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Well, at least she didn't break a nail…
"My hair! He shot my hair! Son of a bitch!"
Princess Vespa, Spaceballs

In either a gunfight or a sword battle, sometimes the bullet or blade gets just a bit too close for comfort, and you often see a Close-Call Haircut with a few cut strands of hair blowing around to indicate just how close the character came to getting hit. The character may even quickly run a hand through their hair and watch loose strands float away in the wind as confirmation. May also mark the point in the battle when the gloves come off, especially if one or both of the fighters are female and it suddenly becomes personal as soon as the female character's beauty is involved.

A common variation involves a bullet passing through a female character's hair, creating a gaping hole that's sometimes magically repaired by the next scene (see Hair Reboot).

May overlap with Important Haircut or Traumatic Haircut in some cases. See also Slipknot Ponytail and Hat Damage. Compare Losing a Shoe in the Struggle (the same effect is achieved with a minor article of clothing instead) or Paper Cutting (flesh rather than hair).

The trope was popularized during the Renaissance, when sword-wielding folk moved away from large and cumbersome cutting tools to lighter weapons that allowed additional finesse. Trimming an opponent's mustache or removing buttons in a declared order was a way to demonstrate one's superior fighting skills whilst simultaneously humiliating your opponent, culminating in the famous 'slice your initial in your opponent's clothes without actually breaking his skin' maneuver made famous by Alex Thoth's Zorro.


Example subpages


Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 2 episode 21, Careless S. tests out his new weapon by shooting a missile at a tree. Big M., who is hiding behind a bush right in front of the tree, is nearly hit by the missile, but it just barely misses him and cuts off the top of his hair in the process.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Mighty Little Defenders episode 42, Weslie faces off against Rolly and Raoul while they're under the effects of a wolf herb. One of those two very nearly hits Weslie with a sword, cutting off a small part of the curl of wool on his forehead.

