hair was ruined from constant dying.
Jimmy Valiant during the 1986 Great American Bash tour. After defeating Shaska Whatley in a hair vs. hair match, Valiant won the right to face Shaska's manager, Paul Jones, in a match with the same stipulation. Shaska interfered to help Jones win and exact revenge for his own head shaving. Afterwards, a crowd of wrestlers tried to stop Valiant from going through with the head shaving, saying he could protest the finish to the NWA Board of Directors on the grounds of Shaska's interference. In a Crowning Moment Of Awesome, Valiant slammed a chair down in the middle of the ring, plopped himself down in it and gritted his teeth while the deed was done.
The Undertaker does this twice. Once when he became Big Evil and another when he is prepared to wrestle Triple H at Wrestlemania 28, after his humiliating performance at Wrestlemania 27.
Test and Christian were pressured by management into cutting their long hair short. Both of them used this trope as a way to explain the hairstyle change on TV. For Test it was done as a business move by his girlfriend Stacy Keibler who insisted it would help his fanbase grow. Christian cut his hair short after winning the newly re-instated Intercontinental title.
Outside of the ring, it's a bit of a tradition for some male wrestlers known for their long hair to cut it short once they retire. Edge gradually shortened his after retiring but went fully short before his Hall of Fame induction. Triple H shaved his head after his big loss to Brock Lesnar and transition to a character rolenote The cut was also half-practical since he had to wear his hair up in the office and found it a pain. Kevin Nash cut his off after his 2011 program with Triple H had ended (he let the haircut from the above example grow out almost immediately).
On the Gender Flip side, it's a tradition for a WWE Diva to change her hair after leaving the company. Normally blonde Divas go brunette - Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool and Kelly Kelly are examples. Kaitlyn darkened her trademark two-tone hair to a simpler brunette look a couple of months before she left the company too. Eve Torres opted for a shorter haircut when she retired too.
Natalya Neidhart dyed her hair red in 2008. Behind the scenes she did it because she felt there were too many blonde Divas already. On screen, it coincided with her winning a chance to become the first Divas' Champion. She went back to blonde when she joined the Hart Dynasty - and added a pink streak in honour of the Hart family colours.
Dwarfs in the world of Warhammer who fail to fulfill an oath or become similarly dishonored seek death on the battlefield, joining the Slayer cult. This is done by discarding any armor, dyeing their hair orange (in honor of the first Slayer), hacking it into a mohawk (not explained), and finding the nastiest enemy they can. Dwarfs being dwarfs, don't expect them to throw the match.
In Alcestis, Admetus orders all in Thessaly to cut their hair in mourning for Alcestis.
In the Chicago preview version of the Addams Family musical, the opening number is a coming-of-age ceremony for Wednesday that involves this. When the song was replaced with "When You're an Addams", the character's tie-in Twitter suggested that her Expository Hairstyle Change was the self-inflicted result of emotional turmoil about her attraction to Lucas.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick shaves his beard after realizing that he is in love with Beatrice. When Claudio and Don Pedro see his clean-shaven face, they rib him mercilessly about it. Many productions skip this sequence, but Joss Whedon's movie version includes it to great effect.
Princess Cecilia from Wild ARMs cuts her hair to show her dedication to the party.
Posha Saint-Amour cuts her hair late in Kartia The Word Of Fate as a sign of leaving the Medium profession. She becomes a Shrine Warrior, boosting her stats quite a bit.
In Final Fantasy IX, Princess Garnet goes into a period of mourning after her coronation as Queen of Alexandria is interrupted by an invasive attack by the Big Bad — a piece of unfinished business she left hanging when she went home to assume the throne. Eventually, she learns to put the incident, and her sense of shame over it, behind her. As an expression of her newfound devotion to give her all to finding and stopping the Big Bad, for her people and for every kingdom in the world, she borrows one of Zidane's daggers — which have a previously established significance in her sense of identity - and uses it to give herself an Important Haircut.
In a slight twist, her hair has grown back to its original length by the end of the game, although the symbolic weight of the Important Haircut doesn't seem to be diminished by it.
Luke cuts his hair in Tales of the Abyss when he decides that he wants to change himself for the better.
