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Prim and Proper Bun

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Don't ask her to let it down.

Sasha, however, was something else. She was fair and thin, and he guessed that she was once very pretty, having golden-blond hair. Kai never saw that much of it because it was pulled back. Her hairstyle and the worry-lines in her face were making her appear old before her time. She always stood in the corner sighing to herself. Sasha was a very kind and welcoming woman, but now she had to struggle to be kind because of all the tension in the house.

The bun as a hairstyle has long indicated a very specific character type. It shows a woman as neat, prim, proper, and organized. As such it tends to be favored by Proper Ladies, librarians, School Teachers, nannies, doctors, serious office ladies, and women of a certain age.

Characters with this hairstyle tend to be respected and be in charge. They also tend to be more conservative and tight-laced than other characters.

Naturally, it makes this hairstyle common for a Lady of War who chooses to eschew Tomboyish Ponytail or Braids of Action, though the latter could be easily converted into a bun.

Often times, this leads to Letting Her Hair Down if she decides to break out of that mold. Part of what creates the appeal of the Hot Librarian.

A Sister Trope to Power Hair (an Iron Lady's hairstyle), Girlish Pigtails (a properly girlish hairstyle), and Regal Ringlets (an extravagant, but still proper, style).

Compare Odango Hair (two buns placed high on a character's head).

Contrast Tomboyish Ponytail and Motherly Side Plait.

Note: This trope is for using visual shorthand to characterize an individual. It is not a trope for every character who happens to have a bun. Please remember this when editing the example list.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Annie Leonhart of Attack on Titan is a military cadet, although she goes on to join the Military Police Brigade, and wears a bun in the back, emphasizing her stern and cold demeanor.
  • Marchioness Frances Midford from Black Butler is a proper lady who berates anybody she thinks lacks decorum or taste and doesn't think twice about making them fit what she thinks is proper. She wears a neat bun and frequently berates Ciel and his servants, minus Tanaka, for "sporting untidy hairstyles" by letting their bangs fall over their eyes.
  • Nanao Ise in Bleach, Lieutenant of the 8th Division. Not only does she wear her hair in the bun, but she also wears glasses and is frequently seen carrying a book (making her arguably a Hot Librarian as well). She is also so stiff and formal that her captain (a Professional Slacker in contrast) keeps trying to convince her to lighten up a little.
  • Subverted with "Lady Borgia" Ogiwara from Dear Brother. She is first seen as a soft-spoken and dignified Onee-sama type and later reveals herself as a massive Smug Snake. She originally had bobbed hair in the manga, but her hairstyle changed to a large high bun in the anime series.
  • Chi-Chi from Dragon Ball wears a high bun throughout the Boo Saga and Dragon Ball Super. While she has softened up from her Education Mama attitude during the Time Skip between the Cell Saga and Boo Saga, she returns to her old mentality again after the Boo Saga ends. The hairstyle mostly serves to make Chi-Chi look older after the Time Skip (while Bulma, ironically, looks younger than before despite being four years older than her), which becomes obvious when she has her hair down in Super.
  • Kano Ienaga from Golden Kamuy wears a high bun, with the demeanor of a Yamato Nadeshiko. It's mostly a ruse as she's actually a Serial Killer posing as a False Widow to get people to trust her so she can lure them into her hotel to eat them.
  • The Misfit of Demon King Academy: Emilia Ludowell styles her hair in a mixture of a top knot and a ponytail. It both serves to show her status as a prestigious teacher and as a prideful pureblood demon. Her hair being let down from this style following her hybrid reincarnation acts as a sign of her losing both her status and her pride.
  • Konan from Naruto is a cold, elegant woman devoted to Pain who's had her blue hair in a bun since childhood.
  • Meiko from Prison School wears a high bun at the rear right corner of her head at all times, including showers, sleeping, and exercising. The only time she's shown with her hair down is in flashbacks when she was in elementary school and she was a lot less rigid back then. She's shown to be very strict and formal, and she does not hesitate to use her whip on the boys for any kind of misbehavior.
  • By the time of :re, Akira Mado from Tokyo Ghoul wears a braided bun in the back. She's a serious and professional Lady of War, and eventually achieves ranks up from First Class Investigator to Associate Special Class, both high statuses in the CCG.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Angelica Rapha Redgrave starts out wearing her hair like this, going with her original strict personality and her status as a noble. She starts Letting Her Hair Down more often after she Took a Level in Kindness due to Leon and Olivia's influence.

     Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman: In her Diana Prince alter ego Wonder Woman, is a prim domineering by the book bespectacled WAC secretary who always wears her hair in a bun. This is contrasted with her co-worker Lila Brown who is Steve Trevor's secretary and almost always wears her hair loose and is driven nuts by Diana's attention to detail and sticking so close to the rules as written.
  • Kunskapens Korridorer: Anna is one of the 8th-graders, so she's an unusually young example of this trope. But even so, she is the most uptight student in the class and she wears her hair up in a prim hairstyle.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld as expanded by A.A. Pessimal, the sterner teachers at the Assassins' Guild School such as Miss Alice Band and Miss Sanderson-Reeves are seen affecting very stern buns in the classroom. Pupils speculate, with good reason, about the hair-pins holding it all together and alternative uses they could be put to. The School's Agatean Studies teacher, Miss Koucochou-Sama ("Pretty Butterfly", Twoflower's daughter, as seen in Interesting Times) also affects a tight Japanese-styled version.note  Pupils learn that the tighter the bun, the tougher the teacher.
    • Elsewhere, when Olga Romanoff ascends to the position of Commanding Officer of the Ankh-Morpork Air Service, she has to juggle this with her social position in the city's Rodinian community. One Sunday she is recalled to Air Watch duty and attends straight from church; where Lady Olga Romanoff has had to adopt a severe hairstyle we would know on this world from pictures of the Russian Imperial Family circa 1910. Think of Kathryn Janeway's Bun of Steel and you get the general idea.
  • Ragyou from Kill la Kill AU donned one of these in her flashbacks and, apparently, this is supposed to mark her transition into maturity, as she had a Tomboy Ponytail when she was in college.

    Films — Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Ariel wears a high twist bun for most of the film. She is a more mature Former Teen Rebel with an adventurous daughter of her own. She lets her hair down when she temporarily turns back into a mermaid and lets go of her stress.
    • Jane Porter from Tarzan initially wears a prim bun in line with her British Stuffiness, but she loses it as she accommodates to the jungle environment.
    • During her coronation, Elsa from Frozen wears a French crown braid with a twisted bun above the neck. When she realizes she can cut loose with her emotions, she tears out the braid and allows her hair to hang in relative freedom.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, the human version of Twilight Sparkle wears a large high bun. Being the Teen Genius of Crystal Prep High School, it's meant to invoke the same character type; she's become way more academic than athletic, unlike the rest of Crystal Prep.
  • Ming Lee from Turning Red wears her hair in a low bun, fitting with her strict, tight-laced attitude.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Katherine Brooke, the Stern Principal in Anne of Avonlea, in contrast to Anne's looser, less severe bun.
  • Appropriately enough, the Prison Psychiatrist in Hair, who interrogates Woof on why he wears his hair long (and whether that makes him gay) in the title song sequence from the film. Her hair is in a tight bun.
  • The Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Voyager. It's not actual hair, but the mass of wires on the back of her head are arranged in a circular pattern and she certainly has the personality to match.
  • The T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines starts with her hair down due to being Naked on Arrival like all time travelers (both human and Terminator) from the future, but immediately steals this hairstyle along with the clothes from the first human woman she finds and kills and keeps it for the rest of the film, where it helps to emphasize the cold and emotionless nature that she has as a hostile Terminator.
  • The White Orchid: Claire starts out with her hair in a bun, indicating her as a nerd (she looks more like your stereotypical librarian-albeit she's pretty young-than a detective at first).
  • In Young Lady Chatterley II, the deeply repressed Judith wears her hair in an extremely tight bun until an explosive sexual encounter with Thomas results in her Letting Her Hair Down.

