Braids, twintails, hair loopies, and other hairstyles just begging to get undone while in the heat of battle also count. It serves to give the character an instantly rougher, more primal and Badass look that can underscore the seriousness or desperation of the situation. At the same time, unbound hair can also create a vulnerable look. In classical Japanese paintings defeated Samurai were often shown with messy or disheveled hair, so naturally many long haired anime characters end up looking like this when things are getting rough. It can also be used as Fanservice to make a character that much hotter while fighting, especially in combination with Clothing Damage. Compare Close-Call Haircut. When the character undoes the hair willingly on camera see Shaking Her Hair Loose. If the ponytail gets severed completely, it becomes a Traumatic Haircut. If the character is using a Combat Haircomb to fasten their hair, then it naturally will go loose once used. This can be very much Truth in Television, especially for those with hair that's not much longer than shoulder-length. This has nothing to do with the Heavy Metal band Slipknot in ponytails.
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Anime and Manga
- Happened to Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha during her final battle with Zest. This may have been a Mythology Gag to Miyuki's Close-Call Haircut during the Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever OVA.
- Samurai Champloo with Jin in one of the obviously female-aimed Fanservice moments.
- Rurouni Kenshin:
- Tomoe's ponytail loosens in right before her Heroic Sacrifice by throwing herself between Kenshin and his enemy.
- Likewise, this happens to Kenshin himself in his first battle with Saito, though in this case it's played as unsettling rather than hot as Kenshin's Battousai mode is coming out simultaneously.
- Also happened to Kenshin in the second prototype story. The girl he rescued tied his hair up with her ribbon afterward, and he apparently had no clue that ribbons were for women, thereby making it an opportunity for 'Kenshin is hot and scary' followed by 'Kenshin is adorable and clueless.'
- Also happens to Yumi during the Kenshin/Shishio fight in the anime. When Shishio runs through her with his sword, her headgear breaks and her hair is loose as she falls into Shishio's embrace.
- Happens to Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki in Bleach. Also to Kenpachi.
- Is part of the transformation of D'eon into his sister Lia, when he needs to fight in Le Chevalier D Eon.
- When Ranma's pigtail comes undone, his hair won't stop growing — fast. Yet another curse for the boy, this time because he ate a bowl of ramen with dragon's whisker on it; his ponytail holder is another dragon's whisker, which can stop the curse. Oh, and his hair doesn't grow when he's a girl. But once the men of the series know about it, they all want the dragon's whisker to solve their own problems with baldness - all of them, including his dad. Despite what common Fanon will tell you the hair growing ended in the same issue where it was introduced. Untying the ponytail does absolutely nothing now, and he just keeps it for the sake of Limited Wardrobe.
- From Beyblade: You know Rei is about to get seriously injured when an errant Beyblade severs his headband, releasing his long hair. Happens thrice throughout the series.
- Inverted in Azumanga Daioh. When Sakaki gets upset during the third sports fest, she responds by removing a headband, letting her hair flow a little more freely than it had before, but then ties it back for the only time in the series.
- Variation: Souichi's ponytail always comes loose or undone by Morinaga during foreplay in The Tyrant Falls in Love. Since he's normally domineering and bad-tempered, this is designed to make him look more feminine and consequently more ukeish and controllable when Morinaga gets to dominate him in bed.
- Done in virtually every fight scene involving Kumiko in the 3 seasons of the J-drama version of Gokusen. Oddly enough, this transformation also involves losing her geeky glasses, possibly showing her to be Beautiful All Along.
- This happens to Fakir in Princess Tutu during the first season finale.
- D.Gray-Man does this to Kanda in a grand showdown.
- Played with and subverted in Mahou Sensei Negima!. Setsuna and Kaede's hair fell rather undramatically only because Chao used a time stop with her Cassiopeia to take their hairbands from them within a single instant. This wasn't for a show in badass-edness or to show that they'll win the fight. This was used to show how utterly screwed they are. Played straighter with her final battle against Negi at the end of the School Festival when her hair buns loosened. Tsukuyomi also has a way of loosening her elaborate hair-styles during combat (why anyone would wear extravagant, victorian-stylized clothes to sword fights... who knows).
- Happens frequently to Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood, though somewhat subverted. When his usually neatly tied up ponytail comes undone, you've just succeeded in really ticking him off. When he deliberately takes it down, it's time to run. Justified (sorta) in that his Transformation Sequence involves his hair becoming prehensile and flailing around before appearing to blow straight upward. I kept waiting for him to strangle someone with it.
- Asuka loses her trademark pigtails for her Crowning Moment of Awesome in End of Evangelion. This is NOT fanservice, at least, not by the end of the fight.
- Neji from Naruto gets his headband (and hairband) knocked loose in his fight against Kidomaru, and then it's used to save his life once everything is over.
