In times past, "long hair" for women meant long enough to sit on
. "Short hair" for men, therefore, could get shoulder-length or longer. Sailors and other wanderers who spend long weeks away from ladies and barbers often wore low ponytails to keep their hair out of their way.
Characters who sport a sailor's pony tail are not necessarily Long Haired Pretty Boys
, as their lengthy locks are not flowing and feminine. The Sailor's Ponytail is visual shorthand that indicates an adventurous and down-and-dirty character — but not, like Wild Hair
, a separation from society altogether.
Further, an actor playing a character with a Sailor's Ponytail is often wearing a wig or hair extensions because it can take several months to well over a year for a man with a contemporary short hairstyle to grow their hair long enough for it to be tied into a ponytail. In Real Life, that would be why a man would keep it even in civilization; the intermediate stage, long enough to get into the way but too short to pull back, could be extremely awkward.
Ever-popular hair style and genre/setting indicator for the Wooden Ships and Iron Men
Compare to Tomboyish Ponytail
and Samurai Ponytail
Examples from media:
Anime and Manga
Live Action TV
- Jackie from the Bloody Jack books initially cuts all of her hair off to pull off the Sweet Polly Oliver that gets the plot rolling. As she gets older, she grows her hair out into one of these, partly because it's expected of "young men" and partly so she can switch back into a girl when she wants to.
- Most of the sailor characters in The Liveship Traders, including the protagonist Althea, wear their hair this way as it's a fantasy version of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.
- The ballad "Faithless Sally Brown" is about a young man who's Press-Ganged and finds that his girlfriend didn't wait for him when he gets back. The penultimate verse mentions he "chew'd his pigtail till he died". Read the poem here.
- Roarke in the In Death series has longish hair which he normally wears loose, but when sitting down to do some intensive technical work he pulls it back in a stubby ponytail which the narration, via Eve's point of view, describes as making him look vaguely piratical.
- Mipps in the Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow") series is a retired ship's carpenter who wears his hair in a tarred ponytail.
- In Rachel Griffin, Gaius is an example of the scruffy yet ready for action type; wearing his hair like this is one of the indications he is not quite the outcast loner Rachel initially assumes he is.
- Vast majority of officers in Horatio Hornblower wear ponytails. Some lower-deck characters sport this hairstyle as well, but some of them have short hair.
- In a Great Performances production of Twelfth Night Helen Hunt as Viola/Cesario wears her hair like this, as does her brother Sebastian (whom she is modelling herself after as Cesario).
- In Girl Genius, Airman Higgs ("The Unstoppable" Airshipman Higgs) wears one of these. As airship units are treated as analogous to naval ones (though seafaring definitely exists in this setting), it certainly qualifies as a Sailor's Ponytail.
- An example of Truth in Television. Worn historically by many European sailors and soldiers.
- Admiral Horatio Nelson's ponytail was cut off after his death at Trafalgar and preserved. It's on display at the National Maritime Museum.