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Expository Hairstyle Change

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From a squeaky-clean doctor to an atoning monster hunter.

Sometimes when you have to show something important about a character, it's not appropriate or wise to wheel out the Mr. Exposition and explain what's going on, and in general the easiest way to do this in visual media is to change the appearance of a character, specifically, their hairstyle, since this can be done cheaply in live-action through the use of wigs or other non-permanent alterations and can be undone just as easily. This can also be used to show character development and contrast with the present character, since if the once Funny Afro sporting person is now shaved bald, something may have happened to induce the change as part of their Back Story.

The addition of stubble on a male character is often used to show that they've either gone badass, have gone through a rough patch emotionally or just had more important things to do than shave. Likewise, the sight of a usually picture-perfect woman with waist-length disheveled hair is often used to conjure the image of insanity or sadness, especially in the case of the Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl or The Ophelia.

Usually this sort of change is done to signify a scene or setting change or show the passage of time in either a Flash Forward or a Flash Back. This can result in the Funny Flashback Haircut. Occasionally the trope can be used to play with the audience or otherwise mess with our perception of what is going on. Do not confuse with a haircut that is done on-screen — as that falls under Important Haircut, Gag Haircut or Traumatic Haircut.

See Good Hair, Evil Hair for when this trope is used in conjunction with a Heel–Face Turn or Face–Heel Turn. Nonconformist Dyed Hair might come into play for someone experimenting with rebellion or leaving it behind.

Compare Time-Passage Beard, Important Hair Accessory, and Beard of Sorrow. Compare Expressive Hair for when the change happens only briefly, in reaction to a situation.

Contrast with Eyepatch After Timeskip, a more extreme change.


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    Comic Books 
  • Anne: An Adaptation: Anne has to cut her hair after she and Diana fail to dye it black. Unlike the original novel where this is intended to be a shameful thing, she's complimented on it and it's part of her queer awakening.
  • Anne of West Philly: When Anne tries and fails to give herself a haircut before the robotics competition, Marilla corrects the mistake by giving her a side shave style. This impresses her classmates, but also gets Gilbert to notice her for the first time and when he confesses his feelings, Anne turns him down gently. Later he learns she likes Diana.
  • Anya's Ghost: Emily's hairstyle changes from dandelion-like to straight and modern once she becomes more controlling of Anya.
  • Blue Monday: All the main characters except Monkeyboy have different hairstyles in the flashback scenes of "Lovecats".
  • Captain America: When Bucky Barnes was the Winter Soldier, his handlers let his hair grow out, since there really wasn't a reason to cut it once he began seeing use after the 70s when long hair on men wasn't that out of place. Once he regains his memories, and after he briefly teams up with Steve Rogers to stop an old contingency plan the Red Skull left behind, Bucky takes Nick Fury up on his offer of more work to fight against the Skull. This includes a new arm — noticeably replacing the red star that was symbolic of his ties to Russia as their asset withn a white star with an outline reminiscent of Cap's shield — and a haircut to what you'd expect a guy from the 40s to have. He kept this for the rest of Ed Brubaker's run on the character. However, MCU-synergy eventually came aknocking and Bucky suddenly sported long hair again after 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier had the character sporting long hair again (see below).
  • Death: The Time of Your Life: In the end, Foxglove has grown out her hair and let it return to its natural strawberry blonde to signify her embracing a normal life with Hazel and Alvie.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
    • During the battle with the Changelings, Rarity styles Pinkie's hair to look like hers in order to tell her apart from the Changelings who have taken Pinkie's form.
    • In the second issue, Pinkie's hair deflates after a Changeling takes the shape of one of her friends and convinces her they all consider her annoying.
  • The Flash: Up until the New 52 reboot, Linda Park was drawn with long hair past her shoulders. When she reappears in DC Rebirth, with her memories of Wally West and their life together retconned away her hair is cut short, to emphasise the fact that she is a different person. In Speed Metal, after she's been reunited with their children and had her memories restored, her hair is back to its pre-Flashpoint length.
  • Scott Pilgrim subverts it and then plays it straight as it's actually Ramona not changing her hair that's important. Having spent most of the series changing it "like every week and a half," the Katayanagi twins are quick to point out that she's let it get really long. She changes it again just before she leaves Scott.
  • Shade, the Changing Man gets a new one every time he dies.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Princess Sally let her hair grow long when Sonic was thought dead for a year. It's a large signal for her Chickification and it isn't until about 3-4 years later that she gets her head straightened and asks Bunnie to cut it.
  • Spider-Man:
    • When Ben Reilly took up the reins as Spider-Man, he was forced to dye his hair blonde after being mistaken for Peter (then trying to start a family with Mary Jane).
    • When Gwen Stacy first acquired her signature bangs, Harry Osborn pointed out that it was similar to the way MJ had been wearing hers. This seems to symbolize the point where she takes the competition with MJ seriously.
  • In Supergirl storyline Bizarrogirl, Kara cuts her hair after the destruction of New Krypton to show she's mourning her people's loss.
  • Superman:
    • DC Comics uses hair color as one of the ways to distinguish between Alternate Universe Supermen, with some of them being at least partially grey-haired (and almost invariably sad, as well). In part, this is because these Supermen are older than New Earth Superman, but it's also an easy visual cue. When even Superman looks old and grey, you know something's up.
    • In the 90's they played this trope straight. When he returned from the dead, he started out with his trademark hairstyle, but traveling around in a warsuit to get back to Metropolis had the chemicals inside grow out his hair, which he kept until the wedding about four years later.
  • In Superman: Red Son we first see Luthor bald at his Presidential inauguration, symbolizing his transition from the early-model red-headed mad scientist which modern audiences are relatively less familiar with, relatively obscure in-universe, who attacks Superman by sending lab experiments after him, to the more modern President Evil characterization of him, one of the most two famous people in-universe who confronts Superman as an equal. Superman also transitions to a grizzled, grey-haired look at this point even though (given his slow aging) he should hardly have changed appearance at all at this point; presumably this is meant to make him look more Presidential.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man's Peter Parker grows his hair out after "Ultimatum". His girlfriend and ex-girlfriends buzzcut it after he becomes "big-headed Spiderman".
  • In The Umbrella Academy, the Rumor's hair gets longer and shaggier between the end of The Apocalypse Suite and where Dallas picks up.
  • X23:
    • Subtly done after Wolverine's death, when she dyes the forelocks of her black hair blue and gold, the colors of his most iconic costume.
    • It also happens to her when she first appears in All-New X-Men: Laura's long black hair is gone and she's completely bald when the team finds her wandering Miami in an amnesiac state, either due to injuries she received when Hazmat melted her face off on Murderworld, or whatever it was the Purifiers did to her afterwards. After being rescued (again) her healing factor restores it to its normal length, and her hair growing back out coincides with her memories returning and shaking off her confusion over meeting the time-displaced O5.
  • In X-Factor, former '90s Anti-Hero Shatterstar shows back up with a complete makeover. He traded in his long hair for an extremely short cut and proceeds to come out of the closet.
  • X-Men:
    • The resolution of Storm's personal crisis after her return from outer space became manifest in her cutting her flowing hair into a mohawk in Uncanny X-Men #173. Later she let it grow out again.
    • Around the same time Rogue started going through a few changes: When she left the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to join the X-Men, she changed from two white streaks in her hair to one. Later, as she grew more comfortable as a member of her new team, she let her hair grow out and starting with UXM #193 began to wear it in a more "wild" hair-do (on the first occasion because she had to go on a mission coming straight from her shower).
    • Also around that time, Kitty Pryde's hair became much shorter, a legacy of her capture and narrowly averted possession by Ogun.

