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Improbable Hairstyle Sequence

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The result of one visit to the hairdresser. Or not?

Even the most talented hairdresser is not a magician. Hair grows slowly, on average something like half an inch a month, so as a general rule, anytime a person goes for a change in style involving cutting or chemically altering the structure of (permanently coloring, perming or chemically straightening) the hair, they will have to live with that change as long as it takes for the hair to grow out. True, some procedures may be "reversible" (for example, a change in hair color), but this can involve spending time and money on further chemical treatments that can damage the hair, especially if not done by a skilled professional or if the hair has been chemically treated multiple times, and it may be difficult to get the result to look exactly as before. The only way for a hairdresser to "restore" length is to add hair extensions, which involves attaching a foreign object to one's own hair and brings with it problems of its own. Even a completely reversible new hairstyle, such as an elaborate updo, will likely involve a significant amount of styling and product; consequently, undoing it — and perhaps subsequently trying out a different one — may also take a bit of work.

But for some reason, this rule does not seem to apply to our character's visit to the hairdresser's. In a rapid sequence and likely through what seems suspiciously like sleight-of-hand, a series of hairstyles will emerge on his or her head that seem to alternate between longer and shorter lengths and will certainly show changes that in the real world cannot be achieved through simple use of a comb. No magic will be involved;note  the various styles will all be achieved through the hairdresser's art, as if the hair itself were made of Plasticine. In the end, the character may even end up with the same style as he or she started with, because Status Quo Is God.

This trope is generally played for laughs and tends to be confined to animation or other non-live-action media. Typically, it will be a gag that gives viewers the chance to see how a main character would look with a series of different hairstyles. Compare Costume-Test Montage, Magic Plastic Surgery, Makeover Montage, and Rapid Hair Growth. May overlap with any number of the following: Anime Hair, Hair Reboot, or Improbable Hairstyle.


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  • In this early 1990s McDonald's commercial, Ronald McDonald sees a hair salon and gets the idea that perhaps he could use a new hairstyle. Inside, Birdie tries out a variety of disparate looks on him: a ducktail with big sideburns, a Mohawk, an afro, a pageboy, and a box cut, before returning him to his regular style. Justified in that this is, well, clown hair, although at the end we see that Grimace, the Hamburglar, and the rest of the gang have gotten the same style!

    Eastern Animation 
  • In episode 49 of Happy Heroes, Smart S. cuts Doctor H.'s hair into several impossible hairstyles, including the shapes of a heart with an arrow through it, a pumpkin, and a telephone.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Devil and Daniel Mouse: In this short Halloween-horror-themed film, Jan, the girl mouse who signs her soul over to the devil in exchange for becoming a successful pop star, is a redhead with a typical late 1970s-style curly hairdo. At one point during her period of peak fame, she is shown giving an interview sporting an altogether different look, platinum blonde and heavily styled. In the very next scene, however, her hair looks exactly as before (while another character holds a magazine with her picture from the interview on the cover). It's possible that she was wearing a wig or that, this being a cartoon with a metaphysical theme, magical shapeshifting was involved, but this is never explained.
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius has a variant where the hair styles all happen in one cut thanks to a super fast mechanical barber that can completely change a person's hairstyle almost instantly. There is no explanation for how it is able to completely change hair length. At one point it even buzzes off most of Jimmy's hair for a mohawk but it is grown back for the next style.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: During the song "This Is Our Big Night", Pinkie Pie tries out a few improbable hairstyles in front of the mirror, including one shaped like a swan and another sporting a miniature ship on top. Flattening her hairdo, however, just result in it poofing back to its usual curls.
  • Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World: When Ms. Jenkins helps Pocahontas prepare for the ball, she tries multiple, radically different hairstyles for the Native-American girl.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Mrs. Doubtfire has a montage of Robin Williams trying out a bunch of different styles before settling on Mrs. Doubtfire's signature look. In this case they're explicitly wigs however, as he needs to be able to go back to looking like Daniel Hillard at will.
  • The Princess Diaries 2 includes a scene where Paolo, the royal hairdresser, is tasked with doing Mia's hair for her wedding. The looks he tries out on her can be seen here. We never find out what was, or was not, meant by the last look he tries out on her (for which the bald Paolo used his own portrait as a model), for before it is revealed, the movie cuts to the next scene. At any rate, Mia comes to her wedding with a normal-looking hairstyle.