  • The Alice Network: Though a female spy is not exactly proper, the worrier Violette is still significantly more serious and respectable than her colleagues (young, innocent Eve and cheerful, funny Lili)… and she has the bun to match.
  • Marilla Cuthbert, of Anne of Green Gables, has a very tight bun in the beginning, which suits her personality, but she relaxes as the series progresses.
  • Discworld:
    • Susan finds that her Expressive Hair tends to twist itself into a bun of its own volition. As she works as a governess or school teacher when she's not saving the world it's rather fitting.
    • Granny Weatherwax wears her hair in a "tight bun that could crack rocks." It also serves as a convenient sheath for her weapon of choice for hand-to-hand combat, hatpins.
    • Adora Belle Dearheart in Going Postal wears a bun as well. She wears plain gray dresses, is an Office Lady who works for golems and was formerly a bank teller, and says she has no sense of humor, largely because of her Unfortunate Name. She's actually quite attractive, especially to Moist, but she's still proper and serious.
  • Ms. Khami in Hands Held in the Snow. Her personality is informed very well by the presence of her bun.
  • Professor McGonagall wears her hair like this in Harry Potter. When she says the Yule ball is a chance to "let down our hair", Harry notes that she looks like she has never actually let her hair down in any sense. note 
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder and her mother wear their hair like this, as do all proper married ladies, in the Little House books.
  • In Rainbow Magic, Bethany wears her hair in a tight bun. Justified; she's the Ballet Fairy, and buns are a common hairstyle for ballerinas to keep their hair out of their face while performing.
  • Novinha from Speaker for the Dead has one, and it's noted that she lets her hair down as she begins to open up emotionally.
  • Britta wears a bun at the nape of her neck in Star of Deltora, the third Deltora Quest Sequel Series, as part of her “respectable shopkeeper’s daughter” getup. She starts Letting Her Hair Down as she comes into her own as a trader, although she does go back to the bun temporarily when she returns home and needs to look respectable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mrs. Hall is described this way in All Creatures Great And Small.
  • Dedra on Andor is a stern, cold-hearted space cop who wears her hair in a tightly-wound bun at the nape of her neck.
  • Veronica from Better Off Ted is a powerful, cold-hearted executive; also, when Ted takes his daughter to work, Veronica teaches her to put her hair in this kind of bun.
  • Lilith from Cheers and Frasier, Frasier's starchy, intense, intimidating wife, typically wears her hair this way. If she lets it down it's a sure sign that things are about to get intense between her and Frasier.
  • Marilla Cuthbert in Anne with an E is the more stern and proper of Anne's parental figures and always has her hair in a bun.
  • Liz Shaw in Doctor Who has a bun in her first story. It's probably not a coincidence that in subsequent stories, once the ice has been broken with the Doctor and the Brigadier, the bun goes.
  • In The King of Queens, Carrie started wearing her hair in a bun. Everyone else thought it was unflattering, but she kept on wearing it until she attends a service for a librarian in Doug's high school and sees a photo of her wearing the exact same bun. She loses it thereafter.
  • In Once Upon a Time, this seems to be the go-to hairstyle for most of the show's female villains, usually to emphasize their cold and cruel nature. In an inversion of Letting Her Hair Down, flashbacks typically show their hair either worn down or in less severe styles prior to their Start of Darkness, only to then adopt the bun after their inevitable Face–Heel Turn:
    • Regina wore several different hairstyles during her past as the Evil Queen. One of the more commonly used styles was a rather elaborate bun that she seemed to always wear when performing her most sadistic deeds. In modern-day Storybrooke, she starts off with a short bob which gets longer and looser following her eventual Heel–Face Turn.
    • Regina's mother, Cora, wears her own bun similar to the one Regina favored as the Evil Queen. After her death, Regina later finds Cora's spirit in the Underworld, where her hair is down as she pulls a Heel–Face Turn and finally reconciles with her estranged daughter.
    • Zelena wears a bun of her own when she's in full Wicked Witch mode, which comes down after her Heel–Face Turn and redemption.
    • The Snow Queen wears a bun because it was the hairstyle that she happened to be wearing on the day that she accidentally froze and shattered one of her sisters for her Start of Darkness. In modern-day Storybrooke, she initially wears a looser ponytail when posing as the friendly owner of the local ice cream shop, but immediately switches back to the bun full-time once her cover is blown and the whole town knows her true identity.
    • Even Emma herself adopts the standard female villain bun when she becomes the new Dark One, and just as quickly abandons it when she loses the Dark One powers and goes back to being the Savior.
      • One of the flashbacks during Emma's tenure as the Dark One revealing how the lineage of Dark Ones started shows that the woman who became the very first Dark One also gained the same bun as Emma in an Expository Hairstyle Change upon gaining her powers, implying that this bun is part of the standard package for female Dark Ones.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • Captain Janeway had this style for most of the first season as befitting her command style (dubbed The Bun of Steel by fans) but then started Letting Her Hair Down along with her personality.
    • The coldly-efficient Seven of Nine used this style for her first 3 seasons on the show. As she was also a Ms. Fanservice, she uses a French pleat that adds to her attractiveness rather than an actual bun, but the principle is the same.
  • On Time Trax, SELMA (Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive), Darien's credit-card-sized artificially intelligent supercomputer, projects a holographic image matching this trope: hair in a high bun, an old-fashioned high-neckline blouse and long skirt, and a prim expression. Her image is modeled on an image of Darien's mother he painted as a child, and her relationship with him, whether prompted by this iconography or not, is often decidedly maternal in nature.
  • The Barrier: Julia and Manuela both wear a bun while working as maids. It's implied to be mandatory to an extent, since the uniform they wear while serving at parties includes a hair ornament that requires the wearer's hair to be bunched up on the back of their head.
  • Odd Squad: Oprah, otherwise known as Ms. O, the head of Precinct 13579, wears her hair in a bun.
    • In "Oscar the Couch", Olive also wears one while working in the stead of Oksana as a Food and Beverage worker.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Several women in authority or managerial roles have done this, including:
  • Oddly Booker T sometimes puts his dreads into a bun (or ponytail) when not wrestling. Sometimes even when he does.