    Films — Animation 

By Creator:

  • This can actually be seen in many of Hayao Miyazaki's films. It's not uncommon that, by the end of the film, the protagonist's appearance has changed somewhat. This is almost always reflected in their hair, and almost always in the main female. Miyazaki seems to have a thing for short-haired girls.:
    • Near the end of Castle in the Sky, Sheeta — who has sported braided pigtails the entire movie — confronts Muska along with Pazu. Muska pulls out a pistol and, to prove he's not bluffing, shoots off Sheeta's pigtails. This could represent her growth as a person, no longer willing to be a passive participant in the plot.
    • Princess Mononoke has an unusual inversion for a Miyazaki film. Here, it's the male protagonist who alters his hairstyle at the start of the movie, due to being exiled from his village after becoming infected with a curse.
    • Howl's Moving Castle,
      • Sophie begins the movie with waist-length dark hair done up in a simple braid. She still has the braid after being transformed into an old woman by the Witch of the Wastes, albeit grey and much shorter. However, at the climax of the film, she sacrifices her braid to revive Calcifer (who she'd just realized is Howl's heart), so even after breaking the curse Sophie's hair remains silver and short.
      • Howl himself has one in the movie. After Sophie accidentally rearranged his several dozen hair products, his blond hair turned orange, then later black (the latter being his natural colour). His decision to not re-dye it indicates his increasing willingness to drop his façade, as well as his growing trust of (and love for) Sophie.
    • In When Marnie Was There, Anna starts off with Boyish Short Hair. She grows it out slightly over the summer and begins wearing a hairpin after she becomes friendlier.

By Movie:

