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Braids of Action
aka: Action Braids

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One of the common ways to visually indicate that a female character is an Action Girl or otherwise ready to get dangerous is to braid her hair. This can take one of the following forms, but not limited to:

  • Two braids on the sides of the head, reminiscent of the classic Tomboy hairstyle. This version can overlap with Girlish Pigtails.
  • One long braid in the back. This version tends to be much longer, sometimes even touching the ground.

Some characters will wear their hair in braids all the time. Others will only wear them in combat. Both instances fit this tropes. However, Action Girls who usually wear their hair in a braid but let it loose when getting into an actual fight don't fit.

This trope is used in fiction for two reasons. First, because it's Truth in Television. Tying your hair in a braid is one of the best ways to keep long hair out of your face, as ponytails tend to slide down or get snagged in really physical sports. Second, because it is visually cool. What better way to indicate movement than a long flowing strand of hair flailing around like a whip. Due to this visual aspect, Braids of Action will more often than not be given to girls that have an acrobatic fight style.

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Some works will take the visual similarity between a braid and a whip to literal extremes, and will have the character top her braid with some sort of weighted blade and use her Prehensile Hair as a weapon.

This trope was very common for long-haired characters in the early days of 3D gaming since it's much easier and less resource-intensive to render and animate long hair as a braid than having it flow freely. Even with modern video hardware and physics engines, braids are still easier for a game to manage.

Compare Braids of Barbarism, Tomboyish Ponytail, Girlish Pigtails (which can sometimes be combined with this trope in the case of a Little Miss Badass), Short Hair with Tail (which presents a similar profile).

Contrast Motherly Side Plait, which is indicative of a sweet mother figure.

Note: This trope is for using visual shorthand for characterization. It is not a trope for every character who happens to have braids. Please remember this when editing the example list.

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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Sui-Fon wears two braids wrapped in white cloth or ribbons, with metal rings at the ends (which she does not use as weapons). As a member of a military organization, this is justified.
    • After Arrancar Ggio Vega releases, he gains a blade on his braids.
  • Gender Inverted with Hanzo of Brave10. His braid is so long he can wear it like a scarf and he's the most deadly fighter in the series.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Gender Inverted with Edward Elric. He usually ties his hair in a braid and is quite the badass.
    • Izumi wears her hair in what appears to be multiple braids. She also taught Ed and Al both to fight and to use alchemy.
  • When Nuriko gets into some real action outside the palace in Fushigi Yuugi, he puts his hair into a single long braid. It's telling how he cuts his braid off just before the action... stops.
  • Sofia from Golden Kamuy has worn a long braid in the back since her youth. As the leader of a Russian revolutionary group, she's more than capable of taking care of herself in a fight.
  • Inverted in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Homura let her braided Girlish Pigtails down when she Took a Level in Badass.
  • The titular character of Ranma ½, naturally, especially near the beginning of the manga when the braid was much longer and actually looked like a knotted braid, rather than the "three little circles and a wispy end" stylized shape it was reduced to later on. Of course, it didn't take long for the Action Girl to be revealed as actually a man, and s/he wore his/her hair in a ponytail in flashbacks, but by then the first impression had long been made.
  • Genie from Rune Soldier Louie ties her ponytail together a with the band placed every few inches down the length. It may not be an actual braid, but it looks closer to this than a Tomboyish Ponytail, moves like a braid and the function is exactly the same. With her biceps, she's not only an Action Girl but also an outright Amazonian Beauty.
  • Misao of Rurouni Kenshin. Watsuki's character notes mention that one reason he put it was to emphasize her movements.
  • Gender Inverted with Emba from Wild Rock. He is the most powerful hunter from the lake clan and wears a single braid.

    Comic Books 
  • Rick Jones' granddaughter, Janis, in Hulk Future Imperfect. She grew her hair long, tied it into a braid and wrapped it around the top of her head so when she needs to, she can untie it and use as a whip.
    "It takes a long time to dry after washing it, but it's worth it."
  • Valkyrie from The Mighty Thor wears her hair in two braids in most of her incarnations.
  • Psylocke often wears her hair in a braided ponytail when going into a fight. One issue in the Savage Lands shows her plaiting her hair in preparation for battle while calmly discussing the plan with an ally.
  • Rapunzel in Rapunzel's Revenge uses her two (extremely long) braids as a whip or lasso, or for any number of other Action Girl applications.
  • Played with by Laura Kinney a.k.a. Comic Book/X23. In Innocence Lost and flashbacks to Target: X, she typically wears her hair braided on missions. This ceases after she escapes from the Facility, as during a Funny Background Event in one of her early appearances in the X-Men books, Laura can be seen struggling to emulate Psylocke while the latter casually and expertly braids her hair preparing for a coming fight. Once the fighting actually starts it's revealed she failed miserably and settled for a messy ponytail instead. Apparently, she never got the hang of braiding her own hair and doesn't bother asking someone else to help do it for her, as she's pretty universally drawn with her hair loose in all of her appearances.