    Comic Books 
  • British children's comic The Dandy features one issue in which giant cowboy Desperate Dan has to get ready for a date. First he shaves, by dangling over a volcano to burn off the stubble. Then he gets a haircut by finding an Indian with a sharp-looking tomahawk, punching him in the face, and ducking at just the right moment...
  • In one episode of Mortadelo y Filemón, Mortadelo throws a scimitar at Dr. Bacterio but instead nearly hits Super who just popped out of a door to see what the commotion was about. The scimitar landed close enough to shave Super's mustache clean off, something which he does not take well...
  • Nightwing's first issue includes him getting a close call haircut. Justified due to him sporting a very long ponytail (it was the 90s).
  • Storm had this happen to her once, during a duel with Marrow. It led to a second dramatic hairstyle change from long and flowing to short and practical (and this one was much more stylish than her original Mohawk), though her character didn't change quite as much this time.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: While fighting Noriko, her half-sister, Tomoe gets a chunk of her hair sliced off as she ducks under a sword swing. Tomoe says nothing, but Noriko remarks "Bah! Your hair was too long, anyway."
    • While he doesn't make a big deal of it, Katsuichi-sensei loses a chunk of hair during his duel with Koji.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Happens to Sheeta at the end of Castle in the Sky when the antagonist, Colonel Muska, shoots off both of her braids.
  • During the Training Montage in Hercules, part of Herc's training involves throwing daggers at moving targets controlled by Pegasus. He misses most of them, and gives Pegasus a crew cut to go with it.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: During a fight, Lord Shen just barely misses slashing Po's face with his Feather Flechettes, but the blades cut close enough that some fur is sliced off.
  • In The Man Called Flintstone when Bobo attempts to assassinate Fred thinking him to be super spy Rock Slag whom looks just like him, he throws a knife at his head it misses but splits his hair down the middle.
  • In Rio, Blu narrowly escapes getting cut by a buzzsaw, which shears off a couple of feathers off the back of his head.
  • In Turning Red, Mei launches a dodgeball at Tyler so fast it nearly decapitates him, carving a large circle out of his hair instead (which is somehow glowing red hot for a couple seconds after).
  • In Zootopia, a ram gets his belly wool shorn clean off when he lays flat against a tunnel wall to dodge a passing subway train.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 300 has a slight variation: An axe cuts off the horse hair on top of the king's helmet.
  • Twice in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
    • The protagonist receives one in a flashback at the start of the film but with an executioner's axe (one of his servants arrives just in the nick of time). "Thanks! I needed a trim!"
    • In the climax, the executioner is about to strike him again, but this time, the Baron's far-shooting servant shoots the axe out of the executioner's hands, and it spirals through the air slicing through the Sultan's headdress widthwise and giving him the trim; the Sultan has to keep wearing the ruined hat for the whole rest of the fight scene.
  • Happens with stubble at the climax of Blades of Glory.
  • The Thin Man in the Charlie's Angels (2000) movie cut off Alex's hair and sniffed it while swordfighting with her.
  • In Crocodile Dundee II, after Mick recruits a gang to help him rescue his wife from the Big Bad, one of the youths makes it clear that he's not going to participate, but instead plans to beat up Mick and take his jacket. Mick throws his knife, which bisects the kid's mohawk and sticks in the wall he's leaning against.
  • Mandy the ass-kicking heroine from Enter the Eagles remains quite The Stoic for the first ten or so minutes of her screentime, until the barn fight where a mook swings a scythe at her... and cuts off a few strands of her hair. She then calmly said she just had her hair done, before opening a whole new flavor of whoop-ass on the mook and ripping off several strands from his hair.
  • A variant of this happens early in Get Shorty, when Ray Bones tries to sneak into Chili Palmer's office to shoot him. Chili, having been alerted to this, just waits with his gun aimed at head height. When Bones breaks in, Chili shoots him — and leaves a groove on the top of his head from the passage of the bullet, to which Bones freaks out and goes running out of the building, screaming.
    "Someone call nine-fucking-one-one-one!"
  • Subverted in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, when for perhaps half a second, it appears that the Bride's katana has cut O-Ren's black hair off her head. Then you realize that O-Ren's scalp and the top of her skull have come off with it.
  • In Land of the Dead, Charlie fires at what appears to be Motown's head, only for the bullet to hit a zombie behind her while missing her head by a tiny margin. She tries the same trick later on, but the bullet grazes Charlie's head on the way to hitting the zombie.
    Charlie: That wasn't close! You actually hit me!
  • The fatter of the two Scousers in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels takes a shotgun blast to the perm. He is not pleased.
  • Daigoro's topknot from Lone Wolf and Cub gets a chunk taken out of it during a fight, but he's otherwise unharmed. Considering that he's a small child, this might have been as far as the director wanted to go when it came to actually injuring him.
  • In Peter Jackson's depiction of the Battle of Dagorlad during the War of the Last Alliance in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, an arrow just barely misses taking Elrond's pointy ear off as it breezes through his hair.
    • The arrow was shot by a friendly elven archer standing behind Elrond, shooting at orcs charging at Elrond from the front. And his hair moving was probably from the arrow's turbulence, not the arrow itself.
  • This popped up in a climactic battle in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, between the emperor mummy and Zi Yuan.
  • Freddy manages to do this to a character in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), snipping a lock of her hair just as she wakes up. The lock is sitting on the desk in front of her after she wakes up.
  • At the end of the "Parlay" scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Hector Barbossa whips out his sword and slices off the dreadlock bearing Jack Sparrow's Piece of Eight in a single motion. It's unclear whether he would have cared much if he'd taken a piece of Jack's skull with it.
  • Red Cliff: At the climax, Cao Cao's topnot is undone (in Bullet Time, even!) by an arrow courtesy of Sun Quan.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Kevin Costner (Robin Hood) chops off a decent sized piece of Alan Rickman's (The Sheriff of Nottingham) hair during their final battle. He then quips "If I have to, I shall take you a piece at a time..."
  • Played for Laughs in Spaceballs, when the vain Princess Vespa's hair is singed by a Mook's laser - and she proceeds to pick up a gun and go Rambo on them.
  • In many shorts of The Three Stooges, gun shots might leave a bald, steaming trail from the front to the back of Moe's or someone else's head, or else blow their hats (or toupees) off.
  • Undercover Brother qualifies, although there it was more to motivate the hero to victory, à la the Berserk Button.
    Undercover Brother: You mess with the 'fro, you got to go.
  • In Wanted, during Wesley's training with the Fraternity, he can't seem to bend bullets (don't ask) around a hanging body to hit the target. When Fox stands in front of it, Wesley is able to just curve the bullet enough to miss her, but clips a piece of her hair.
  • Played for laughs when it happens to the title character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit during the opening cartoon Somethin’s Cookin. After popping out of a folded ironing board Roger is pinned to the wall in a Knife Outline by an array of flying cutlery. A pairing knife splits his hair in two just above his head right before a large meat cleaver hits the wall in between his legs making Roger gulp loudly.