  • Brave:
    • When Elinor dresses Merida for the presentation, she shoves her hair into a wimple. It's fairly bursting at the seams, just like Merida's personality. When she defies her mother, she ditches the wimple and announces herself by pulling her hood off and revealing her wild, loose locks.
    • By the end of the movie, Elinor has let her hair down from its former tight braid into hanging loosely down her back. This is a subtle indication that she's mellowed out.
  • Frozen:
    • Elsa's hair at the start of the movie, while she's happy with her sister, is in one braid. As she grows older and afraid of her powers, she styles into a Prim and Proper Bun - to symbolise how she's completely shut herself off. The Shaking Her Hair Loose into a French braid during "Let It Go" shows her relaxing into her new lifestyle.
    • Anna wears her hair in an updo for the coronation ball. But she switches to her more practical Girlish Pigtails when she goes to find Elsa.
  • Frozen II:
    • Elsa starts out with her iconic braid from the first movie. Partway through the movie, she rearranges it into a ponytail as she chases the Nokk across the ocean. On arriving in Ahtohallan the ponytail is shaken loose leaving her hair completely free for the first time, representing her embracing her full power and place on the mystical island.
    • Anna abandons her Girlish Pigtails for a half-up, half-down hairstyle that shows how she's matured in the time since the first film. By the end it's completely up in an elaborate bun, similar to the one Elsa had at her own coronation, as she assumes the throne of Arendelle.
  • In The Incredibles, Violet Parr spends most of the movie with her hair in her face. After a pep talk from her mom Helen — and realizing she could get in a fight — she keeps her hair restrained behind her ear with a headband, probably to signal growing confidence. This is commented on by her father at the end of the film — and the boy she has a crush on notices as well. Though you do have to wonder how she got her hands on a headband despite being stranded on a "mostly" deserted island.
  • Hal Stewart in Megamind is voiced by Jonah Hill. After being given superpowers by the eponymous villain, he gains his voice actor's signature hairstyle.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Dr. Olivia has long, unkempt, brown hair with purple highlights to match her "kooky scientific Granola Girl" aesthetic; she wears it pushed back under a colorful headband, but it still spills out all around her face and shoulders. When she reveals her last name--Octavius—and thus her role as the universe's Dr. Octopus, she immediately ties her hair up into a more practical beehive style as she unveils her Combat Tentacles and supervillain suit. This both depicts the very real threat she now poses and emphasizes her Animal Motif: the updo closely resembles the lengthy mantle of an actual octopus.
  • Tangled:
    • Rapunzel has her hair braided and decorated with flowers when she finally reaches Corona. On a practical level, she couldn't really run around with 70 feet of hair dragging behind her. On a symbolic level, it's a sign that she's finally able to let loose and have fun, without her Magic Hair being the centre of her very being (it's also an inversion of Letting Her Hair Down). This is contrasted with when she is convinced to go back to the tower with Gothel; the braid is undone, and the flowers taken away, with Gothel off-handedly commenting "There... like it never even happened."
    • At the end of the movie, Rapunzel's hair is cut off and reverts to its likely natural brown color.
  • In Turning Red, as Ming ages back to her normal age in the astral realm, her hairstyle changes from fully down, to a ponytail then finally to the bun she sports in the present representing her increasing repression.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm:
    • Girls under the age of fifteen are expected to wear their hair in a style that lets most of it naturally drop. Once they reach adulthood, they are supposed to bind their hair in a way that keeps most of it up. This results in there being an age range during which the only obvious difference between a minor and a woman who has come of age is the way she wears her hair.
    • From an outside perspective, Myne is prone to changing hairstyles after major changes in her life:
      • Her Past-Life Memories from modern-day Japan awakening result in her starting to use a stick to partly bundle her hair, while she didn't seem to care much about styling her hair before that.
      • As Rozemyne, her noble identity, she has braids in her hair in addition to her bun.
  • Avalon: Web of Magic: An animal variant in Secret of the Unicorns. Kara and Calliope first bond when the former complains that her mane is dirty. note  Kara agrees that hair is important and reassures Calliope that she'll clean it.
    "First impressions are very important." Kara held Calliope’s head to inspect her handiwork.
  • The Bible,
    • If a woman from a neighboring nation was taken as a prisoner of war and one of the Israelite men decided he liked her, he could take her as his wife (with her consent)... but he had to shave her hair and cut her nails first so she could mourn for her family (and so she would look less attractive, giving her captor time to reconsider his lust).
    • Similarly, it is mentioned elsewhere that shaving the head was a sign of mourning.
  • Circleverse: Tris wears her hair loose in the first quartet. Between the second and third books, she cuts it short to keep from accumulating lightning in it. In the second quartet, she wears her hair in a lot of pinned braids — each of which has a different kind of weather magic braided into it. Whenever adult-Tris wants to use a lot of magic, she starts undoing her braids.
  • Deryni: In The Bishop's Heir, King Kelson has his hair braided to mimic that of his foster brother Dhugal MacArdry; it's initially a diplomatic effort to honour Dhugal's grandfather The MacArdry in an effort to win over the highlanders and solidify their support of him. He retains the braid, and two of his cousins adopt the braid in admiration of their king and Dhugal. His cousin Conall retains the short-cropped style of the elder generation of courtiers (Morgan, Nigel), just as he rejects the notion of the need for diplomacy on that original visit.
  • Grey in Knights of the Borrowed Dark is introduced as a cheerful, snarky Knight who wears his hair irreverently long. After enduring a brutal Trauma Conga Line and being Put on a Bus for a full book, once he returns he's cut it to a much shorter semi-shaved style that partly hides his eyes.
  • The more time passes in Lord of the Flies, the longer the plane crash survivors go without haircuts. Around the time they start to go completely around the bend, their hair starts obscuring their vision.
  • Discussed in the Little House series: a girl transitioning from wearing her hair down in braids, to wearing it pinned up, was a marker of moving from childhood to adulthood in that time and place. note  As she gets old enough to pin up her hair, Laura tends to wear her hair down when she's doing unladylike tasks (like helping her father with the haying) and pinned up for more formal events. The illustrations in Little Town On The Prairie, where Laura is 15-16 and alternating between working and attending school, are all over the place in terms of how her hair is styled. By the next book, where she is teaching school and gets engaged, she is consistently shown with her hair pinned up.
  • In the SERRAted Edge series, Joe, the son of a crazy cultist leader, was military-neat in the book he was introduced in, but when Chrome Circle came around, he was growing out his hair — a sign that he had finally severed the link between him and his mad father, and his growing acceptance that he could perform magic.
  • She Who Became The Sun: Wang Baoxiang wears a topknot in the style of the Nanren underclass instead of Mongol braids. He made the change as a young man when he decided that if the Mongols were going to despise him for his half-Nanren ancestry either way, he'd wear it proudly and rub it in their faces.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Perrin grows a beard midway through the series to show that he's a full adult now.