    Fan Works 
Crossover
  • Cathy Rockford in The Gift is a judo instructor and "motorcycle enthusiast". She wears her two braids around her head like a crown.
Discworld
  • Most of the Lady Assassins in the Discworld fiction of A.A. Pessimal style their hair this way. Partly for neatness and professional reasons - they are also teachers at the Assassins' Guild School - but also because it gets in the way while fighting. Johanna Smith-Rhodes, from the faraway colony of Rimwards Howondaland, favors complex braids in the Kerrigian style whilst her colleague Miss Alice Band normally prefers a strict bun.
Dragon Age: Origins
  • Gwenith Cousland in Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns. She used to wear her long hair loose (it reached the waistline) but soon settled on a braid on the left side of her head, hanging in front. And she looks like Claudia Black. Badass much?
The Hunger Games
  • In Some Semblance of Meaning, Phlox is described as wearing her hair in multiple braids, and she definitely deserves Action Girl status. Her stealth and wits keep her alive well into the 44th Hunger Games, and she certainly has guts: lurking around on the outskirts of the Careers' camp and sneaking supplies from them. Eventually, she even manages to trap Obsidian, the Career with the highest score in the Games, in one of her snares and steal his backpack full of supplies, leaving him with nothing but the clothes on his back and his sword. She would have killed him, too, if he hadn't managed to cut himself free; even then, she managed to outsmart him and escape to safety.
Naruto Sailor Moon

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen:
    • Anna wears her hair in braided Girlish Pigtails for the majority of her screentime, including informal occasions like helping Kristoff fight off wolves, or being chased by Marshmallow.
    • Elsa wears a French braid over her left shoulder for the majority of her screentime after "Let It Go," including challenging two of the Duke of Weselton's guys.
  • Jessie from the Toy Story series films.
  • Played for Laughs in the first Shrek movie, where Fiona takes on a band of ruffians in the forest all on her own, Matrix-style, and actually knocks one of them out with her braid.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Downfall. The female Child Soldier manning the 88mm gun has twin braids hanging down from under her steel helmet. In this case, the braids work more to emphasize her youth.
  • Gender Inverted is in The Duellists. The protagonists are Hussars who wear elaborate plaits in front of the ears to reduce the damage of sword wounds to the head.

    Literature 
  • In the Artemis Fowl series, Juliet Butler wears her hair in a single long braid with a stone ornament on the end that she can swing around and use as a weapon.
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, Chimerae put their hair up in braids when going into battle and comb it out again afterward.
  • Emberverse: Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling. An Action Girl keeps her braided Girlish Pigtails as they help to lower the tension a notch when meeting new clans and negotiating safe passage through their territory.
  • In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, Cimorene wears her hair in a braid and is a formidable princess.
  • Fisher from the Hawk and Fisher books is described as wearing her hair in a French braid with a heavyweight at the end, for use as a weapon.
  • When Honor Harrington finally grows her hair long, she starts to wear it in a braid, in part to make it easier to wear a spacesuit helmet when doing her job. Note that in addition to her tactical acumen, she's a veritable giant of a woman, and with an eighth-degree black belt in a coup de vitesse is one of the deadliest characters in a melee.
  • Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games has her signature braid down the back to keep it out of the way when hunting or fighting.
  • Kate Daniels wears her hair long as the sole nod to feminine vanity—but acknowledges that her braids are cumbersome, annoying when she runs, and could easily provide a handhold for an enemy in a fight.
  • Kitty Norville has one if the book covers are to be believed.
  • Gender Inverted with Prince Roger. He has gorgeous blond, hip length hair and has to ask a female marine to teach him how to braid it.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's The Raven Ring, the Cilhar—who are warriors, one and all—wear their hair braided as a matter of course, with a special braid pattern for when they expect to be heading into battle.
  • Star Wars Legends: Tash Arranda of Galaxy of Fear keeps her hair in one neat braid.
  • The Mord-Sith of the Sword of Truth novels are an entire army of Action Girls who wear their hair in a single long braid.
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg. In "The Sworn Sword", Lady Rohanne Webber is a Fiery Redhead who dresses in armor when leading her troops to attack Standfast. She wears her hair in a single long plait which she plays with coquettishly while flirting with Dunk. At the end of the story after much Belligerent Sexual Tension, Dunk refuses her offer of a fine steed but cuts off her braid so he'll have something to remember her.
  • Tortall Universe: Beka Cooper, a Provost's Guard aka cop, wears her hair in a braid. She even has a spiked strap worked in so that those that make the mistake of grabbing her braid in a fight quickly learn to regret it.
  • Birgitte, the legendary archer from The Wheel of Time is sporting a waist-length intricate braid.
  • In The Wishing Maiden, Bron, the most physically powerful woman of the Quintet, wears her hair in a braid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, braids are common among both male and female Grounder warriors, and Octavia starts braiding her hair when she tries to join them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The titular character occasionally wears her hair in two braids when on patrol.
    • In the episode "The Wish," her battle-rugged, even more badass alternate universe counterpart wears her hair in a single long braid.
  • On Game of Thrones, Daenerys's hairstyle slowly became more and more braided as her character grew stronger and more authoritative throughout the first season. By the season finale, her hair is in a single thick braid. This is likely linked to the Dothraki custom of warriors braiding their hair and decorating them with bells. A warrior adds bells to his braid for each victory, and, should he be defeated in battle, the braid would be cut off so the world can know his shame. Daenerys takes to adding bells in her hair when she triumphs in later books. Most of her hairstyles incorporate four or more braids in elaborate styles.
  • In Merlin (2008), Morgana braids her hair when she goes on a mission to protect Merlin's village.
  • Jules wears her hair like this in Psych when there is ass-kicking to be done. She normally wears it in a bun or in a ponytail.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand Naevia's hair evolves with her story. When she was still a body-slave she had long, loose hair. When she got cast away her hair was cut as punishment. By Spartacus: War of the Damned her braided hair shows her development into an Action Girl.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. During the third season Xindi arc, one of the female Space Marines (played by a stuntwoman in a non-speaking role) had a long single plait down her back.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 21st Century Fox, Monique Mercy and Amazing Kong are known for wrestling in cornrows. There are also male examples such as Elijah Burke, JTG and Slam Master J.
  • Jacqueline Moore (AKA Sweet Georgia Brown, AKA Miss Texas, AKA Miss Tennessee) frequently braided her hair whenever she wrestled though there were some times when she wrestled with it in a pony tail or something instead.
  • Jumping Jeff Jeffrey of La Rabia and La Zona Illegal has wrestled in various styles of braids.
  • Kyra had one long braid specifically to invoke Lara Croft.
  • Madusa sometimes wrestled with her hair in a braid, but would just as often have it down. Her arch rival Luna Vachon eventually took to wearing multiple braids when it grew back after their hair vs hair match.
  • WWE Diva Sable in her first run in the company always had her long blonde hair tied back in a braid whenever she wrestled. It was safe to say that if her hair was down then she wouldn't be wrestling.
  • Shawn Michaels had a braided mullet at the 1994 Survivor Series.

