Follow TV Tropes


By the Hair

Go To
Lemme help you with that cowlick.

Josh Matthews: Well, it's against the rules.
Bill DeMott: Is it Doug Basham's fault for grabbing the hair or Rob Van Dam's for having it?
WWE Velocity, Billocity!

A close cousin to the Standard Female Grab Area where, if whoever it is can't grab hold of the woman's wrist or upper arm, they'll just grab onto her hair instead. Obviously a lot more realistic than a wrist being the weak point, as anyone who has had their hair pulled can vouch for how painful it is. While this typically happens to women with long hair, it can happen with short hair as well; the hair just needs to be long enough to pull. Although it is mostly a female trope, it can happen to men with long hair or beards as well, though examples are rare outside of Professional Wrestling.

It can be played either for comedy or seriously, depending on the nature of the scuffle. It's almost a defining feature of a Cat Fight, but may be less common in a Designated Girl Fight as Action Girls tend to rise above such tactics. If it's happening to a mean girl, then it might cause a Hairstyle Malfunction if she's wearing extensions. Vain characters will react strongly to having delicate or elaborate hairstyle ruined in this way. If the girl happens to be badass, then expect her to sometimes overcome this problem by cutting the hair off at the point where it's being held. See also Life-or-Limb Decision and Giving Them the Strip. Truly dark examples can combine this trope with others like Slashed Throat and Off with His Head! where the vulnerable head and neck becomes easier to exploit when it is restricted in this fashion — the grip also lends itself perfectly to making a Decapitation Presentation. This trope can fail as an attack if attempted on someone whose long hair is actually a removable wig or toupee, although emotional effects like distress or rage might be inflicted if the said target was seriously attempting to maintain a facade of having a good head of hair and end up being exposed by this trope.


Covers the classic "caveman dragging a woman by the hair" bit — the man finds a mate by clubbing her over the head and then dragging her off to his cave by her hair. For the record, while hair pulling is painful, the commonality of the "dragging her around by the hair" bit in film and television is because it's fairly easy to stage and relatively painless. Notice that when the man grabs her by the hair, she immediately grabs onto his wrists. Usually at this point, the puller lets go of the hair, and instead drags the woman around by the arms instead. All the kicking and screaming? She's usually digging her heels into the ground for leverage and trying to help him by making herself lurch ahead.

