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Thread: Feudal haircuts - baldy fashion in Japan

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  1. #1
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    Default Feudal haircuts - baldy fashion in Japan

    We've all seen the Samurai Dramas. We've seen the Lord and his servants. We've seen the Samurai and their Deshi (apprentices). How did they come to invent the worst haircut in the history of the world?

    In the movies, the lead actor sometimes gets to keep a modern fashion hairline, but anyone else either gets to sweat under a bald wig, or they go authentic and shave the middle bit.

    Is there a source or an article, or any info that will help me to understand the reason for this whacky haircut? Who was supposed to wear it? Who would be exempt?
    David Noble
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    Lightbulb

    Russ Ebert and i were kicking this one around in another thread, where i joked that it might simply have been a pre-emptive strike against inevitable male pattern baldness!!! i think Russ might have said something intelligent about the reason for the exact shape, but i don't recall it now.

    i suspect it might have been developed simply because it was so unusual; remember, the goal among the reigning warrior class of Edo Period was to set themselves apart from everybody else, and nobody but bushi were allowed to wear their hair like that. and no bushi would have sought an "exemption" because the hairstyle was a point of pride, a symbol of their superior social standing.

    sorry i can't help with websites or anything.
    Jeff Hamacher
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    Default "Welease Bawabas!"

    Maybe it grew out of a desire to appease a Lord who was naturally balding?

    A bit like the lisping in Castelian (sp?) Spanish - which is due to a Spanish King (forget which one) having an impediment. Nobody wanted to draw attention to it, so they all joined in.
    Cheers,

    Mike
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    Default Re: "Welease Bawabas!"

    I think there was Chinese influence somewhere along the line. The Haniwa figures of males have the hair long and rolled up around the ears. Shaving the head would appear to have started around the time of the Ritsuryo reforms.

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    Peter Goldsbury,
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    Default Re: Re: "Welease Bawabas!"

    Originally posted by P Goldsbury
    The Haniwa figures of males have the hair long and rolled up around the ears.
    Princess Leia was... a bloke!?


    Thanks for the information chaps. I'm kind of pleased that there is no really obvious answer (like when you half want the Auto-repair man to say it is something more complicated than "it ran out of petrol").

    Going further into this apparent black hole.... how did they shave it? Are there ancient relics? Highly decorated and prized artifacts that were used in the ceremonial head-shaving? I suppose they could have some kind of reverse-pudding-bowl to make a template for cutting around...

    I'm just wondering, in case it comes back into fashion. I'm looking at being one step ahead of everyone... I want to market and supply the world's best Bushi-Bald Kit. It is going to be the ultimate rebound from the Combover, with fashionable young men (and women) demanding the Bushi-Bald cut all over the world. I might name my company Noble Mouse, and have a line of haircare products called the Four Noble Truths (Shampoo, Conditioner, Gel and Straightening Serum)...
    David Noble
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    I'll think of a proper sig when I get a minute...

    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    Hmm,
    ok there is one thing that came to my mind. You may want to look at the ceremonie that is held when boys of noble descent had their head shaved and became members of the adults society.
    The name of the ceremony escapes me but there is an interesting episode in the Heike monogatari, where Yoshitsune performs it by himself because he had to flee into mountains (that description sucks...it has been a long day).

    Karsten
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    The name of the haircut that is shown most often in the movies is ’šéž(chonmage/commage).

    Karsten
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    Hi guys,

    Well i might be able to answer the hairstyle question. My wife baught a book in japan that answered the questions that people often wondered what was the answer , so that question was in the book and it said that when samurai were wearing yoroi they had thick layers of clothing and armor on there body so there was not much room for the skin to breathe ,so they started shaving the middle of there head because when they would put the kabuto well there is an open cup space between the head and the kabuto and kabuto often had a hole right on top , so that would be the only space left to breathe during long wars. So i guess that style stuck and became the samurai hairstyle.
    hope that helps

    Tom Karazozis
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    Lightbulb a straight razor

    Originally posted by Tripitaka of AA
    Going further into this apparent black hole.... how did they shave it? Are there ancient relics? Highly decorated and prized artifacts that were used in the ceremonial head-shaving?


    i don't know anything about coming-of-age ceremonies and such, but as for "everyday" care ... i'm certain there's a scene in Seven Samurai where the head honcho cuts all of his hair off like a Buddhist monk to fool someone else into believing it's so. he uses a very simple type of straight razor, one with no folding handle, just a long tang by which it would be held. i saw similar implements contained in shaving kits on display at some museums in Japan. it's quite likely that bushi wouldn't normally shave their own heads unless they were single; otherwise, the job would fall to a woman in the house.
    Jeff Hamacher
    Those who speak do not know,
    Those who know will not speak ...
    So I guess that means I don't know a thing!