  • In I Wish, K starts off the series with his hair tied back with several hairties. He slowly starts wearing them less and simply letting his hair down and remain open as he begins to warm up to Lyu-Jin. He reverts back to the hairties when Seven removes his love for Lyu-Jin in the final few chapters.
  • In The Tarot Cafe, the protagonist Pamela has very curly hair in the present and wavy hair in flashbacks. This is not due to modern hairstyle technology but because after she became immortal four hundred-odd years ago she tried to find a way to die — one of them being getting struck by lightning, which permanently frazzled her hair. It's a little after that that she decides to live.

  • In part due to the counterculture, a lot of rock groups that began in the early-mid 1960s would later grow out their hair during the second half of the decade, coinciding with the evolution of their music into more experimental, sophisticated or heavy styles and leading to the image of long hair being associated with rock and roll. A group wearing short combed hair and suits in 1964, would probably don perms and frilly psychedelic regalia in 1967, and then have long hair, more casual and baggier clothes in 1969. However some groups, like The Pretty Things, beat everyone to the punch before the psychedelic era had a chance to come and go.
  • The psychedelic Sgt. Pepper era of The Beatles came into effect when the former moptops wore mustaches, muttonchops, and beards, and John wore his famous round glasses.
  • Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode grew his hair out to shoulder-length and grew a Beard of Sorrow during the early-to-mid'90s when he was at the height of his alcohol and drug addiction, only to cut his hair again and lose the beard once he got clean and sober. Likewise, he and the rest of the band went from typical '80s Hair during their early years to more "normal" haircuts by the late '90s.
  • Sir Elton John got a hair implant in The '90s, which quite helped when he went from Camp Gay to Straight Gay.
  • Marilyn Manson in the "Mechanical Animals" era has crimson-red hair, a typically outlandish hair colour, supposedly used to signify a theme of "alienation" (literally — the album cover portrays him as a red-haired androgynous naked alien-type-thing).
  • Miley Cyrus' full transformation from Disney princess to her "mature" persona can be visually marked by her change from girlish long hair to the short pixie cut she received in 2012, though in 2016, she outgrew it to a chin-length hairstyle and then shoulder length a year later.
  • When Ozzy Osbourne went solo in the early 80s his hair was bleached blonde. Peculiarly as his sound became more influenced by mainstream rock his hair seemed to get bigger and blonder. When he hired Zakk Wylde and went back to a more traditional heavy metal sound he ditched the bleach and eventually went back to his natural straight brown.
  • After Rick Astley stopped working with Stock Aitken and Waterman, he let his formerly short and slicked-back hair grow to chin-length. See his video Cry For Help.
  • Eminem's Career Resurrection in 2009 came with him returning to his natural dark hair instead of the peroxide blond he'd been famous for previously, which he said was to represent his shedding of his addiction. The song "My Darling" on Relapse portrays this as an Important Haircut in kayfabe, with the Monster persuading Slim to cut his hair, but Slim resisting the Monster's efforts to persuade him to dye it back to blond. Em later returned to blond to signal Revisiting the Roots for The Marshall Mathers LP 2, as well as to mark his Creator Recovery — he now felt comfortable enough with his sobriety that he wasn't worried the blond hair would make him relapse, although seeing himself in the mirror with it did freak him out. He later went dark again and grew a Beard of Sorrow to signal his fading fame and a crisis of confidence following an Audience-Alienating Era, though kept the look even after rapping his way out of it, which he highlighted in his Diss Track "Killshot":
    The game's mine again, and ain't nothing changed but the locks!