- This trope is more or less ubiquitous for ninja who wear a headband. When that is knocked off (leaving their hair loose) its a sign that they are in big trouble.
- Parodied in Aoi House, where every female character goes into a trance when Alex's ponytail comes undone and become completely subservient to him.
- Happens to Rossiu from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. By someone punching him. In the face. Whether he looks better afterwards is debatable, if only because it doesn't last very long.
- In Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran, Ran gets into a fight with a near-identical swords-woman, ending with both of them in the same pose. Ran's ponytail comes undone as her enemy crumples to the ground.
- Happens to Onizuka in Sket Dance - her long hair makes her more recognisable as the 'Onihime', a legendary fighter.
- In Blood+, Hagi's hair coming loose from its ponytail is almost always a sign that he's getting his ass kicked.
- In Dragon Ball, for a time Future Trunks had long hair, which he kept in a ponytail (though he left the hair that framed his face loose, sort of defeating the point). When he went Super Saiyan, the ponytail stayed bound, letting the front bits spike up. When he went to his most powerful form, however, the band broke and the result was a large golden starfish for a haircut. Seriously.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Lucky Star - it's 'Ponytail Day' and three of the girls redo their signature hairstyles into ponytails. Kagami suddenly gets annoyed at this and rips her ribbon clean off, to which Konata squees "You looked so manly with it, like a samurai!"
- In Chapter 94 of Fullmetal Alchemist Riza Hawkeye gets this treatment during her battle with Envy. It doesn't make her any less badass seeing as she pumps several guns' worth of ammo into him at once.
- Akitsu and Yaichi from House of Five Leaves are seen once or twice with their topknots down.
- During the final arc of the Inuyasha manga, Sango's hair falls down when her hair tie is eaten away by Naraku's miasma.
- Happens to Elsee during a fight in ch. 26 of The World God Only Knows.
- In the climax of Ojamajo Doremi's second season, Doremi's Odango come loose when she's hit by the Big Bad's curse and her magic crystal shatters. This finally reveals her hair to be waist-length, since it was the first time in the franchise she "let" it down. It seems to be symbolic for Doremi's Character Development into a more mature girl, since neither Onpu nor Hazuki (both already rather mature to begin with) lose their ponytails upon shattering their crystals.
- In The Saga of Darren Shan manga, this happens to Kurda at the end of vol. 5, right at the moment where he stabs Gavner Purl.
- Happens a number of times in Heartcatch Precure to Tsubomi/Cure Blossom. Whenever Tsubomi is knocked into the transition stage between normal and Precure, it differs if the animators want to keep her hair down or put them back in the usual twintails. In The Movie, Tsubomi takes a hit Erika directed at Olivier, blowing off her hairbow. Her loose hair causes him to snap out of his Superpowered Evil Side, though it's shown that Tsubomi can put it back to normal at anytime by pulling her hair back into the ponytail again and her magic'll fix it.
- In Cynthia the Mission, the title character's hair comes out of her ox horns during a couple of dramatic fights.
- It happens partially to Sasami in the 3rd Tenchi Muyo! OVA. When confronted with a high-ranking member of the Galaxy Police whose insistent in taking her and the rest of the gang in, she ends up grabbing one of her hairbraids and pulling it off, converting it into a staff. She spends the battle with one pigtail up and one pigtail down, but once it's over, she's back to two pigtails.
- In Hajime No Ippo, Saeki's hair gets undone during his match against Itagaki in chapter 971.
- In Smile Pretty Cure!, when Akane's trying to catch up with a boy she was smitten with, her attempt to ride a bike to reach the airport ends up with her crashing into a bush. As she gets out and keeps running, her small rat tail gets mostly undone and she pulls the band off in frustration, spending the rest of the episode with her hair loose.
- In Sailor Moon, after fighting Pharaoh 90 and Mistress 9 alone behind a huge barrier maintained by the other scouts Sailor Moon walks out from the epicenter of the destruction holding baby Hotaru and with her signature meatball hairstyle messed up and partially falling loose from her buns and missing some feathers from her hairclips. Not surprising since the battle took most of the night and she only emerges victorious the next morning after the dust clears. Her sailor suit is also extremely damaged and ripped. The other scouts almost thought she was dead. This is the only time in this troper's memory that her hair ever gets messed up or her suit damaged to that extent without her transformation failing.
- In an issue of Mega Man, Roll's trademark ponytail comes undone when she rushes out to help rescue survivors of a wrecked liner.
- Zebra Daddy normally wears his hair neatly slicked back. However as things continue to escalate out of control on him during the climax his hair gets more and more wild until it's hanging in his face.