    Literature 
  • Mercedes Lackey's Born To Run (part of the Serrated Edge series): Due to participating in a magical battle while exhausted (his aim goes to pieces when he's tired), Tannim accidentally gave an elf a 'Reverse Mohawk' because his magic bolt ricocheted off and cut a clean line along his scalp. The elf kept this style for the rest of the book, despite their glamour magic.
  • John Dickson Carr's The Bride Of Newgate: The climax, set in 1815, is held up by the arrival of a minor character at Darwent's house, demanding satisfaction for mostly plot-irrelevant issues. Darwent and everyone else (including the reader) is impatient to go on with the plot, but as the intruder is an Officer and a Gentleman, he can't refuse the duel. Riled, but not wanting to kill or seriously injure the man, Darwent (who, before being made a peer, was a fencing master) shaves off some of his hair and both of his impressive and stylish sideburns. Then his maddened opponent accidentally charges through a false wall, revealing the hidden room that holds the central mystery and kick-starting the climax proper.
  • Discworld: In Thief of Time a monk ducks an axe swing from an Auditor, but his much beloved ponytail is sliced off in the process. Things then proceed to go very badly for the Auditor.
  • In the Federation of the Hub story, "Lion Loose", "Baldy" Perk got his name because a near-miss from a blaster permanently removed the hair from the top of his head.
  • Forgotten Realms: In the Finder's Stone trilogy, one halfling got a clump of her hair shaved off by dozens of sweeping disintegration rays. Granted, this trap was set on a reasonable assumption that only one human could be there, but it still looks like those who suspected she's favoured by Lady Luck even more than other halflings got it right...
  • During Galaxy of Fear, Zak gets attacked by a gardening droid and ducks in time to avoid being bloodied by its shears, but it still clips a hank of hair from the top of his head.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
    • A centaur fires an arrow that catches the hair of Dolores Umbridge after she offends them... not that it stops her from insulting them further. Some people simply never learn...
    • During a duel, Harry ducks to avoid a spell and mentions the smell of singed hair to show how close the spell was.
  • In the Italian children's book, Il Mascheraio Innocente (The Innocent Mask-maker), the titular character is wrongly accused of putting a wasp inside a duchess' mask, and sentenced to death by beheading. He spends the time until the execution making a mask with his likeness and then wears it on top of his head, so when he gets executed he survives. He didn't make the neck of the mask quite long enough, though, causing his friends to remark that "[his] haircut looks like it's been made with a meat cleaver".
  • Subverted in I'm In Love With the Villainess. Prince Thane dodges out of the way of an assassin's strike, and the blade slices part of his hair off... but it also nicks his arm, and a few moments later it turns out to have been poisoned. If Rae hadn't been on hand to neutralize the poison, it wouldn't have been a close call at all.
  • Isaac Asimov's Prelude to Foundation: Venabili manages to cut off part of Marron's moustache in their fight, after deliberately scoring several shallow cuts. She threatens that this is his last warning, and her next counterattack would be deadly. He takes the threat seriously and runs away.
  • Whateley Universe: In Rises the Sun (Part 4), a stray solar laser / finger gun shot takes out a bit of someone's haircut:
    both girls noted several of the long tresses on the left side were now about a half inch shorter, as well as smouldering.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens to Peter Petrelli in Heroes, during his first encounter with Sylar.
  • The MythBusters have had a few cases that definitely prove their point about not attempting anything they do at home.
    • Adam once got a bit too close to an exploding ball of fire. "Am I missing an eyebrow?"
    • Not to mention an incident that begins with Grant adjusting a spring-loaded guillotine and ends with said guillotine zooming past him close enough to tear his shirt.
  • Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead gets one when he is grazed by a sniper shot in the second season