  • Headless Headmistress Bloodgood from Monster High is a headless horsewoman with a stern and imposing presence capped off by her bun hairstyle. Despite this, she is a fair and encouraging teacher.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2, Black Mage and Guardian Lulu wears her hair in a braided bun variation with several accessories. While she is shown to have a gentle side, she is initially very stoic, stern, and scathing, especially to Wakka who identifies her as having a short fuse.
  • From Hitman (2016) onwards, Diana has her hair in this style in the present day, to reflect her classy status and upper-class demeanour. Past games had her in both short and long hair (even her younger self from both Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman and Hitman 2 contradict one another with which hairstyle she went with at a young age; long for the former, short bob-cut for the latter), while in Absolution's case, it wasn't entirely clear, as the one good shot of her in the game has her in the shower with her hair down. Games prior to Blood Money never show her face.
    • The female NPC's in the crowds may also use this hairstyle, depending on locale and where you are in the level.
  • Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams uses this hairstyle, and is notably organized, professional, and is also a rank that puts her in charge of her unit. On the other hand, she's also a firm believer in Brutal Honesty. She lets her hair down by Mass Effect 3, literally and metaphorically.
  • Nastasia from Super Paper Mario wears a high bun, signifying her serious and professional personality.
  • Marie from Splatoon usually wears a high bun, to match her calm and quiet reputation. Various promotional artwork shows that she occasionally lets it down when she's off duty.
  • Symmetra from Overwatch wears a high bun as part of her "professional attire" skins - Vishkar, Architech.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • Glynda Goodwitch wears a large ballet bun above the neck. Compared to Ozpin's laid-back attitude and amused tolerance for Ruby's ditzy behaviour, she's stern, restrained, and seems as frustrated by Ozpin's attitude as by Ruby's. Even her kindness is stern: when she compliments Ruby, her tone of voice is firm and professional and is quickly followed by an admonishment of Ruby's reckless heroics.
    • Winter Schnee wears a high bun at the rear left corner of her head. She's a high-ranking member in the Atlesian military and a stern and professional woman who carries herself with dignity and elegance.


    Western Animation 
  • Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender always has a topknot secured with a Fire Nation comb. She's the stern and perfectionist princess of the Fire Nation. It falls out when she goes insane, with the result of her looking deranged.
  • In her backstory, Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series started off with her hair this way when she was a prim and proper doctor at Arkham before the Joker brainwashed her. Since then, she typically opts for a pair of Girlish Pigtails. Also when she was posing as a lawyer to get Sid the Squid out of jail.
  • Harley Quinn (2019): In this continuity as well, the Dr. Harleen Quinzel persona had a neat bun as part of her effort at trying to appear sane and professional.
  • In Futurama, Morgan Proctor wears a large high bun. She's the snooty lady bureaucrat who temporarily replaced Hermes in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back".
  • Jinora from The Legend of Korra wears a high bun at the rear right corner of her head. She's the most mature and reserved of her siblings. She does shave her hair off temporarily to get her Airbending tattoos but once it grows back, she's back to the bun.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle puts her mane in one of these when she tries out psychology on Rainbow Dash.
    • This is also (fan-named) background pony Nurse Redheart's standard look.
    • And Granny Smith because she's old.
  • Nathalie Sancoeur in Miraculous Ladybug is the efficient, no-nonsense assistant to Gabriel Agreste and wears her hair in a neat bun.
  • Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Some of the female historical figures wear buns, and they mean business. This also helps to reflect the societal attitudes and general fashions/hairstyles of their respective time periods.
    • Susan B. Anthony takes part in a protest to let people know that everyone should have a vote.
    • Rosa Parks stands her ground when the bus driver tries to demand her to give up a seat for a white man.
    • Kate Warne is a detective and is shown to be pretty sassy too.

     Real Life 
  • Military:
    • In the United States military, many women wear their hair in a bun due to military regulations governing appearance while in uniform.
    • In the British Armed Forces, this is the only acceptable way for females to wear hair long enough to touch the collar, with the bun worn low so a cap or beret fits comfortably.
  • A modified version (hair gathered at the crown of the head but allowed to poof into a pompadour on the way up) was an essential part of the Gibson Girl silhouette of The Edwardian Era.
  • Standard for women who do ballet, gymnastics, ice skating, or other athletic arts, since loose hair is potentially dangerous in those situations (though gymnasts can also be fine with a ponytail). Ballet in particular is famous for this, with all ballet schools worth their salt requiring students to put their hair in a secure bun if it's long enough. There are actually multiple styles of bun in ballet, including the classical (high bun), Swan Lake (low bun, to fit the feathery headpieces), and Balanchine (an elongated bun that emphasizes the neck), and which one dancers use for performances depends on the role.