Some people have difficult hair that refuses to be combed, styled, or changed in any way. Little short of an Important Haircut can change it... and sometimes not even that. Gel, mousse, and other treatments are at best temporary fixes, and often wear off in the same scene, much to the character's consternation.
Though a normal hairstyle can be stubborn, it's not as visually arresting as when this trope is applied to a fictional signature hairstyle, because then when a character attempts to challenge their hairstyle it can pop right back into its familiar shape. For similar reasons, this trope frequently gets combined with Idiot Hair, Messy Hair, Wild Hair, Quirky Curls, Perma-Stubble and Unkempt Beauty.
When it does? That one cowlick of Idiot Hair will constantly spring up no matter how much gel is used. While some characters merely wake up with Messy Hair, others can't get it under control no matter what they do. Stubborn Wild Hair will live up to its name and fight like a cornered tiger for its shape, refusing all attempts at cutting and styling.
While a Hair Reboot can be a useful skill in the arsenal of the Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate, having Stubborn Hair is generally a bad thing, at least from the perspective of disapproving authority figures.
Often accompanied by Appearance Angst, especially if the character dislikes or is self-conscious about the lack of control over their hair.
- Parodied in a McDonald's commercial, in which Ronald McDonald tries to tame his hair despite a stubborn and sentient hair strand. He eventually applies some hair gel, with the strand bracing for the worst. As Ronald preps his new hairdo, the strand sticks up and boasts.
- Dragon Ball Z: When Trunks and Vegeta emerge from the Hyperbolic Time Chamber after spending a full year training inside it, Bulma exclaims over Trunks' hair, which has grown considerably. On hearing the Year Inside, Hour Outside explanation for how it grew seemingly overnight, she asks Vegeta why his hair hasn't grown "all shaggy" as well.
Vegeta: A pure Saiyan's hair does not get "shaggy"! It maintains the same shape from the day that he is born!
Goku: Huh. Whaddya know. I never noticed!
Bulma: ...You never noticed you never needed a haircut?
- Katsuki Bakugo from My Hero Academia goes to study under the fashionable pro hero Best Jeanist, who tries without success to tame Bakugo's Anime Hair. Every time he seems to get it to lay flat, there's a small explosion and it sticks straight back out again. Since Bakugo's explosion powers are based on nitroglycerin-like sweat, it's implied that his hair looks like it does because his scalp sweat periodically detonates.
- Played for horror in Uzumaki: the chapter "Medusa" is all about the spiral curse taking control of Kirie's hair and making it immune to any and all attempts to tame it and violent at any attempts to cut it.
- The character of super-tough cowboy "Desperate Dan" in The Dandy is always depicted with very tough stubble which in extremis he can use to file or grind metal. He has to shave with a blowtorch and a sharpened spade when he needs to tidy up.
- The graphic novel The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is about... well. The beard in question grows faster than it can be cut, blunts bolt-cutters, pushes through walls. The hairdressers are called in, and they style it upward, but still it begins to overshadow the town.
People started asking them...
Why are you styling it this way? Why don't you just... mousse it out to sea?
To which they could only reply,
Well, it's difficult to say. We're just doing what hairdressers do. We're working with the hair. And it's pretty stubborn stuff, let me tell you! You must understand...
it just seems to want to make these shapes. And it seems to want...
to go inland.
- Wolverine of the X-Men has been burned, blown to bits, and had many other very painful things happen to him. Thanks to his Healing Factor, whenever this happens his hairdo (usually) returns exactly to the same length and shape as it was before. Ditto the Perma-Stubble.
- 9 Chickweed Lane: Edda's friend Thorax had hair so stubborn that Sister Caligula (head-nun of Edda's school) took Thorax to a barbershop where she prayed over Thorax's wayward locks as Edda told the barber "Stay calm, do not show your fear."
- Jazmine DuBois from The Boondocks is shown having this problem with her "frizzy" mixed-race hair, i.e. what she adamantly refuses to call her afro. Her parents have tried to straighten it but not even hair relaxers will change its texture.
- Fluffle Puff is defined by her ridiculously thick fur. Like her, it tends to obey physics when it feels like it. It can be tamed, but doing so tends to make ponies borderline insane.
- In ParaNorman, Norman tries to comb his hair to lay down, only for it to pop right back up with an audible "fwump" sound. It does this again when his hair gets messed up, and pops back up again.
- Tintin: The title hero of The Adventures of Tintin has hair like this. He opens the movie attempting to pat down his signature hair spike in the front, only for it to stand up again.
- Goku in Dragonball Evolution tries to prepare for his first day of high school with some hair gel... only for his spiky hair to spring right back up and fling the goop off onto the mirror, catapult style.
- Played for pathos in Interview with the Vampire, where the child vampire Claudia cuts off her long curly hair in frustration over being an Undead Child... only for it to grow back, beautiful as ever.
- The film version of The Princess Diaries shows a brush breaking off in Mia's hair.
- The Santa Clause: As part of the film's You Kill It, You Bought It premise, Scott Calvin is turning into Santa Claus, complete with long white beard. If he tries to shave it off, it immediately grows back. Dyeing his greying hair doesn't work either, since it fades in seconds.