Note that historically, long hair was not as much of a disadvantage as it is sometimes portrayed. In a real fight, unless one side is completely unarmed, there's much better ways to attack an enemy than grabbing their hair, especially if the opponent is armed. For that reason, hair grabbing is often a tool of last resort or a dirty fighting move while both combatants are unarmed.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Muska does this to Sheeta in Castle in the Sky when he takes her hostage.
  • Fairy Tail: When Lucy is captured by Phantom Lord, Gajeel yanks on her hair to make her scream, thus alerting the Fairy Tail guild members that she was their hostage.
  • In the last episode of the 2001 Fruits Basket anime, Akito does this to Tohru when angry with her.
  • In Naruto during the Chuunin Exams, Sakura Haruno had to fend off a competing team of Sound ninja who came to fight an incapacitated Sasuke. One of the ninjas, Kin, grabbed Sakura by the hair and ridiculed her for spending more time keeping it clean than training her skills. Sakura grew some balls and cut it with her kunai, allowing her to escape Kin's grasp, and emerged with a short pixie-ish hairstyle, which she later kept.
  • Happens in Digimon Adventure during the Cat Fight between Angewomon and Lady Devimon. Rather than just using her powers, Lady Devimon just decides to swing Angewomon around in mid-air holding onto her hair. In her second appearance, she grabs onto Angewomon's hair again.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Venus is once apprehended when the villain pins her to the wall by her hair.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z: In a fight that is already horrifying, Spopovich grabs Videl by the hair, causing her to let out a bloodcurdling, high-pitched shriek, shortly before kneeing her in the face.
    • Dragon Ball Super:
      • Vegeta does this to Goku Black, picking him up by the hair after a beatdown and headbutting him.
      • Later in the Tournament of Power, Jiren ends up doing the same to Goku in their first fight. He then punches him in the stomach and launches an energy blast that nearly rings him out.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan: Piccolo grabs a handful of Vegeta's hair when trying to force the unusually cowardly Saiyan prince into joining the fight.
      Vegeta: It's no use... This is the end...
      Piccolo: What do you think you're doing!? Why don't you stop whining like a baby and fight like a man!?
      Vegeta: Why? What for? Broly's unbeatable...
      Piccolo: You call yourself the prince of Saiyans?
  • Soul Eater:
    • A chapter has a rather jarring example: Maka and Soul try to fix the damage Crona's black blood has done to some DWMA members. They even join hands as they use Soul Resonance together, and enter the room where the members are being held. The next thing we see is Soul dragging Maka out by her hair, as his own black blood has started to act up the moment he got close to another source.
    • Stein also does this to Maka when he pretended to want to dissect her.
  • Pandora Hearts: Oz has this done to him by Alice and Lotti.
  • Chapter 73 of Tokyo Ghoul re reveals that Mutsuki's father abused him by grabbing him by his bangs, dragging him to the bathroom and trying to drown him until he praised him. It's then implied that he raped him.
  • Ranma ½: It's somewhat of a Running Gag for Akane Tendō to grab her fiancé Ranma by the pigtail to get him out of the way, or even to drag him to school when they're late. Although Ranma occasionally calls her a "cavewoman", he's beyond protesting it in the slightest and merely ignores it; he once keeps eating his breakfast while being horizontally dragged to school.
  • Overlord (2012): Mare is sent to kidnap Hilma, the head of Eight Fingers' prostitution division. He does so by breaking her leg before dragging her off by the hair. Note that Mare is the size of a kid.
  • One Piece: Occurs during the Eines Lobby arc. Spandam grabs Nico Robin by the upper arm at first while escorting her to the prison ship, while Robin's hands are cuffed behind her with power-suppressant shackles and she is mostly non-resistant. However, after Robin starts fighting back and trying to run, Spandam has to resort to beating her, striking her with his elephant-sword, and dragging her by the hair in order to keep moving.
  • In Nijigahara Holograph, when Makoto asks his sister Narumi if she's been reading his diary and she denies it, he grabs her by the hair (and close to the scalp, making it extra painful) and turns her to face him, asking if she's lying.
  • Yona of the Dawn: Early in the story, Tae-Jun grabs Yona by her long red hair. Her solution is to slash it off.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • When Batman meets Batwoman for the first time post-Final Crisis, he warns her that having long hair is a liability in a fight, since any Mook could grab it. She smirkingly replies that she'll take it under advisement, but the joke's on him since Kate is smart enough to know this, and her long hair is actually a wig that covers her real hair, which is much shorter, as well as helping disguise her identity. Later on when someone actually does try this they are quite surprised when they pull off her wig instead, giving her time to escape.
    • Batwoman (Rebirth): Played with in issue #4. Knife grabs Kate by the wig and swings her into a rock pillar, even though the wig reasonably should've detached, as it's been shown to do in earlier Batwoman comics.
  • In issue 19 of Pocket God, a giant killer robot grabs Kinsee by her ponytail, but Sun cuts her ponytail off before it can kill her.
  • Sillage: In the first issue, Heiliig grabs Navis' ponytail and lifts her into the air, but she cuts it off with her knife.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Priscilla Rich tries to have Diana Prince's mind read by Gail Young by having Diana's hair pined down by someone posing as a hair stylist who then left the room. Since Diana is Wonder Woman she just got up and broke the thing pinning her down by her hair.
  • Superman:
    • In Who is Superwoman?, Reactron grabs a handful of Supergirl's hair to keep her still while he irradiates her with Gold Kryptonite (which disables Kryptonian powers temporarily).
    • The Great Darkness Saga: During one battle between the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Darkseid's minions, a Servant of Darness grabs Dawnstar's hair and pulls her inside a dimensional portal.