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, there is a scene in which Xaldin hurls a lance at Axel's head; there is a visible puff of red hairs that fly off when the spear hits about three inches to the left of Axel's face.
  • In the Overwatch short "Infiltration", Widowmaker is set up to assassinate Katya Volskaya with her sniper rifle. Suddenly, the security alarm sounds and Katya is escorted away by her guards. Widowmaker still tries to take the shot, but misses and destroys Katya's right earring.
  • In Sakura Wars (2019), Lancelot and Sakura Amamiya engage in a sword duel when they meet each other for the first time in chapter 3. When Lancelot tries to ram her sword into Sakura, the latter dodges it and a few of her hair strands are cut off.
  • The introductory cutscene to The Witcher has Geralt doing this to a Striga.

    Web Animation 
  • In the pilot of Knights of All Realms, Patchface the Pirate swings for Sir Loin's neck, but only manages to graze his skin and take a bit of his beard off. Unfortunately, that's enough for Sir Loin to be poisoned by the Sick Sabre.
  • In RWBY, Yang Xiao Long evades the wide swings of an Ursa's claws, but later realises that the beast managed to cut off a single strand of hair. Her temper snaps, and the Ursa is pummelled into oblivion. No-one is allowed to touch her hair, never mind damage it.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Kakyoin and Polnareff are on the receiving end from Death 13's scythe a few times during the Death 13 arc in Vaguely Recalling JoJo.

    Web Video 
  • The short video To The Death involves a student from a sword fighting school that uses Laser Swords fighting a series of duels against his teacher, as he cannot properly graduate from the school until he manages to defeat the teacher. In the last of these duels the student finally wins by dodging a slash at the last instant, with the blade coming close enough to singe off some of his long hair, and then landing a winning counterattack. YouTube link