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    Jeff Hamacher suggested that the samurai hairstyle was intentionally bizarre, in order to draw distinction between samurai and non-samurai. This sounds logical.

    Many actual historical warrior cultures, as well as modern aggressive subcultures, have opted for "extreme" hairstyles and other points of fashion. The various Germanic tribes in Roman times often indulged in odd hairstyles--note the Suebi tribe and their "Suebian Knot" hairstyle. The Kelts spiked their hair, giving them a very primal look. The 11th century Normans--as warlike a race as there ever was--wore their hair in the characteristic salad-bowl fashion that was so well captured in The Warlord, with Charleton Heston. 12th and 13th century European knightly hair fashions varied considerably--secular knights preferred long hair and were clean-shaven, while the warrior monks of Orders like the Templars and Hospitallers cut their hair short, and grew beards. The Mongols had bangs, but shaved tops. In early 16th century landsknecht armies, the fashion was for short-cropped hair, but extremely long beards. In the 17th century, the Zaporozhian Cossacks had a bizarre haircut called the osoledets, a shaved head with only a toplock, combed forward. 18th and early 19th century European hussar cavalrymen wore their hair with those side braids, as depicted in The Duellists with Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. Modern-day biker gangs prefer long hair, while the followers of the British-born skinhead cult insist on either very close-cropped hair, crewcuts, or completely shaved craniums.
    David Black Mastro


    "The Japanese are the most warlike people in this part of the world. They have artillery and many arquebuses and lances. They use defensive armor for the body, made of iron, which they have owing to the subtlety of the Portuguese, who have displayed that trait to the injury of their own souls." --Gonzalo Ronquillo de Penalosa, commenting on well-equipped wako in the Philippines, 1582.

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    It wasnt so much to emphasise social difference- most Edo period adult males sported the shaved bonce with various kinds of queue [chommage] regardless of whether they were peasant, merchant or samurai. Apparently it originated after the introduction of helmet liners, so that wearing a hachimaki under the kabuto to absorb sweatand cushion the head wasn't ill fitting [so I read somewhere] and became a fashion statement once some daimyo adopted it, probably because they were naturally balding. It was more quickly adopted in the garrison/castle towns- easy access to barbers I suppose. Country bushi and especially ronin kept their full head of hair and a simpler chommage, often just a pony tail, without the folding and tying which took a long time. They also regarded the oiling of the hair necessary to hold the more complex chommage in place somewhat effete. Have a look at modern sumotoriis' "everyday" style and the one they wear when in a competition. Even in the Edo period styles which required a full head of hair were common. In the movie "SEven Samurai", I think only two characters actually shave the head. The leader shaves his to fool a bad guy that he's a priest while the others all have full heads of hair [apart from the youngest who has a "juvenile" haircut.
    Lurking in dark alleys may be hazardous to other peoples health........

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    I'd forgotten all about this thread and may have missed out on the opportunity to market my dream products. I think there may be more to learn however, so I bring it back to the top of the board to attract even more fascinating entries.
    David Noble
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    For now, I'm just waiting for the smack of the Bo against a hard wooden floor....

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    Even today in sumo, it's not uncommon to have the top of the head shaved because if the hair is too thick it's difficult to form the mage. However, because the front of the hair is pulled back and made into the mage, you often can't tell.

    One occassionally sees (in period dramas, ukio-e, kabuki, etc) samurai with bangs, but with the top of the head shaved underneath the mage. It wouldn't surprise me if the custom grew out of that.

    Of course, given the preponderance of powdered wigs in the west in the late 18th/early 19th century, I'm not sure we have the high ground here...
    Josh Reyer

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    i raead that the shaving of the forelocks in the coming of age cferemony was to represent the future receding hairline. which would occur anyway keeping the hair tight like that for anyone, i know a few ballerinas who have a lot of extra forehead from the hair coming out in the front after being in a bun for so long so same effect
    Dean Eichler der Zweite
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jock Armstrong
    ...In the movie "SEven Samurai" ...the others all have full heads of hair...
    That would be historically correct, since they were all ronin. The full chommage was reserved, as far as I know, for those in active service.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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