A semi-hidden audio segment in Metal Gear Solid shows Snake (who was shown up until this point as having long hair) asking Naomi for a pair of scissors so he can "clean himself up a little" - when pressed, he admits he doesn't want to be mistaken for the terrorist Liquid Snake, who has the same haircut, and the confession serves as his acceptance of the mission. By the time he's playable his hair is much shorter.
A weird retroactive version of this trope occurs between Fire Emblem 6 and 7 with Karel. In 6, he has short hair and deeply regrets the way he used to act. In the prequel, 7, he's a bloodthirsty maniac with hair down to his waist.
Romancing Sa Ga 3 Katrina Changes her hairstyle and loses her Noble's clothes after the Masquerade was stolen from her, you can revert her back to the way she was after getting the Masquerade back and Defeating any of the Devil Lords except Byunei so you can gain access to Loanne Castle.
A not-just-symbolic example: in the StarCraft universe, the the Dark Templar officially and literally cut themselves off from the Protoss race by cutting off their "nerve-appendages": thick, hair-like fibers at the back of their heads that connect the Protoss to a sort of communal mind-link.
Jeanne d'Arc in... well, Jeanne D Arc when she decides to pursue the Englishmen and join the army.
In Suikoden V, Lady Sialeeds stops dyeing her hair after her Face-Heel Turn, allowing it to go back to its natural white.
Charlotte cuts her own hair at the end of Samurai Shodown 2 to symbolize her renouncement to her feelings for Haohmaru.
Referenced in Dragon Age: Origins, when Marjolaine comments that Leliana cut her hair "like a boy" after escaping from Orlais
After getting into a car accident with Miki Hoshii in THE iDOLM@STER, she vows not to take things lightly ever again and then she asks the player if he likes short-haired girls. The next week she comes in with short, un-dyed hair. Her personality also changes, making her more strong-willed and hard-working. She also seems to be madly in love with the producer, calling him "Honey."
In Punch-Out!! for Wii, before your second match with Von Kaiser, he is shown getting a military cut, simbolizing he's not letting his emotional trauma hinder him for the next match.
Resident Evil Outbreak does this with Yoko. In the intro she rushes into the bathroom to cut her hair, because Umbrella assassins were after her. However this would also tie into her Eastern character, abandoning her life working on bioweapons and trying to put it behind her.
In Assassin's Creed III, Connor goes through one late in the story, using a knife to shave off most of his long hair into a short mohawk, and permanently leaving his hood down.
In Bioshock Infinite, Elizabeth cuts off her ponytail after committing her first murder.
In The Walking Dead, Lee gives Clementine a haircut on the advice of Chuck, who states that having long hair is a serious disadvantage with zombies as it gives them something to cling. One of the last things Lee can say to her is to keep her hair short.
Almost done in Ace Attorney: Investigations with Lauren Paups. One of her 'upset' animations is pressing a pair of scissors to a lock of her hair, on the verge of cutting it. She never does, of course. But compare the short, choppy hair she has tied back with her long, curling locks in front, and you can imagine how often this has happened before.
Similarly, in Kanon, Ayu's hair has grown long in a coma; not long before she awakens, Yuuichi gives her her headband and Nayuki cuts her hair to look like the Ayu that the viewers know.
In Air Misuzu gets her long hair cut by Haruko, her aunt and adoptive mother. By mistake, Haruko cuts Misuzu's hair a lot shorter than intended, which gives Misuzu a much younger appearance and subtly hints the turn of events in the show.
CLANNAD, in the Kyou OVA/Kyou route of the game, when Tomoya calls Ryou out to break up with her and apologize for falling for her sister, instead Kyou comes in Ryou's place, but her hair was already cut short, thus making her fool Tomoya until she utters his name.
Ellen cuts her hair shorter just as she is starting to find her place in the world.
Susan dyed her hair and had it cut after finding out about her father.
And there's Nanase, who cuts her hair really short. Not so much an important haircut as it is an important complete makeover. Nanase gets another one when her magic is temporarily run out. Her hair goes completely black.
Collin of Friendly Hostility has to dye the blue streak from his hair whenever he visits his hated parents. Not exactly a hair cut, per se, but it probably still fits.