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Aksana changed her hair when she underwent a character switch in FCW. She was originally a Funny Foreigner Dumb Blonde. She then became a much more serious Femme Fatale and adopted black hair with a thick fringe.
  • Alexa Bliss had blue and purple tips in her hair as a face. When she turned heel and joined Blake and Murphy - who were color-coded with red - the tips became red too.
  • Alicia Fox's hair was dark blonde and straight when she debuted as DJ Gabriel's dance partner. When she was traded to Smackdown and appeared as a heel, her hair was worn curly. She would continue to wear it in an afro or tightly curled for most of her time as a heel. After her Heel–Face Turn her hair was dyed bright red and worn straight more often. And if it was curled, it was more relaxed. Also when she started appearing as a face and heel at random depending on the week, her red hair had changed to a more muted dark brown.
  • Cameron normally wore her hair straight in The Funkadactyls. As she started showing signs of a Face–Heel Turn, she began to wear her hair curly. When she fully underwent the turn and faced her former partner Naomi, she had darkened her hair to a two-tone blonde and black colour. Naomi meanwhile wore her hair in braids or relaxed curls after the split.
  • Candice Michelle began highlighting her hair around the time she Took a Level in Badass in 2007.
  • Carmella had a mixture of brown and blonde hair when she debuted as the Token Evil Teammate to Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Around the time she underwent a proper Heel–Face Turn and established herself as part of their entourage for good, her hair became completely blonde.
  • Charlotte Flair added extensions to her hair when she won the NXT Women's Championship and solidified herself as a star.
  • Sting started off with a bleach-blond flattop haircut to go with his surfer gimmick. But in late 1995, he stopped bleaching his naturally dark brown hair and started growing it out. Soon after he switched to a darker gimmick that was based on The Crow.
  • CM Punk appeared with his normally slicked back hair shaved to a buzzcut after his 2012 Face–Heel Turn. In 2013 after he returned from hiatus and underwent a Heel–Face Turn, his hair was a little longer and he had Wolverine-like sideburns.
  • Emma's hair was completely blonde for most of her NXT career. As she began a Face–Heel Turn and hooked up with Dana Brooke to form Team Disingenuous - the color was replaced with a balayage of brown into blonde.
  • You can almost track Daniel Bryan's WWE career by his hairstyles alone. As the Ensemble Dark Horse NXT rookie, he had a crew cut and Perma-Stubble up to his first World Heavyweight Title run in 2011. After the infamous 18-second loss to Sheamus, and perhaps to go along with his character's descent into madness, his hair and beard began to lengthen with time. By two years later and his WrestleMania XXX main event win, his hair was a shoulder-length mane and he had an impressive, voluminous beard to go along with it. By the following year at WrestleMania 31, he was approaching Looks Like Jesus levels. Then a string of injuries started, eventually culminating in his retirement from in-ring competition in February 2016. The tip-off to many that this retirement was not a work was that he emerged for the announcement having cut his hair into a short, conservative style. He transitioned into an on-screen authority figure and occasional announcer, so this fit for a while. Eventually, though, he stopped cutting it regularly, and by the time of his return about two years later, his beard and hair had lengthened to about the level he had worn it during his main event run. His AEW debut added an undercut with a top knot.
  • Downplayed with Eve Torres but she wore her hair up for the first time when cutting her first heel promo.
  • Layla initially started out with an afro, then changed to shoulder-length hair with a thick fringe when she became a heel. After returning from injury as a face, her hair was now nearly waist-length. She lightened her hair eventually to blonde after losing the Divas' Championship but she then went back to brunette. She cut her hair into a bob in 2015, retiring a few months later.
  • Madison Rayne had platinum blonde hair when she was in the Beautiful People. It was shoulder-length when she was in her subservient role and she added extensions when she became the champion. When she split from them and adopted her 'Queen Bee' persona, her hair changed to brown. When she lost the Knockouts Championship to Mickie James, she removed her extensions. After returning from her maternity leave now as a face her hair was red and longer.
  • While he was away filming The Marine 3 and just before his Heel–Face Turn, The Miz returned and his normal fauxhawk had been replaced by a longer and slicked back style.
  • Sasha Banks changed her dark blonde hair to brown after splitting from the BFFs and then changed to red when she started developing into a top heel. After splitting from Team BAD, her hair became pink and was worn straight more often. Further into her face turn, it became fuchsia. After a break with natural black, Banks returned as the villainous Blueprint with azure locks.
  • Triple H:
    • In his heyday, he tended to sport a beard if he was a face. He was clean-shaven during his time in Evolution. Additionally his traditional long hair was cut short after his loss to Brock Lesnar in 2012. When he returned to television, he was in the role of The Authority and no longer a regular wrestler. Eventually, he became bald.
    • Before this, Hunter wore his hair in a ponytail, then a half-updo as the Connecticut Blueblood, completely down as the leader of DX, shortened to shoulder-length and worn wet for matches with a growing Beard of Evil weeks after his Face–Heel Turn at Wrestle Mania XV. The latter stuck until shaving of the beard at Summerslam 2002.
  • In TNA Bobby Roode's switch from long hair to a buzzcut helped fit the transition between his previous Beer Money Inc character and his new serious World Champion character.
  • Similarly Velvet Sky's blonde highlights lessened a little after her TNA Heel–Face Turn.
  • From his debut in the 80s until 1997, Scott Steiner had a dark mullet and was clean-shaven. Then, his look began to change. First, he grew a goatee and wore his hair in a ponytail. Then, he cut his hair short towards the end of '97. Finally, after turning heel in early 1998, he bleached his hair and most of his beard blond as part of his new "Big Poppa Pump" persona.