    Video Games 
  • Gender Inverted with Oghren in Dragon Age: Origins. He wears his beard in thick red braids, which is not unusual for dwarf men.
  • Sarah Barn from Golden Axe III has one long braid that reaches to her waist. She's also an Amazonian Beauty who can throw giants with ease.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
    • Ashei, the lady knight, wears her glossy black hair tied in two braids.
    • Princess Zelda wears one long braid in the back and has a slim braid on either side of her face. She does get in on the action as part of the endgame.
  • Velvet Crowe of Tales of Berseria starts with a single braid - she regularly hunts in the woods and studies the sword - but it's much looser for the rest of the game to reflect her more violent and out-of-control nature after her brother's death. The player immediately has the option to change her hairstyle back, though.
  • Julia Chang from Tekken, specifically from the fourth game onwards. Before Julia, it was her adoptive mother, Michelle, who sported braids.

    Visual Novels 
  • Saber from Fate/stay night wears a braided bun, which doesn't look like it should be possible with the amount of hair she's shown to have when it's down since it only goes down to her shoulders. It also looks like it would be able to fit under a helm, which would fit with Saber's background as King Arthur.
  • Peko Pekoyama from Super Danganronpa 2 wears her hair in two braids, and she's a kendo champion.
  • Tyrna in Sword Daughter has waist-length hair which she describes braiding to put up under her helmet when she dresses for battle. Her character art in the VN shows her wearing it in two braids coiled up at the back of her neck.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnora of Alfdis & Gunnora is a soldier and wears her hair in two braids. This is a contrast to Alfdis, who wears a ponytail.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television in the sailing community. Suffice to say it's difficult to keep shining, silky soft locks while crossing an ocean. The constant spray of salt water can dry out your hair so much you can easily tear it with your hands. You'd think having perpetual windswept hair would be cool, but in reality, it just tangles your hair into a painful, jumbled, knotted rat's nest. On long ocean voyages, supplies are bound to get low, so washing one's hair is bumped down to Priority Number 3,942. Crew members (male and female) frequently will go 1-2 weeks without washing their hair, and when they do it's sometimes done with dishwashing liquid. When they simply can't stand losing their hair, braids of action is the second most common hairstyle for women sailors, after the bob or pixie cut.
  • Female skydivers braid their hair. It won't tangle with the rig on opening and it is practical while wearing a helmet.
  • Female kendo practitioners braid their hair in their helmets.
  • The Bolivian ladies, known as "cholitas", who braid their hair in long braids before they get into wrestling rings and beat the crap out of each other. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Hair regulations for many women in the military (when the hair doesn't have to be cut) say that it must be worn off the shoulders and out of the eyes. Although it's usually worn in a Prim and Proper Bun, some women are allowed to have their hair in French braids.
  • The "braids at the temples"-style (also known as "cadenettes") was commonly worn by French Hussars during The Napoleonic Wars. Nearly all European sword styles of the time taught some form of a horizontal cut to the temple, so the braids were a way to get some protection from that style of cut.

Alternative Title(s): Action Braids

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