Marten of Questionable Content seems to always get a haircut just before something interesting happens between him and Faye.
Also in Questionable Content, Dora decides to grow her dyed-black hair out shortly before a Time Skip; presumably, in the skipped time, Faye and Sven both grow accustomed to their friends-with-benefits relationship, which makes it all the more painful for both of them when he has a one-night stand with someone else.
Done twice in Abstract Gender. First, right after the transformations, where Ryan cuts his hair shorter to feel more like himself. He then does this again after discovering he now likes guys and is worried about losing his identity.
Inverted recently, with the ever strange Miho growing about a foot and a half of hair in no more than a week. And her personality seems to have changed as well...
Heartcore's Amethyst used to have long, flowing hair. After her father drained her power against her will, though, she cut her hair to shoulder-length (and got green bangs) in the first of many rebellious signs of protest against her father.
Karen cut her hair after she gets a dressing down from Miharu, whose fiance she'd previously been trying to lure away for her own reasons. After this, Karen becomes a more sympathetic character and stops trying to break Miharu and Kazou up.
Miharu's characteristic blond hair is the result of one of these - her friend Reika had her hair lightened (though not bleached) at the same time, symbolizing the strengthening of their friendship and their new lives at a new school. Miharu got another one when she was expelled from that school and had to let her hair go black again, symbolizing the subsequent identity crisis she suffered through. Then she bleached it yet again over the summer, symbolizing trying to reclaim her identity. As the comic still hasn't moved past summer break, it's to be seen if she changes her hair again.
Hanae did this in Chapter 45. In this case, she was trying to make a point to her mother that she was serious about her lesbianism.
Sluggy Freelance did two of these in one. After Zoe (in camel form) chewed off most of Gwynn's hair, Gwynn used magic to turn Zoe permanently bald. Zoe took to wearing a wig (longer than her previous hairdo), while Gwynn switched back and forth between her short hair and a wig that resembled her previous look. They were eventually restored to their old hairstyles in the "Time for Hair-Raising" arc.
Oasis also gave herself one of these in order to make herself look more like Zoe, though in the same arc a lot of it was burned off as well. Her previous Anime Hair was restored when she came Back from the Dead (again).
Gwynn had short locks for a brief period when her hair was burned off during the "Dangerous Days Ahead" arc. She grew it back over time. Played for laughs when the long-moved out Zoe moved back in and, trying to find at least one normal event, asked Gwynn what happened to her hair.
In Concession, Artie starts out refusing to tie his waist-length hair back on the grounds that it makes him look like a girl. When in a relationship with Kate, she braids it for him, and he keeps this style for a short time, then goes back to wearing his hair loose after he breaks up with Kate when she reveals herself to be a pedophile and tries to get him to join in a NAMBLA meeting. After he undergoes successful treatment for his cancer, he cuts it short and adds red streaks.
Played for laughs in Ménage ŕ 3, as when Didi comes out mistakes inadequate sexual partners as a sign that she is gay she immediately declares that she must now cut her hair short.
Played straight in Penny and Aggie when Sarah got an extreme haircut to symbolize coming out of the closet.
The lead character and author mouthpiece in Atheist Eve started out with a short bob, but was suddenly drawn with long hair in a strip focusing on evolution. It's been that way ever since.
Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 15 shows Red's first haircut, ever. (Owing to her fairy heritage, she didn't even know that hair could be cut.) She's convinced that it's not just symbolic, but that her old long hair that won't stick up is actually the root of all her problems.
Also happens at least twice to Kat. First, towards the end of Chapter 29, when Kat finally makes her peace with what she learned about Jeanne and Diego and trims her locks of sorrow; Second, in Chapter 32 when she returns from summer holidays with a new style - and a chip on her shoulder after Annie ran away to the Gilletie Forest without telling her.
Inverted in Drowtales - when Vaelia is no longer a slave and becomes Ariel's servant and guardian, she gets hair extensions. This is justified because short hair on women is a telltale sigh of slavery, even without a slave collar. Long hair on a human in Drow world would cause anyone to have a double-take.