  • Cross Road: When Niccolo Paganini makes his contract with the devil Amduscias, he kneels to get his violin, and Amduscias, behind him, unties the ribbon from his ponytail. When Niccolo stands and plays with his new demonic musical abilities, his hair is out, showing how free he's become.
  • In the musical Hamilton Alexander Hamilton has his hair tied back for most of the first act up to the song Yorktown ("The World Turned Upside Down"), to signify him when he was young (from 14 till about 27 years old) (after Yorktown is "What Comes Next?", which is one of King George III's numbers). By the next song "Dear Theodosia", Hamilton has his hair down until the end of the show (from 28 years old to 47/49 years old).
  • In some productions of Hamlet, Ophelia will start the play with her hair in an updo, and as she descends further into madness, her hairstyle becomes looser and looser until it's completely down.
  • Agent Curt Mega in Spies Are Forever grows a truly hideous beard during his 4 year break from the agency to show how much he was hurt by the death of his best friend and secret lover Owen, which he inadvertently caused with his own negligence. In the end, it was actually all for naught because Owen survived the accident.
  • In the Austrian stage musical Tanz Der Vampire, the scullery maid Magda wears her (straight) hair loose but tidy or in a braid until she is bitten late in Act I. In Act II, she has become a vampire, and her hair has become much so wavy that it seems to have a mind of its own. She now wears it in a sultry half-pulled-up style.
  • In Wicked, Elphaba begins the show wearing her hair in a scholarly braid, until Galinda decides to give her a makeover in "Popular". She keeps her hair loose under her signature pointy hat after that, signifying her growing confidence.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the fourth game, Phoenix's fall from grace is brought home by the stubble on his face. It's gone in the fifth, to indicate that He's Back!.
    • And Kristoph goes from perfectly-coiffed long hair to tangled blond mess almost instantaneously when his plans are foiled once and for all, showing just how hard the failure hits him.
  • In Kira☆Kira, Kirari dyes her hair pink for the band's tour. Depending on the circumstances, she may dye it back to brown once things have settled down, though.
  • In Tokimeki Memorial, multiple girls - and boys - change their hairstyle over the course of the game.
    • In the first Tokimeki Memorial, Nozomi will begin to grow her hair out if you have her as a sure-win at the end of the game and do not date her between December of your 3rd Year and Graduation Day.
    • In the second Tokimeki Memorial, the lead heroine Hikari used to have long hair but cut it short after the protagonist moved away.
    • In the fourth Tokimeki Memorial, the secret character Ookura Miyako has two! She begins the game with her hair tied back. Unlocking her route will result in her to stop tying it back, letting it hang loosely around her hair. Continuing on her route, she will later end up tying it into a ponytail.
    • In the first Girl's Side 1st Love game, the extra character Tendou Jin will stop bleaching his hair and revert to his natural brown color, if the player chooses a certain option late in his route.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • In EP5 Beatrice lets her hair down for the whole EP. Not only that, she can't even fix her hair. Or move, or eat, or speak... Virgilia is even combing her hair for her. She gets better, though. Sort of.
    • In general it can be said that the different hairstyles show a significant change in Beatrice. In addition to Meta Beato having the hair-down look until her death, Episode 6 shows us that this was the 'original' design for Beatrice before Kinzo had the portrait hung in 1984 - with her hair down and in the suit. EP7 reveals that this is how Yasu envisioned 'the type of girl Battler likes' and based Beatrice's design on that before the portrait appeared to show the 'true' style of Beatrice with that of the iconic black dress and up-do.

    Web Animation 
  • Don't Walk Home Alone After Dark: Used with Sparrow in The Worm.
    • In an old photo of Sparrow happily hanging out with her friends and at the start of the story before things go wrong for her, she wears her hair tied back off her face. Following her institutionalisation, she leaves her bangs loose to hide her face. In the ending, after the Worm’s influence over her has weakened, she's wearing her hair partly off her face again, indicating she's on the mend.
    • Sparrow also gets expository hair colour change; before being institutionalised, Sparrow dyed her hair red (with her roots starting to show at the beginning), with the passage of time being indicated via how much Sparrow’s hair has outgrown the dye.
  • RWBY: The main characters usually go through hairstyle changes whenever their outfits change, which denotes either a time skip or a new phase of their lives beginning. Flashbacks often show characters sporting different hairstyles to help emphasise that the scenes are occurring at different periods of their lives.
    • Volume 3 villain flashbacks show that Cinder used to have short hair and Emerald used to bind her hair. This contrasts their longer, looser flowing hairstyles in the main storyline, where their circumstances are very different to their past lives.
    • The Time Skip between Volumes 3 and 4 show Ruby and Nora with longer, shaggier hair, and Ren's hair is now loose instead of bound. This helps emphasise that they've spent months on the road. Yang's hair is now bound, signifying the repression of her wild personality while she battles depression and PTSD. Meanwhile, Cinder is now sporting short hair, in keeping with her very asymmetrical design. Having been badly injured on the left-side of her body, her short hair covers the scarred half of her face and her dress has a long sleeve that completely hides her left arm. Like Yang, she spends Volume 4 recovering from her Beacon injuries.
    • From Volume 4, Ironwood's appearance begins to change. Originally neat and clean-shaven, the increasing stress he's under after Volume 3 manifests in shaggier hair and Perma-Stubble that's implied to be a Beard of Sorrow. By Volume 7, he has a full beard and very shaggy hairstyle. From Volume 8, his Beard of Sorrow fully transitions into a Beard of Evil after he cracks from the strain the villains have put him under, becoming so authoritarian that he ends up as dangerous as Salem.
    • The Volume 5 character short for Weiss shows her with a centred ponytail instead of her usual off-centre style. This combines with her lack of eye scar to emphasise that the flashback predates the original White Trailer and is dealing with a version of Weiss who has not yet gained the strength to rebel against her abusive father.
    • Volume 6 flashbacks reveal that Salem used to wear her hair in a half-bun prior to her ascension as the setting's Big Bad, where she now sports a mature, elegant and complex bun that contains some oiran and tayuu inspiration.
    • In Volume 7, the heroes arrive in Atlas and join forces with Ironwood to protect the kingdom and fight the Big Bad. As a result, they refresh their wardrobe and tidy up their hair styles. Ruby receives a more Anime-style spikey hair cut, while Weiss and Ren adopt braids. Blake and Jaune cut their hair short. Penny's return also sees her sporting a new, longer hairstyle to help show she's changed from Volume 3.