Films — Animated
- Beauty and the Beast:
- Belle loses her (easily animated) ponytail only when things get dramatic, such as when she gets attacked by wolves during her escape from the Beast's castle.
- Less dramatically, a single lock of Belle's hair frequently comes loose and falls over her eyes. She occasionally smooths it back up, but she ends up spending more time with hair in her face than not.
- The same thing happens with Gaston during his final fight with the Beast, starting out in a ponytail and ending up loose. The reverse happens to the Beast over the course of the film, as his hair goes from disheveled to trimmed and tied back. The exchange is both intentional and symbolic of the Beast becoming more civilized while Gaston reveals his evil heart.
- It happens to Kayley in Quest for Camelot as she ends up escaping into a forest, a branch snagging her hairtie.
- Happens to Pocahontas in Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World. Her hair is done up for the ball but loosens and comes down while she's in prison.
Films — Live-Action
- In Curse of the Golden Flower:
- The Empress' hair comes undone while fighting with her stepson over a robe she wants him to wear. They're also apparently carrying on an illicit affair, and things almost get intimate before he runs off.
- The Emperor also gets one of these later in the film, as he takes off his belt to beat his youngest son, Yu, who had just murdered his older half-brother both because of the aforementioned affair and Yu's own status as The Unfavorite.
- Antonio Banderas from Desperado during the Tarasco Bar shootout and various other fights.
- Since Alexander Dane, the extremely regretful classically-trained actor who played Galaxy Quest's Spock-analogue, is abducted in full costume including his prosthetic head covering, we don't actually see any of his hair for most of the film, except near the end, when the latex finally gives out sometime during his off-screen Roaring Rampage of Revenge and splits in one part, letting an incongruous lock slip out, adding to his overall wild-eyed "I can't believe I'm not dead" demeanor at the time.
- Happens to Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean a lot.
- Elizabeth Swann, too, a couple of times.
- In Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, the story revolves around a zero-gee dance company (in space, of course.) This trope comes into play in an unexpected way when one of the dancers auditioning insists on wearing his long, thick hair in a ponytail "held by one hairband" despite having been warned of the dangers. The band does break during a rehearsal, his spacesuit helmet fills with hair, and he suffocates on it before he can be gotten to a pressurized area.
- In Dark Heavens, both the Xuan Wu (and later the protagonist, Emma) have this issue. They stop to tie their hair back roughly once a chapter - Xuan Wu because his body naturally tries to return to the state it was in when he became Immortal (IE: At the end of a battle. He tends to lose his shoes as well!) and Emma... presumably because she's an active girl doing insane things in Hong Kong, which is humid at the best of times. Oh, and because she's 'Rapidly turning into a smaller version of the Xuan Wu'
- Tash, in Galaxy of Fear, wears her hair in one neat braid. When she's locked into a room with the air being slowly vented in The Doomsday Ship and the room is later opened, she's found lying on the ground with her hair undone.
Live Action TV
- Subverted in the Firefly episode "Jaynestown"; when Book lets down his hair, it is not sexy, but (hilariously) terrifying, to the point of freaking River out and sending her running for cover. The sight is enough to give even Zoe pause.
- Star Trek: Voyager :
- Although not quite fanservice, Capt. Janeway's hair was apparently psychically linked to the well-being of Voyager itself. Every time a battle started going badly, Janeway's hair started escaping its pins. It looks very dramatic -until some smart-aleck starts going "Hairstyle at 86% integrity" "That last shot took out the braid, bobby pins are failing"
- On the other hand, it was definitely fanservice whenever Seven of Nine's hairdo started coming apart—it implied that she was defrosting a little, if only from sheer stress.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- In the episode "Crossfire", there's a scene where Odo (distraught over his Unrequited Love for Kira) is seen in his quarters with a single strand of 'hair' falling across his face. This was an improvisation by actor Rene Auberjonois, based on a Japanese print he'd seen of a warrior in defeat. Some of the producers weren't happy (because Odo doesn't actually have hair as he's a shapeshifter) but eventually rationalised it as a symbol that Odo is going to pieces, in that he's no longer controlling all of his body. (You'd have thought that creating individual strands of hair would take more control than a single textured "hair" shape. The guy had problems duplicating lips and ears, for goodness' sake!)
- The standard Cardassian hairstyle is very severely slicked back and shiny, to compliment their reptilian features and sleek metallic uniforms. Whenever Garak, or Dukat, or any other Cardassian gets their hair out of order, it is a sign something very, very serious is going on. It makes Garak look positively insane when he is pulling his 'wide eyes for emphasis' thing.
- In Highlander: The Series, Duncan MacLeod generally had his hair securely tied back during duels. Only during very difficult battles would it loosen. And only the most dangerous fights with the most skilled foes would cause it to come completely loose.