The Weaponmaster in The War Of Winds does this to himself because he expects to die in the next battle. The act is a warrior tradition from his homeland acting as a symbol of his slavery to fate.
Sebastian gives himself a stylish, villainous trim in Saga 5 of True Villains when he accepts his villainy.
Mel from Stubble Trouble agreed to shave off all her fur at the request of her boyfriend, Rennon the Shaved, near the beginning of the comic. She has since stayed completely shaven for the nearly the entire comic's run.
Another male example of this is Gino Gambino from Gaia Online. He has become a new man, a navigator of an air ship. And what better way to show the change in his character (and to keep his flowing hair out of his face) than with an Important Haircut. (The first try doesn't come out looking as it should, though this should come as no surprise as it's Gino we're talking about...)
On Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl, J does this in the first episode after her boyfriend breaks up with her, only for him to take her back but break up with her again because he can't deal with her short hair (it makes him feel like "less of a man").
After his own sister Azula attempts to drag him home in chains, Prince Zuko and his Uncle Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender cut off their ceremonial top-knots in a dramatic scene, both as a symbol of serious exile from their own Nation and as a practical measure to pass in the Earth Kingdom. Later episodes show them growing out their hair gradually and consistently. Their heads had previously been shaved, except for those queues (top-knots). The former is probably a reference to the queues worn by Chinese men during the Qing dynasty to symbolize their loyalty to the Emperor (see Real Life below), while the shaggy mop Zuko wound up with by the end of the second season reflected Turn of the Millennium styles for teenage boys throughout the developed world, giving Zuko an air of familiarity as well as emphasizing his youth, concealing the more jagged areas of his burn scar, and giving his face a much softer look to it, as his Back Story was filled out and he became a more sympathetic character.
Zuko also gets an Important Hairstyle Change for the first part of season three; somehow the mop he was wearing in Ba Sing Se is long enough to tie up smoothly, and Prince Zuko goes around with a proper grown-up topknot for the first time in his life.
He is crowned at the end with the spiky flame hair ornament his father used to wear! (The Fire Nation 'crown' is actually stuck into your topknot, so not having one when technically in line for the throne is definitely a big deal.)
Also both used and reversed at the same time in the third season premiere, where Aang symbolically cuts his hair by destroying his glider. Reversed in the fact that Aang had actually grown some hair between the seasons, which he then shaves off again for his showdown with the Big Bad. A significant haircut in itself.
Katara's Fire Nation disguise includes a topknot. She looks like an exotic dancer. Most Avatar costume changes are treated like 'duh, we needed new clothes, we are wearing them,' in a distinct aversion of Limited Wardrobedespite the fact that in the setting the characters usually do have access to about one outfit at a time, but this gets a little highlighting since it involves wearing the colors of the enemy.
Azula's haircut is the sign that she is coming unhinged due to paranoia and mistrust.
Zuko actually had another important haircut, just after he was banished (with his Uncle Iroh). Beforehand, he had a full head of hair,◊ but just a week later, he was mostly bald.◊ It's never explained if this haircut was a symbolic haircut of disgrace forced on him when he was banished, something he did to himself for his own reasons, or simply a way to keep his hair out of his face while his burn healed. After all badly burned hair would have to be removed and anything hot enough to cause 2nd degree burns would definately scorch your hair.
In the transition from Justice League to Justice League Unlimited, Green Lantern John Stewart, like Sisko before him, shaves his head and grows a goatee. Whether this is a deliberate reference to Sisko is unknown. Unusually for a male character, Stewart's Important Haircut immediately follows his traumatic break up with Shayera.
The completion of Anakin's training as a Padawan and his becoming a Jedi is signified in Star Wars: Clone Wars when Yoda slices off Anakin's braid with a light saber in a Jedi Knighting ceremony. Later Anakin has it sent to Padme, who keeps it in a small jewelry box.
After Kim Possible forced Ron Stoppable to cut his hair, his personality took a 180. He became secure in himself, dressed more slick than he ever did and got to be popular with the attractive girls. But he became such a jerk that even his loyal naked mole rat didn't want to spend time with him, so he had his hair combed wrong, making the attractive girls overlooking him again.
Also, in the time travel movie A Sitch in Time, the older present Ron advised the past young Ron that he should keep the haircut.