  • In the contemporary arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, Arthur grows a beard when he becomes CEO of Excalicorp (he grows a beard about a year earlier in the other arcs, but this doesn't seem to be expository, although it does help indicate when flashbacks are set).
  • Ciem Webcomic Series:
    • Taken to extremes in Ciem: The Human Centipede, where Candi alternates amongst 8 different hairstyles across 32 chapters (averaging a new style every four.) Granted, a few of these are just dye jobs, but that still makes for about 4 or 5 actual styles. Partially justified in that she's trying to hide from genocidal alien gangsters, and by the fact that the story covers over 2 years'-worth of her life. Also understandable, as it's a DSHW machinomic made with The Sims 2, which practically encourages players to toy around with hairstyles.
    • Ciem 2 both plays this straight and subverts it. Candi has only one official hairstyle change; from her Maxis-default mesh, end-of-first-story red hair; to her messier-looking custom mesh hairstyle. This indicates not only her continued loss of innocence between parts 1 and 2, but her frustrations with trying to hide/prevent it.
  • As an adult, Haru from Cross Heart stops wearing Girlish Pigtails to signify her maturity.
  • Daily JoJo: Eunjo Lee is a Ridiculous Procrastinator who always lets her future self, Tomorrow's Jo, take up tasks that she won't see through. Eunjo wears a casual half-ponytail while Tomorrow's Jo sports a neat bob. After a one-year Time Skip, Eunjo's hair is cut like Tomorrow's Jo, and she is more proactive.
  • Invoked by Ariel in Drowtales, since she's a shapeshifter who can change her hair color and length at will, especially the front part of her bangs which are colored. When it's pointed out by Snadhya'rune to Kalki her half-sister that the purple bangs she's sporting are "our" colors Ariel immediately changes them to the Sarghress red. She's shown doing the same thing at several other points since purple is also associated with her sister (really mother) Mel'arnach, while she tends to use the red bangs when she has to present herself as heir to the Sarghress clan.
  • Jaeger in Carla Speed McNeil's Finder frequently alters his hairstyle in relation to changes in his life or challenges he faces. Just as commonly, the motives behind these changes are misinterpreted by those around him.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • When a magic user gets burned out from using too much magic, their hair turns temporarily black to indicate they can't access their magic. This is attributed to Magic's flair for the dramatic, and is such a common occurrence that sudden "unexplained" hair-color changes are a medically-recognized condition. This occurs to Nanase at the end of Sister 2, and partially after the Not-Tengu fight in Family Tree. Ellen, for drama reasons, burns out blonde in Family Tree.
    • Tedd cut his hair and changed its color to pink. He affirms it's a way to own and embrace his own girliness (meaning that he no longer is ashamed of his androgyny) but also because he's rebellingnote . However, because Tedd used magic to color his hair, it made it all the more noticeable when Tedd's hair turned back to its natural purple the very same evening, due to the color-changing spell getting counteracted by a Gender Bender spell. This lead to some major revelations about Tedd's capabilities.
    • In an earlier arc, Tedd's cousin Nanase also got her hair cut short to rebel against her mother (and the two bare a remarkable resemblance to each other with short hair). However, this was right before she discovered she had a spell that could change the hair color, texture, and length with magic, making her regret that she spent the money on the haircut.
    • Susan was born blonde, but began dyeing her hair blue-black after discovering her father having an affair with a blonde woman. However, her angst-induced magical awakening in Hammerchlorians made her hair longer and changed her hair to blue-black permanently, as a hidden reserve of magical power she can use in a pinch.
    • Deconstructed and reconstructed in "The Legend of Diane". Diane gets her long hair cut chin-length after the traumatic events of Sister 3, but even she isn't sure exactly why she changed her hair at first. She looks so different that people talk about her in the hall without realizing she's there. Flashbacks and discussions with her inner child reveal that Diane originally grew her hair out to be more attractive to boys so she could date them, and became more of a jaded Gold Digger as she went on. Her recent style change was a subconscious effort to look more like her hopeful and optimistic 12-year-old self again. The choppy cut later grows out to a more natural shoulder-length as she adjusts.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Both Antimony and Kat begin wearing their hair differently after the incident on the bridge. (Annie's change was explained by her losing her hair clip; no explanation was given for Kat.)
    • In the more recent chapters, Kat's grown her hair long (although she still ties it in the same way while working on machinery), making it resemble her mother's.
    • As of chapter 51, Antimony has cut her hair back to chin length like she wore it as a child to symbolize her father's return of control over her.
  • Heartcore: Ame had long hair as a young demon princess. When she started her rebellion against Royce, she cut her hair to shoulder-length and dyed her bangs green.
  • Heroine Chic: When fashion designer and amateur hero Zoe is rescued from intergalactic villain Excelsion's ship by her future self, she adds a stripe of purple dye to her red hair to resemble future-Zoe. Dying her hair symbolizes her commitment to superheroics, trying to grow into the confident and powerful hero her future-self is/ will be — even if it means Zoe has to shift her focus away from her passion for fashion design. At the end of Season 3 Zoe gets rid of the purple stripe, symbolizing her desire to take control of her own future and return her focus to her career as a designer.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: After spending 25 years in the 9th Circle of Hell,Scarlet's bob has grown long enough to reach the floor. It reflects her developing a usually more calm, quiet nature.
  • Narbonic: Dave's facial hair gets noticeably tidier after the first couple of story arcs, reflecting his Character Development as he settles into his job as Helen Narbon's sysadmin, gains a bit of self-confidence and starts taking better care of his appearance as a result.