- In A Taxing Woman, Itakura-san, the eponymous taxing woman, has a stubborn cowlick that her boss is always reminding her about, but her swipes at it with a hand don't do much.
- Soul Music introduces us to Death's grand-daughter, Susan Sto-Helit, whose hair refuses to stay in plaits or other styles, and reminds people of a dandelion. Further adventures show that her hair will accept being in a prim-and-proper bun.
- In Wyrd Sisters, Magrat Garlick is a young witch who has been blessed or otherwise, with long, frizzy, unruly, blonde hair. She tries to use magic to make her hair long, silky, full-bodied and manageable. But by about three o'clock, the magic has worn off and she resembles a dandelion clock pulled backwards through a thorn bush.
- Harry Potter:
- Hermione is known for having incredibly bushy hair that can only be tamed with "liberal amount of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion" for special occasions.
- Harry Potter himself has hair that always looks messy and resists combing. According to his reminiscence in the first book, it once grew back that way overnight after Aunt Petunia cut most of it off. He may have inherited it magically from his father James, who used to deliberately mess up his hair.
- Ariane in Greer Gilman's Moonwise has long, wavy, extremely thick and heavy hair that she keeps in place (barely) with an array of pins.
- Outlander: The protagonist, Claire has extremely curly hair that she often mentions wrestling into normality. At an early point in the series, she gets advice from a passerby that she should get a better perm, which amuses her, since the curls are entirely natural.
- Mia Thermopolis, the titular princess from The Princess Diaries, describes her hair as an inverted yield sign that simply refuses to be shaped any other way.
- In The Red Tent, Bilhah's hair is described like this, and Adah had a difficult time styling it.
- Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, The Fairy Godmother: In a world controlled by the Law Of Narrative Causality, Designated Villain Evil Sorceress Arachnia is trying to use Loophole Abuse to avoid cursing a baby princess. She finally states that on the princess' sixteenth birthday, she'll awaken with tangled hair. The titular fairy godmother then has to lock the curse down as "unable to be combed, brushed, or cut; knotted around the bedframe" before The Tradition warps the curse into something deadly like "princess strangled by her own tangled hair."
- In the Scrubs episode "My Cake", Ted's hair was blown out in a style not dissimilar to a clown's after taking a ride in Dr. Kelso's convertible, and the fact that it wouldn't smooth down became something of a Running Gag for the episode. He manages to tame it for a while after using a whole tube of hair gel, but it springs back out at the shock of the Janitor suddenly abducting him from the window as part of his campaign to gaslight Dr. Kelso.
- On Space Cases, Radu's hair is impossible to comb — the hair cells, like almost every other kind of cell in his body, have a ridiculously high density.
- Advanced Variable Geo: Satomi's character bio mentions that she once tried cutting her own hair, since she couldn't afford a barber. And by the time she could, the barber couldn't do anything with it either. It only made it worse.
- Mass Effect 3: If Shepard speaks to EDI about the materials used to construct her humanoid form, EDI will discuss her hair and how it can be either solidified into a shell to maximize its defensive properties or separated into individual synthetic strands to facilitate infiltration. If it's recently gotten wet, however...
EDI: ...I generally can't do a thing with it.
- Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright has astonishing Anime Hair shaped like a pair of wings. It's so inflexible that his knit hat (during his stint as "Hobo Phoenix" in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney) couldn't tame it. By Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, he's gained an equally-stubborn forelock.
- Erma: Whenever Erma tries to cut or style her hair, it magically regrows and falls back into an unkempt mane. It takes a bear trap to stay tied up in a ponytail.
- This comic shows Agatha from Girl Genius experiencing considerable difficulty with the three spiky bits of hair at the back of her head.
- Haley Starshine from The Order of the Stick has one strand of hair that is always separate from the rest, no matter which way she's facing. She lost it when her head was shaved by her rival Crystal, but she later had her hair magically regrown while in the Empire of Blood... and was frustrated when the strand popped out after combing and trying it back into her ponytail.
- Questionable Content: Despite being short, Hannelore's hair spontaneously messes up over a few panels of her standing still. When she takes her hat off, it springs back after one panel with a FOOF Unsound Effect.
- Taken to extremes in Strong Female Protagonist with the titular character's hair, which shares her invulnerability superpowers and is styled by her doctor with the help of liquid nitrogen and a circular saw.
- Zen Pencils: In "Strange Like Me", a comic drawn around the words of Frida Kahlo, a young girl's unibrow pops almost immediately back into existence every time she attempts to shave it off, much to her chagrin.
- Tennyo from leyUniverse suffers this trope at its most extreme. Her hair ignores gravity, breaks scissors, and treats water like a duck's feathers do.
- Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic combines this with Expressive Hair. In her normal, happy state, her mane and tale are unruly masses of curls. In "The Best Night Ever", she gets her mane styled at a salon, and it pops back into its default shape seconds later. (However, if she gets depressed, her hair straightens on its own and stays that way.)
- Homer Simpson of The Simpsons has a stubborn Perma-Stubble, which regrows seconds after he shaves.