In King of the Hill, Hank Hill cares very much about his hair. In one episode, he is soon going to pose in a "Wish You Well" Christmas themed card from his work place, but when his hair is ruined by his barber, he almost breaks down.
To round it all off, when he finally gets in the photo at the last second, he doesn't even smile.
A Rugrats episode was about Chucky's first haircut.
At the end of the Teen Titans episode "Birthmark", Raven cuts her hair, which had grown out like her father's (fittingly, this happens after Raven's father tells her via a vision that she will help him bring about The End of the World as We Know It), back to its normal length. The haircut seems to symbolize her taking back control of her life, reclaiming her humanity. The same haircut presumably happens in "The End, Part 3". Her hair grew out again when she regained her power (which she used to defeat her father for good), but when we see her again back in Titans tower, her hair is back to normal length again. However, we never actually see her cut her hair in this episode.
While it was more of a shaved bald than cut, Total Drama Island 's Heather was both eliminated from the first season due to it and went through her Villain Decay in the second because of it.
It may be nothing more than a big coincidence. But the amount of hair of a Russian candidate for presidency can predict whether he will or will not win. There is a certain, very awkward, unwritten, (ostensibly) unintended rule concerning leaders' amount of hair, starting with Alexander Kerensky in 1917:
Kerensky: Hair. (Russian Republic)
Lenin: No Hair. (Soviet Union)
Khrushchev: No Hair.
Andropov: No Hair.
Gorbachev: No Hair.
Yeltsin: Hair. (Russian Federation)
Putin: No Hair.
Putin: No Hair.
Joan of Arc cut her hair to a man's length to show her commitment to the cause (and make it easier for men to take her seriously); it was something the clergy at her trial made a big deal about. When she was convicted, her head was shaved completely, giving us a twofer.
Since the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty required all men to keep their foreheads shaved and the rest of the hair long on the pain of death, cutting the braid was thus a symbol of rebellion—and to the Manchu, treason. When the Manchu era ended, this happened en masse for all of China, though many would keep their braid out of sheer habit.
The Taiping rebels in particular were known as cháng máo "long-hairs" for their habit of growing out their queue hairstyles in defiance off Qing laws.
Same went for the Japanese and their top-knots (chonmage). During the Edo period, a chonmage was the mark of a Samurai under a feudal master. Masterless samurai, Ronin, grew their chonmage out.
Legend goes, when a general staged a coup and tried to restore the Qing dynasty in 1917, many Peckingese put on fake braids just in case the Emperor was not happy about their "treason". The attempt failed, so the next morning the city streets appeared covered of fake braids.
The Merovingian dynasty of kings in Dark Age France famously never cut their hair, so the first thing that happened to a deposed king was that they shaved his head.
In their second year as students at the Takarazuka Academy in Japan, numerous teenage girls in each class are selected to become otokoyaku, actresses who play primarily Crosscast Roles and their hair is cut into the traditional otokoyaku style (a short crop that gets longer toward the front so there's a longish, sideswept forelock over the forehead). Despite the long-standing cultural attitudes Japan has toward traditionally valuing long hair on women, to be chosen as an otokoyaku is considered a great honor, as they generally receive more acclaim and more fans than the female-playing musumeyaku, and the haircut is seen as the first step toward becoming a real-life anime-style bifauxnen.
The haircut traditionally given to new military recruits. The tradition began with the Romans, who wanted to make sure that barbarians couldn't grab onto a Roman soldier's hair during battle. In modern armies, they do it mostly to prevent the spread of lice and for uniformity. The most popular style is the high and tight.
Female recruits usually don't go through this, though a few military academies, while not shaving female "knobs," will nevertheless severely crop their hair down to an inch or less. West Point, however, bobs female cadets' hair quickly but with care about how it will look when the students are not at school.
The history of the modern version of the mohawk haircut is also military. Paratroopers; having their hair grown a bit since joining the force, would cut the sides, leaving the mohawk before going to battle. The tradition was copied from the Native Americans.
Finnish conscripts that are selected for officer training in the Engineer line shave their heads bald the night before leaving for Hamina where they will be trained, and keep it that way until they return to their original units.