  • No End: Modra's blue mohawk is a luxury in the post-apocalyptic setting. He's unable to maintain it after he leaves his (relatively) comfortable home enclave for the life of an itinerant adventurer, so he eventually gives up and asks one of his new friends for a haircut after the sides grow out.
  • In The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius starts out with their hair short with a circlet to adorn it, but after their Deal with the Devil they start wearing their hair back in a ponytail. This seems to coincide with them realizing that absolute power is not all it's cracked up to be, as well as letting go of their family. It helps that this was after coming down from an episode of Power Makes Your Hair Grow.
    • Lampshaded when Haley gets her hair cut by her nemesis, Crystal, as an act of revenge. Elan notes that hairstyle changes are a great way to symbolically reflect character changes. Haley later gets her hair restored magically, commenting that it was probably "just a crappy haircut", after all.
  • Occurs over several panels in Questionable Content after Faye is fired from the coffee shop for showing up to work drunk, only to start working as a mechanic in an underground robot fighting ring. We see her hair first grow out and then change to an undercut as at least several months pass. And once Faye works up the courage to go back to the shop Dora has shoulder-length hair when the last time we saw her it was a pixie cut.
  • Sarilho: Nikita goes through two different haircuts during this chapter alone, along with Eyepatch After Timeskip.
  • Sleepless Domain: As the famous magical girl Alchemical Aether, Tessa has bright pink hair, which she styles into signature "swoopy" bangs that resemble an exaggerated Hair Intake. After a traumatic event leaves her powerless and broken, she still continues to style her now-brunette hair in the same way, but as she gradually spirals deeper into depression in the aftermath of her trauma, she stops maintaining her hairstyle — to the point that her bangs eventually fall over her right eye.
  • Subverted in Sluggy Freelance: Zoë shows up with long hair in Torg's hospital ward to signal that he's been in a coma for a few years after the battle against K'Z'K in Gwynn's body. However, it turns out to be a practical joke, and he's only been out cold for a few days.
  • Something*Positive: Sherri, one of Rory's friends and a member of his RPG group, is introduced as having long brown hair that she's constantly hiding behind. When the gang get aged up slightly, she's hiding behind it less and seems less shy, and when they get aged a bit more she has two-tone pink and purple hair, indicating that she's outgrown her shyness completely. (Most of the others, including Rory, look exactly the same only taller.)
  • Subnormality: When a recurring female character decides to quit her soul-crushing waitressing job, her hair, which she had dyed brown in order to conform to workplace regulations, suddenly goes back to its previous pink.
  • In Trixie Slaughteraxe for President, after the Time Skip in the simulation, Audrey has longish, more styled hair and Lyndon has male pattern baldness. This helps distinguish them from their main timeline selves.
  • Unordinary:
    • Back when she was still considered The Ace, Sera wore her hair long and in a ponytail. Now, she has short hair with a messy fringe, yellow tips, and hair extensions. Her mother was not amused when she first saw them.
    • John usually gels his hair before attending school. When he stops slicking back his hair, it signals his slide into his older, more hateful, personality.
  • In Wapsi Square, after Shelly spends 80,000 years trapped in the time forest, she starts wearing her hair longer, signifying increased confidence and a sense of self-identity.
  • Weak Hero:
    • Ben starts the series with a long bob that is quickly switched up for a shorter, curly cut. Not only does it look more attractive on him, but it fits his role as Supporting Leader much better.
    • This happens with Gerard twice; he had tidy long hair in middle school that he changed to a more attractive delinquent style when he took on the moniker of Mad Hound. Then, after hitting the Despair Event Horizon and receiving a nasty scar above his left eye, he changed his hairstyle again to eye-obscuring bangs so he'd no longer stand out.
    • After he starts developing into a better person, Teddy switches his unflattering bob for a more practical, attractive ponytail.
    • After Gray and Teddy dethrone Phillip from being top dog of Eunjang High, he stops styling his hair into spikes and instead it droops depressingly over his face.
    • When Bryce notices girls crushing on Gray and Stephen, he ditches his glasses and starts styling his hair back to look more desirable, marking his change from shy nerd to jerkass delinquent.
    • The main villain, Donald Na, slicks his delinquent hair back into a more business-like cut once issues with the Union become serious enough that they're no longer beneath his notice.
    • Hwangmo had a coiffed hairstyle in the past that, while silly, was at least somewhat respectable. Now that he's fully become Wolf's mook and the Butt-Monkey of Ganghak, he has his bizarre and unflattering undercut mullet.
  • Yumi's Cells:
    • At the start of the comic, Yumi sports a bob, but she eventually resolves to let her hair grow out as she puts more effort into her appearance. She gets an Important Haircut after she becomes a published author and starts to get over her recent ex, but she still grows her hair out in the following years. At the end of the comic, she has her original bob style, which indicates that she's fully comfortable with her boyfriend, later husband.
    • Woong has long hair that represents his pride. When his company goes under and he's looking for a job, he cuts his hair for an interview to symbolize him swallowing his pride. A few years later, he has attained a successful career and his hair is even longer than it was at the start.

    Web Videos 
  • Jeff of Everyman HYBRID starts out with a boyish mop of hair. When he comes back after disappearing for a while and revisiting a traumatic event from his childhood, he's had a buzz-cut somewhere in the intervening time. His brother Alex has a similar change. Evan, however, goes without a haircut, although his longer hair is only unkept when he's perfectly sane, and nicely combed during his Ax-Crazy moments.


Video Example(s):


Noni's True Hair

In a truly expository scene that includes no words, Noni takes out her dyed weave and shows her true hair.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExpositoryHairstyleChange

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