    Fan Works 
  • Fates Collide: Penthesilea grabs Yang Xiao Long's hair and throws her across the room. Of course, this triggers Yang's Berserk Button.
  • In the Emergency! fic Lost and Found, there's a rare male one, albeit with long hair. John Gage has a flashback dream of the guy who'd held him captive for 18 months grabbing him by the hair to drag him into his "punishment room" when he decided John was misbehaving. John's hair had grown longer during his ordeal, though it always was so long it was just within firefighter regulations, even in canon.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fanfic The Ultimate Evil, Valerie Payne becomes several times a victim of this trope while fighting at different points Shendu, Hak Foo and Bai Tza. There's also the canonical examples of Shendu pulling Valmont's hair during one of their fights over the control over the crime lord's body and a Shadowkhan pulling the Demon World version of Jackie from the braid.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Scuttle attempts to stop Morgana by pulling her hair with his talons.
    Scuttle: You are a very! Bad! Lady!
    (Morgana whacks him with the trident)
    Scuttle: (dizzy) Very bad.
  • Rapunzel in Tangled has this happen to her a couple of times, understandable since she has over 70 feet of hair. It even gets used as a gag at one point. She also uses it to subdue other people, notably when she ties Flynn up after he breaks into her tower.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played seriously in the Soviet film Come and See, where a Nazi soldier drags a peasant girl off to be raped.
  • In one Harry Potter film, Bellatrix grabs Harry by the hair after his face got hit by a spell from Hermione.
  • John Wick dispatches a mook by grabbing his beard, using the leverage to smash his head against a table, and quickly double tapping him.
  • Matilda: On Matilda's first day at school the Trunchbull grabs a young girl by her pigtails and throws her over the fence. The girl learns her lesson and makes sure the Trunchbull never sees her with pigtails again.
  • In Moonraker, Bond fights a mook while Holly Goodhead is strapped to a stretcher. When the mook gets knocked near her, she grabs his hair. He stands up anyway, ripping out a chunk of his hair in the process.
  • In Sixteen Candles one girl at the party gets her hair stuck in a locked door, leaving her stranded for a lot of the night.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles when Thimbletack gets annoyed that Mallory destroyed his nest, he ties all of her hair around the iron bedstead. Naturally Jared gets blamed for this too. The next time we see Mallory her hair is up in a ponytail but when it's down at the end of the film, it seems their mother just untied the hair rather than cutting it to free her.
  • The Three Stooges: A common way for Moe Howard to yank Larry around. Sometimes others would grab a hunk of his hair too. Another gag would have Moe, after manhandling Larry, to try this on Curly ... nyuk nyuk nyuk.
  • The film We Are Not Angels has a flashback where the main character thinks of his abusive father, who did this to his mother. She asks for scissors, ostensibly to cut her hair, and stabs her husband through the thigh with them while he's off guard. Smash cut to the protagonist sighing that women with long hair are prettiest and we have a really weird Fruedian outcome of this trope.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: En Sabah Nur grabs Quicksilver's hair to expose his victim's neck so that Psylocke can cut his throat.

  • Played straight in one of the Aubrey-Maturin books, in which Barrett Bonden engages in a bare-knuckle contest with his plait tied around his head, with predictable consequences.
  • Avengers of the Moon, by Allen Steele. A Femme Fatale does this to Fair Cop Joan Randall during a Bar Brawl. As the novel is a Reconstruction of a 1930's pulp magazine series, Joan punches her attacker in the face instead of it being played for Cat Fight fanservice.
  • Older Than Print: It's often lost in the translation, but if you read the original text of Beowulf, you'd see that the title character actually resorted to this in the battle with Grendel's mother.
  • When women sneak into the men's quarters and abduct Jerin in A Brother's Price, they seize his long-braided hair, and he screams.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Last Battle the last Tirian sees of Jill is a Calormene soldier dragging her away from the battle by her hair.
  • On Gor a semi-standard way to control a slave girl without using chains is for the man to hold his hand at about waist-height, and the girl places her head there where he grabs her hair and basically pulls her about.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial, Blacknail the goblin frequently grabs the hair of people he's fighting with. This usually causes them to expose their throats.
  • In Murder at Drumshee Colm apprehends Mahon and Ita by grabbing onto one of Ita's long plaits and holding a knife at her throat.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events book "The Wide Window" the person who looks like neither a man nor a woman grabs Violet by her hair, swinging her over his shoulder. Strangely, little reference is made to how painful this must have been, and it doesn't seem to have damaged either her hair or her neck.
  • In Sisters... No Way! during an argument at the breakfast table, Aishling grabs Cindy by her hair to try and calm her down.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love.
    Lazarus Long: Not only does long hair need a lot of timewasting care, it gives your opponent something to grab in close combat and can obscure your view at a critical moment — either one can be fatal.
  • Tortall Universe: Guardswoman Beka Cooper is well acquainted with the dirty fighting tactics of the Lower City, and has a spiked strap in her braid in case anyone tries this on her.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Cetaganda, a Cetagandan haut-lady is imprisoned by trapping her hair, which works because her culture has strong taboos around hair-cutting, so it's effectively a Life-or-Limb Decision.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide warns men and women to cut their hair short to prevent this from happening. (Quickly shot down by most long-haired people, who state that tucking their braid into their shirt is functionally the same.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lifetime Movies love this one. If the movie involves an abusive husband (which they oft do), expect to his him drag his wife, kicking and screaming, down the hallway, often to the bedroom.
  • In a BBC series that modernised fairytales, the episode of Rapunzel has the stepmother grabbing onto her daughter's long hair to stop her from leaving. The daughter grabs the scissors and hacks the ponytail off to escape.