In Japan, it's a trend for girls to cut their hair short after getting rejected from a love confession. So they cut their hair as a sign that they got over it and moved on.
Inverted by Kate Gosselyn, who got hair extensions following her divorce from Jon.
One of the many ways Peter the Great used to westernize Russia in the 17th Century was having all the Russian nobles' Badass Beards shaved by force.
Black women who are transitioning from relaxed hair to natural styles have to cut the permed hair. This is referred to as the Big Chop
In 1968, many students and antiwar activists, many if not most of whom had previously sported the long/unconventional '60s "hippie hair", cut their hair as part of a "Get Clean for Gene" campaign in support of Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, who ran on a platform in opposition to the Vietnam War. You see, if a middle-aged Middle American Joe or Jane sees a hippie at the doorstep canvassing for McCarthy, that vote is gone. If it's a clean-cut "nice young man/nice young lady", they have a chance. (The tactic worked as well as it could: McCarthy proceeded to win the popular vote in the primaries...but because most states didn't have primaries in '68, the DNC was brokered and the nomination went to Hubert Humphrey).
Getting their hair "bobbed" or cut short was a rite of passage and symbol of independence for many flapper women in The Roaring Twenties.
Within weeks of wrapping the last Harry Potter film, Emma Watson traded her character's shoulder-length hair for a short pixie cut.
Rebbe Akiva, one of the greatest Jewish sages, owed everything to his wife who did all in her power so that he could learn Torah - including cutting and selling her own hair.
Some cancer patients choose to symbolically shave their head even after their chemotherapy is done, or alternatively, keep it short if it had been longer before.
Friends and family of female cancer patients can shave their hair in support.
The organization Locks of Love makes vacuum sealed hair pieces (basically, specially-made wigs which only the wearer can remove) for children suffering from long term or permanent hair loss from donated hair. note They do not, as many believe, provide them to cancer patients. Chemotherapy causes short term hair loss, and because of the vacuum seal the hair prosthesis cannot be worn during regrowth. Instead they provide these children with synthetic wigs. In this case, the significance comes largely from what's done with the hair, as well as how long it takes to grow (each donation needs to be at least ten inches long).
Clair of Assisi managed to convince her family that she had really decided to be a nun when she took off her veil and showed that she had cut her (beautiful!) hair short.
French Revolutionaries cut their hair short to show opposition to the long haired wig wearing aristocracy. Many pro-French members of the Society of United Irishmen copied the hairstyle for moral support, and were nicknamed 'Croppies' after their hairstyle.
Women in the Church of Latter-Day Saints are taught to prize their long hair; women who are disillusioned with the church may cut their hair to signify their leave.
Unfortunately tightly tied to Traumatic Haircut in the case of some (usually female) sexual assault survivors. In some places, if a woman walks into a hairstylist's or a barber's visibly distressed, asking for her long hair to be cut markedly shorter, they just won't cut her hair. They often offer to call a therapist or try to calm her down and find out what's wrong, in case it's a reaction to abuse or sexual assault.
In a more benign example, it's often common for women to change their hair after a long relationship even if it wasn't abusive, as a sort of fresh start.
In the middle of the nineteenth century female members of the Nihilist movement in Russia cut their hair short. Ironically, many male members had long hair.
The two thousand year old Germania by Tacitus describes one German tribe whose young warriors would stop cutting their hair on reaching adulthood and only cut it again once they killed a man in battle.
It was a pre-Christian Slavic custom to not shave a boy until he was seven, then do it ceremonially, while also giving him adult name.
It is traditional in Polish custom that a young woman have her hair cut short the day before her wedding.
In the 19th century the bullfighters wore long hair ("coleta") often secured in a bun. Traditionally, the hair-bun was severed to indicate the torero was leaving the profession. This created the spanish expresion "cortarse la coleta" (Cutting the long hair) as a synonym for leaving a job.
After quitting playing the Doctor, Tom Baker chopped off all his iconic 70s curls as a form of breaking with the role. After doing this, he discovered no-one recognised him any more, and (missing the adoration of children who would come up to him in the street and gawp) related it in his autobiography to Samson cutting off his long hair and losing all his powers.