- Chris Jericho had begun wearing his hair tied back in a braid by 2003. During a particularly physical match against Test (the one where he chair-shotted Stacy Keibler by accident) his hair came almost completely undone.
- Summerslam 2002 is the only time this has ever happened to Rob Vam Dam. He manages to keep his ponytail almost completely intact in every other match.
- Melina's hair was half-up half-down at the Survivor Series 2009 PPV. By the end of the match, her hair had come completely down.
- If a woman in wrestling ever wrestles with a fancy updo, you can expect this.
- Defied by Miss Madness in WCW. She would remove her hair clip before she wrestled.
- Happened to Drew Mc Intyre during his first loss. It only served to make him look more deranged.
- A famous example from the ballet Giselle, is Giselle's Madness, where the main character dances to the memories of everything that happened to her so far right before she dies, with her hair loose. The ballerina playing Giselle has to have the tight bun ballerinas use undone, on stage; this is done by whoever plays Giselle's mother, while apparently crying over her unconscious body.
- The titular character in Jekyll & Hyde wears his hair in a ponytail while the good doctor is in control, but has it loose when Hyde comes out. It takes a bit of creative positioning and lighting to make it still appear that way when the two sides of his personality are arguing with each other.
- The newcomer in Arcana Heart 2, Zenia Valov. If you beat her with certain attacks (ones that would make Kira's blob get torn off, for example), she will fall down with her hair tie (which makes her hair look rather short) torn off, revealing waist-length hair.
- In Battle Moon Wars, Haruna's hair is let loose whenever her Power Limiter is removed. It's unclear exactly how Natsuki kissing her makes her hairstyle come undone.
- A shuriken does this for Kasumi during her ending in Dead or Alive 3.
- The PS1 fighting game Evil Zone has two characters whose ponytails come undone after taking enough damage: Keiya (male) and Erel (female).
- Aerith's ponytail comes undone in Final Fantasy VII when Sephiroth runs her through.
- In Dissidia, Terra/Tina's hair is up as a human and down as an esper to show the more that her esper form is her primal side.
- In Tales of the Abyss, this happens in the second half of the final battle with Van Grants. Considering how he managed to pull off the same effect that most final Tales bosses have to transform into large, grotesque creatures in order to achieve just by taking off his shirt and letting his hair down, the battle ended up being that much more badass for it.
- The Touhou protagonist Reimu pulls off her hair tie in the outlandishly exaggerated fangame Touhou Soccer as part of her ultimate technique, Fantasy Heaven. Naturally, it blows through almost anything.
- The defeat portrait of PC-98 exclusive Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream's final boss, Yumemi Okazaki, includes her braid coming undone.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance when the player fights Mistral her hair starts out mostly brushed off to one side and almost looks like it's tucked into her suit somehow. By the time Raiden pushes her into last phase of the battle it's loosely splayed around her shoulders.
- In Guilty Gear Xrd, if you deal sufficient damage to Ky Kiske, his ponytail will come undone and his theme song from Overture will start playing. Presumably, he's had enough of your shit at this point.
- Maya Fey from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney ends up wearing her hair completely open for the first time in the series when the evil spirit of Dahlia Hawthorne is finally exorcised out of her body. She collapses out of exhaustion seconds after this.
- There is also Kristoph in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney after his breakdown. By the time it ends, his hair flows down in a complete mess.
- Yo-Jin-Bo's Muneshige has his hair come undone during the final battle in his Good ending. He later takes it down again at Sayori's request.
- Happens to Haley in this The Order of the Stick strip.
- There are several occasions of this happening to Miho in Megatokyo. The creator notes in the margins of the bound collection that he's been told that Miho's hairstyle is one that's very difficult to maintain.
- Keychain of Creation features this on at least two occasions. A little unusually, rather than making the victim look more badass, it actually makes them look silly- it's a symbolic loss in a contest of skill and control.
- Grrl Power analyzed the trope in the author's notes, where the author confessed that he discussed Maxima's hair coming out of its bun so easily at the press conference with his wife, noting that Max's slippery hair would take even more bobby pins than most. They decided the resident magic user gave her a magic scrunchie.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- This happens to Katara a couple times, the first and most notable being her Crowning Moment of Awesome fight with Master Pakku.
- The page image is of Azula of the same series.
- The Legend of Korra:
- This happens to Tarrlok during his battle between Korra in "When Extremes Meet".
- As well as Korra herself when battling Unalaq.
- Happens to Kuvira during both her fights with Korra.
- Samurai Jack does this so very often, along with losing his shirt. ("And he's got his sword in his teeth!" Shing!)
- Happens during Jessica's dramatic ballad "My World is Beginning Today" in Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has Carol Danvers undo her bun after becoming Ms. Marvel.