    Western Animation 
  • Katara does this to Azula with a blade of water in the season two finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, managing to annoy the already borderline-crazy Azula even more.
    • Earlier, in a fight between Jet and Zuko, a blow gets so close that it cuts the blade of grass from Jet's mouth.
    • And even earlier than that, the leaders of two feuding tribes that the gAang run into have a duel in which they do this to each other. The man loses the tip of his beard, the woman one of her buns.
    • In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok does this to Korra with a vicious waterbending attack.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: In the episode "Widow's Sting", Hawkeye is about to shoot Black Widow with an arrow, but then spots Madame Viper behind her about to shoot Mockingbird. He instead shoots the gun out of Viper's hand, but on the way it passes through Natasha's hair, cutting a few strands.
  • At the end sequence of The Beatles, an Indian that Paul mistook for Ringo in disguise sends his tomahawk at John, Paul and George, altering their iconic moptops.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "The Ride of the Valkyries" after being mistaken for their sister the Valkyries give Muriel a battle axe. As she playfully fools around with it she accidentally cuts off some of Courage's fur on his head.
  • An episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Timmy's Yoo Doo doll about to be put into a wood chipper. By the time he gets Cosmo and Wanda to unwish the dolls, the shredder has shaved his hair.
    • In another episode in which he wishes that he and Trixie were the last people on earth, near the end Trixie has gone insane and tries to kill Timmy with a helicopter just before he wishes the world back to normal she has managed to cut off some of his hair with the helicopter blades.
  • In the Futurama episode "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back", Bender is dealing a hand of poker and accidentally clips off some of Fry's hair with a wildly thrown card.
    • In Bender's Big Score, Bender belches, setting Amy's uncharacteristically long hair on fire — causing it to go back to the style she had it in during the series.
  • Dangerous Dan gives Heckle a close cut with his revolver in the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon "Hair Cut-Ups."
  • Hit-Monkey: Happens a lot over the course of the series when bladed weapons come into play. A stand out example is episode 2, where Hit-Monkey narrowly escapes a Conveyor Belt o' Doom and gets a large patch shaved off his behind, which remains days later.
  • In the Infinity Train Book One episode "The Chrome Car", Tulip's reflection has her hair chopped off by the sander the Reflection Police were trying to destroy her with.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: In "Carnival Lucius", Lucius sends Jimmy and Heloise on a roller coaster that had several giant meat cleavers to chop them to bits. The knives only succeeded in chopping of Jimmy's Idiot Hair.
    Heloise: We should have been chopped to bits. Hey, Lucius! Your henchmen do shoddy work!
  • At least one episode of Looney Tunes in which Yosemite Sam confronts Bugs Bunny culminates in Bugs using a trick shot that not only parts Sam's hair but splits his hat, as well.
  • In the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) episode "Future Shock", Cutman's blade slices the end of Roll's ponytail.
  • In the 7th episode of Mighty Max Norman slices the zombie parasite off of an infected man who is holding Virgil, in the process he accidentally slices off Virgil's long eyebrows.
    • Also in the 13th episode Norman looses a chunk of his ponytail saving Max from The Skullmaster.
  • In Motorcity, Tennie shoots off part of Dutch's afro in an attempt to stop a KaneBot.
  • This happens to Ratty in the Mr. Bogus episode "Meet Mr. Bogus".
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In episode "Secret of my Excess" this happens twice — first time when Spike accidentally burns the doctor's hair off with his breath, and another time when the Wonderbolts slash the crest on his head off.
    • Spike gives another one to Twilight in "It's About Time", resulting in the haircut Future Twilight had.
    • Sweetie Belle's mane gets a trim from Opalescence's claws in "Stare Master". It only lasts until the next scene, though.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): Bubbles gets one of her pigtails turned into a drumstick by a stray meat-making beam from Fuzzy Lumpkins. Cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Rambo in Rambo: The Force of Freedom was often seen ducking for cover right when the enemy fires at him, just fast enough for the bullets to slice a few locks of hair from his head. The man had the Devil's luck, one has to admit.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Implied in "X-Mas Marks the Spot". As the Ghostbusters are driving back from a job in upstate New York, Egon pointedly mentions something Ray did that might cost them future jobs in the area. Ray protests that the cat was supposed to be out of the way and the fur will grow back.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack vs Mad Jack" during their fight Evil Jack slices off his trademark topknot hair, he then does the same to him.
    • In Season 5, one of the Daughters of Aku slices the tip of Jack's beard off, and several episodes later Ashi gets some of her hair chopped off by her mother during their duel.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Itchy and Scratchy Land," Homer repeatedly ducks the cleaver of a mad robot while insisting that nothing is wrong, but loses the two hairs on top of his head when it gets too close ("Ah! My hair! Oh god, I'm ugly!").
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Beach Party", the ends of Amethyst's hair get sliced off when the corrupted-Gem-of-the-week blows Pearl's spear back at the Crystal Gems. Though, it doesn't stay that way for long because Amethyst can do a Hair Reboot with her shapeshifting.
  • In episode 16 of Symbionic Titan, when Lance is in the middle of a sword duel with a traitor, the traitor clips a few hairs with an attack that Lance barely dodges.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don't have hair, but in an episode of the 2003 cartoon an axe blade slices through the tails of Michelangelo's mask for much the same effect.
  • In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Legendary Sandwich", Starfire gets her long hair cut off while fighting a Sandwich Guardian. It makes her go berserk and smash the guardian to bits.
  • In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "Journey to the Tower of Omens" this happens to Cheetara while using her Super-Speed and Super-Reflexes to jump through a Death Course of whirling blades in a Temple of Doom.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Mouse Trouble", a gunshot leaves Tom bald, and he has to wear a Dodgy Toupee for the rest of the cartoon.
  • Happens to Clover in an episode of Totally Spies!. It's naturally a Berserk Button.
  • In Transformers: Animated, the Constructicons, in their first appearance, accidentally chop off Sari's ponytails in a game of oil-barrell frisbee.
    Sari: Hey, those don't grow back overnight!
  • TRON: Uprising had one program receive an impromptu haircut courtesy of Tessler's BFG.
  • In the Woody Woodpecker short "Solid Ivory", Woody gets a chunk of his hair chopped off by a flying axe. He is not amused.

    Real Life 
  • At the battle of Fredericksburg during The American Civil War, Confederate cavalry general J.E.B Stuart had a lock of hair cut off by a bullet, and three more bullets passed through his clothes, while he left the battlefield unharmed.

 
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Blu narrowly escapes getting cut by a buzzsaw, which shears off a couple of feathers off the back of his head when the attempt to remove the chain holding Blu and Jewel together goes wrong.

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