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. 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 when the same effect is achieved with a minor article of clothing instead.
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.
- Heart of Gold (Cardcaptor Sakura): In chapter 4, one of Shina's Razor Wind attacks trims a few hairs off of Sakura and Syaoran's heads.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's sister gets one by a stray flechette, during the Combine's attack at North High.
- In the InuYasha Continuation Fic Beyond Tomorrow, Sango ends up getting the end of her ponytail set on fire by Ren's fire breath, forcing her to cut her hair down to her shoulders to stop the fire from spreading.
- An odd variation in a Sailor Moon/Godzilla crossover fanfic. Sailor Jupiter's caught fighting the big green lizard and, at one point, gets pinned by her ponytail by Big G's foot. A soldier comes over and, wanting to get her out of the line of fire, ends up having to cut her ponytail off.
- In Uninvited Guests, Zaraki decides to make Rangiku his apprentice. While they're "training" (read: Rangiku runs away while Zaraki tries to kill her), he does manage to cut off a lock of her hair. Yumichika and Ikkaku decide she has potential.
- Queen of All Oni: When Viper is fighting an Oni-possessed Captain Black, he ends up BURYING his fist in the concrete wall behind, just missing her head, but ripping out a chunk of her hair in the process. She is not pleased.
- Examples from the Calvinverse:
- Happens twice in the Star Wars fic Important Information. Once, it's Luke getting his hair singed as he's diving for cover from blaster fire, and then Leia slices off a piece of the female alien villain's prehensile hair with her lightsaber.
- In Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades, Artana cuts off a swath of Asami's hair during the climax. Even that isn't enough to make Asami look terrible, blood notwithstanding.
- Happens to Peter Petrelli in Heroes, during his first encounter with Sylar.
- On MythBusters, 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
- RWBY: When Yang evaded the wide swings of an Ursa's claws, she belatedly finds 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.