  • In The 10th Kingdom, when Virgina's hair is cursed to grow fifty feet long, the Huntsman drags her through the forest by it and even uses it to chain her up.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "What's My Line?", Buffy does this to Kendra after lampshading the Cat Fight trope.
    • In "The Initiative", Xander comes across vampire Harmony and after mutual Badass Boasts, they have a comical Wimp Fight that ends with them agreeing to let go of each other's hair on the count of three, then go their separate ways and never speak of this again.
    • In "Family" the Scoobies pull a Go Through Me when Tara's abusive family try to take her home. When Dawn steps up Buffy warns Mr. Maclay to take her seriously because "she's a hair-puller".
  • Karen in Coronation Street loved doing this whenever she got into Catfights with Tracy Barlow. The universe gave her some form of comeuppance when her long hair got caught in one of her sewing machines, forcing her to remove her extensions.
  • During his Paso Doble on Dancing with the Stars, Joey Fatone grabbed his partner Kym by the hair and dragged her about ten feet across the floor.
  • The Ghost Whisperer episode "Last Execution" Melinda was washing her hair in the sink and a ghost caused it to get caught in the garbage disposal. Jim had to cut it to free her.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Lucky Charm" Elliot and Carla get into a catfight that only ends when Elliot gets her watch caught in Carla's hair, restraining them both from moving.
  • True Blood: Jessica Hamby really doesn't like it when Steve Newlin tries to pull this sort of move while threatening her, so she does it right back to him.
    Jessica Hamby: [exasperated] Hair pulling! Really?! [gets Steve in a headlock, one hand pulling his head back by the hair] How do you like it? The next time you think about crashing my party, don't. [grins] My dad's the king. [tosses Steve out the front doors]

  • Troglodyte by the Jimmy Castor Bunch tells us this is how cavemen went courting.
    He'd go down to the lake
    where all the woman would be swimming
    or washing clothes or something.
    He'd look around and just reach in and grab one.
    "Come here...come here".
    He'd grab her by the hair. You can't do that today, fellas,
    cause it might come off.
    You'd have a piece of hair in your hand and she'd
    be swimming away from you.
  • In The Who's Rock Opera, Tommy, one of the many things sadistic Cousin Kevin does to Tommy:
    I'll drag you around by a lock of your hair
    And give you a push from the top of the stair