  • A throwaway example occurs in the 1984 British picture book Sammy Streetsinger, written and illustrated by Charles Keeping, about a one-man band busker who is prompted to leave his humble station in life and seek fame and fortune. At the beginning, he is shown with unkempt, almost-shoulder-length hair. On becoming a rock star, which is stated to be soon after leaving the circus, he is shown for the first time performing "with his hair ironed and frizzed up"; in the illustration he has typical long 80s rocker hair that it is difficult to imagine him growing in time for his first gig. However, ensuing pictures show Sammy with a more believable spiky shag. By the end of the book, when he returns to being a humble busker, his hair looks the same as at the beginning. It seems that the author wanted to enforce an Expository Hairstyle Change through an acceptable break from reality.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto: In San Andreas and GTAV the player characters can visit barber shops to get a new haircut. It doesn't matter what previous hair style they have; everything is possible. Even going from being practically bald to having a full head of hair.
  • Nickelodeon Clickamajigs: In "Bad Haircut", a boy goes to the barber and gets a series of these improbable haircuts with each click, including a rainbow clown Afro, a Mohawk, and one that is literally just a bunch of hair patches and cuts. Quitting the game ends the sequence with the boy finally getting a haircut he likes... until he walks out, and we see the back of his head reads "Kick Me".

    Web Comics 
  • Gregory Deegan goes through one of these in Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire in this strip. Justified, as this is a world where magic exists and the hair alterations are done magically.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Susan goes through two of these during the "Parable" storyline. The issues are lampshaded, but justified in that the Parable setting runs not just on video game logic, but on a parody of video game logic.
  • Girl Genius has a short-story between volumes featuring Agatha trying various methods to control her cowlick. Being a Spark, the methods she uses get extreme. Hair cut too short? One Sparky hair-lengthening device coming up!
  • VG Cats: Parodied in "A Little Off the Top" (comic #313), where a clean shaven man asks a barber to give him a beard. Cut to the man walking around with what appears to be armpit hair (or worse) glued to his chin as people around him react with disgust.

    Western Animation 
  • The Jetsons, Jane wants a new look in one episode. Because this is the Jetsons, a machine comes down over her head and gives her several different hairstyles in a matter of seconds. Because Status Quo Is God, she chooses the exact same hairstyle she usually has.
  • Looney Tunes: In the short "Rabbit of Seville", the gags performed by Bugs Bunny on Elmer Fudd in an on-stage barbershop during what should have been a performance of the opera "The Barber of Seville" include making a salad on his head and later putting "Hair Restorer" on his face, causing a beard to grow which Bugs immediately shaves off. Then Bugs puts "Hair Tonic" and "Figaro Fertilizer" on Elmer's bald head. Something immediately starts growing, but it turns out to be flowers instead of hair.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In one episode, Jenny is trying to make herself look nice so she can befriend the resident Alpha Bitches. She gets a Makeover Montage, where she can adjust where her parts go to make them seem more fashionable. In one part, she practices adjusting her hair to magazine pictures that Tucker is showing her and he accidentally shows her a picture of an upside-down high heel, which she hesitantly morphs her hair into. Tucker is embarrassed when he realizes his mistake.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Hair Licked", Heffer tries to give Rocko a haircut, and fails miserably. He then takes Rocko to Chuck and Leon Chameleon's hair salon; through an intense wash, dry and brush-off, they manage to repair the damage. Then, solely through the use of combs, they try out hairstyles on Rocko as disparate as a beehive, a box cut, and a "flip", finally settling on a hairstyle oddly resembling Heffer's. Remember that Rocko is a wallaby, who should have short fur all over his head and body. On the other hand, stranger things have happened in this intensely gag-based cartoon.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Lisa the Beauty Queen", Lisa gets a makeover on entering a beauty pageant. The beautician (whose implements include such things as a welding torch) tries out a variety of completely unrelated styles on her; ultimately, Lisa leaves the salon with a wavier version of her regular style.
    • In "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", as Apu is living up his bachelor lifestyle, he and Homer go to the Hairy Shearers hair salon, where he tries out various hairstyles, each getting a thumbs-up from Homer.
  • The Smurfs (1981): In "Smurfette's Golden Tresses", Smurfette comes into Barber Smurf's shop asking for a new hairdo. Barber tries out a series of largely anachronistic improbable hairstyles on her, big 80s hair, two very thick braids, multiple spiky tails, and cornrows, but Smurfette doesn't like any of them and leaves with her hair loose as usual. At the beginning of the sequence, Barber was vaguely shown cutting a layer or bangs into her hair but this is not visible afterward.


Video Example(s):


Anne's Horrible Makeovers

Anne reflects on how Sasha and Marcy have tried and failed to style her hair.

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