    Myths & Religion 
  • The heroine in Irish mythology Grace O'Malley had long black Rapunzel Hair and her father joked she wouldn't be allowed to become a sailor because the hair would constantly get caught in things. She took the joke a bit too literally and shaved her head before becoming a captain.
  • The Bible:
    • In the Books of Samuel, King David's son Absalom rebelled against him. He was defeated at the Battle of Ephraim's Wood when he rode under a tree and his really long hair got tangled in the branches, leaving him dangling in the air and a sitting duck for the soldier Joab to kill him.
    • In the Book of Ezekiel chapter 8, God grabs Ezekiel by the hair and takes him to Jerusalem to show him the detestable things that are being done in His Temple.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • It's a common dirty heel tactic in women's wrestling for the heel to throw her opponent across the ring by her hair. Sometimes also happens for extra leverage in a submission hold (a common one in Diva's matches is to stand on their hair while they're on the ground, then pull them up by the arms; shoulder, neck and hair pain all in one shot.) Can sometimes happen to men as well if the hair is long enough.
  • It used to be a tactic in intergender tag matches for the man on the team to grab the woman by the hair and slam her down to the mat when she hit the ropes.
  • It's so widely seen for the hair to be grabbed as leverage during a snapmare, that it has a technical name - "hair-mare".
  • One advantage of Bald of Awesome / Bald of Evil is immunity to this.
  • One of The Fabulous Moolah's signature moves was to simply grab someone by the hair and whip them across the ring by it.
  • Pampero Firpo was rumored to get his strength from his Wild Hair, and would No-Sell any pulling of it.
  • Low Ki tried to give Sabu a hair assisted tornado DDT in their first Impact Championship Wrestling match. It didn't work.
  • MsChif likes to pluck hairs out of the heads of opponents she has in submission holds, and prior to matches will sometimes pull her own hair to show it won't work on her. This backfired against Amazing Kong, who proved she could pull MsChif's hair much harder than MsChif could and later lead to an iconic SHIMMER image where Kong interrupted a photo session meant to hype a title match by taking MsChif and LuFisto in this manner.
  • Prince Nana dragged Daizee Haze this way as a trap to lure out Roderick Strong and Matt Sydal. Daizee Haze had actually betrayed Generation Next and joined the embassy, as Strong and Sydal (and Jade Chung) painfully discovered.
  • During their Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon 2005, after The Undertaker was knocked against the cell, Cowboy Bob Orton, who was outside, grabbed his hair, holding him in place and allowing Randy Orton to beat on him a bit. Eventually, Undertaker used pure brute force to pull Bob against the cell and break his grip.
  • Melina once tied Beth Phoenix's hair to the ropes as well but it didn't hold for very long.
  • During a triple-threat steel cage match, non participant Velvet Sky tied Awesome Kong's hair to the cage. The tactic neutralized Kong for the rest of the match, ending with Angelina Love pinning Taylor Wilde. After the match, Kong had to be freed with scissors.
  • Before the main event of Vintage End Of The Line, the referee found a ring of hair pullers circling around him, instigated by Brittney Savage, followed La Rosa Negra trying to make her let go of Santana Garrett, then Luscious Latasha in turn trying to help Savage...
  • Gail Kim really benefited from this. During a ladder match with Taryn Terrell, she tied Taryn's hair to the ropes which kept her stuck long enough for Gail to climb the ladder and retrieve the contract.
  • Eddie Sapaluci took down Jim Nye, science guy, in a Fringe Pro match by reversing an Irish whip by his beard, causing Nye to face plant.
  • Inverted by Malia Hosaka, at SHINE 30. She had already participated in the crushing of La Rosa Negra's throat prior, just to threaten Leah Von Dutch, and went so far as to grab her own hair just to get something around Dutch's throat.
  • El Patron Alberto restrained Ray González Jr this way while fish hooking and delivering "The Reason You Suck" Speech about González being a lowly Puerto Rican.
  • At Extreme Rules 2014, John Cena grabbed Erick Rowan's beard and rammed his head into the steel cage several times.
  • During Eric Young's feud with, MVP, Bobby Lashley and Kenny King over the winning and defenses of the TNA World Heavyweight Title belt in 2014, Kenny King an unusual glee in pulling on Young's beard.
  • At Fastlane 2018, Carmella dragged Naomi across the ring by her ponytail.
  • During his 2019 run with WWC's Universal title, The Precious One Gilbert would claim Hiram Tua had pulled his hair at any point he managed to create separation after being out wrestled by him. Thus it was "fair" when Gilbert put his hands in Hiram's afro. As Jovan began associating with with Gilbert at this time he also began calling phantom hair pulls during his and La Violencia's matches with La Potencia, which was really silly considering Violencia wore a head covering mask and Jovan was bald at the time.

  • Long hair is strongly advised against for American Football players, as grabbing an opponent by his hair is completely legal.

    Video Games 
  • In The Walking Dead, Lee gives Clementine a haircut to prevent this kind of attack after one of the St. John brothers grabs onto her hair and pulls her back to keep Lee from attacking him, and one of the pieces of advice you can give her as Lee is dying is to keep her hair short. At the end of the final episode of Season 3, Javier gives her a trim, making it more or less the length of a pixie cut, and in Season 4, during her dream sequence, if that's what Lee's parting words of wisdom were to her, he examines her hair and says, "I thought I told you to keep this short," to which she responds that scissors are hard to come by.
  • In Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, when Stacy reveals herself to be a traitor, Frank angrily tries to stop her from escaping by grabbing her ponytail, only to find she was wearing a wig and her real hair is a boyish haircut.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Rosa has done this to her daughter Maria.


    Web Original 
  • Nearly every YouTube video featuring two or more females fighting.
  • In Christmas Story 2, when The Nostalgia Critic has had enough of Hyper still following him after he keeps telling her no, he drags her by the hair to rant at her. Luckily for Tamara the Hyper hair is a wig.
  • Cobra Kai: In the big battle of Season 2 ("No Mercy"), this is how Tory drags Samantha down a flight of stairs.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Alexander the Great ordered his soldiers to shave their beards to deny their enemies something to grab onto preparatory for cutting off the head.
  • Ditto for the Romans. The military crew cut was invented by them so their enemies couldn't grab onto it during battle.
  • Many women's self-defense courses offer specific instruction in what to do if grabbed by the hair in various positions (from behind, from the front, etc.). Short-haired students are grabbed by the collar instead, and learn the same technique.
  • This trope can and has been simultaneously exploited and defied by people in street fights with a sufficiently thick head of hair by putting sharp objects within the hair to punish people who would take advantage of this trope.

Alternative Title(s): Caveman Carry


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: