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Do not then winde up that light
—Richard Lovelace, "To Amarantha; That She Would Dishevell Her Hair"
Often, when a female character is particularly serious or uptight, her hair will be serious and uptight too -- pulled back in a tight bun, or something of that sort. When said woman gets a love interest and starts to loosen up a little (as such characters almost inevitably do), she will start wearing her hair down, or at least in a looser style.
Unlike the hair-letting-down that is part of Beautiful All Along, this is never part of a makeover and is not necessarily commented upon by the other characters. The hairstyle in this case is more of a quick visual indicator of the character's relaxation. If the new style is noticed, there will be comments along the lines of "you should wear your hair like that more often." This is a subconscious appreciation of the heroine's new state of relaxation.
A variation of this can be seen in shows for younger girls. If the girl has low self esteem, she will wear her hair down and over her face. At the end of the show, when she has gained some confidence, she will pull her hair back to signify the change, opening her face and no longer hiding.
See also Important Haircut. Compare Slipknot Ponytail, where one's hair goes au naturale because they are being badass, and Wild Hair, where it is normally worn loose. Also compare Shaking Her Hair Loose when the hair is dramatically undone on camera.
Anime and Manga
- Variation after the events Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's third season, which has Teana losing her Tsundere twin-tails after she had matured into a highly competent and reliable leader.
- Setsuna of Mahou Sensei Negima not wearing her hair in a Samurai style side-pony tail in the later chapters once she starts growing out of her intensely serious, near-deadpan demeanor.
- In the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, normally seen with an efficient, no-nonsense bun, finally takes her hair down in the very last episode to visit wounded comrade Roy Mustang.
- In the manga, she takes her hair down when she gets a day off.
- Gundam Wing's Lady Une normally keeps her hair up in a tight bun, but lets it down for her less uptight alter-ego "Saint Une". When both personalities merge back into the real Une, she decides to keep her hair down from then on.
- When Mari Katsuragi lets her hair down, someone will get hurt very badly (and she'll look good at it}. Elsie on the other hand just gets prettier.
- No-nonsense Dr. Chiba in Paprika wears her hair in a neat bun; we only see it down when she's asleep or in the process of transforming into her free-spirited dream avatar Paprika.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Aki reverses this: when she lets her hair down, it's a bad sign. The band holding her hair up is designed to hold her psychic powers in check. When it comes off and her hair is let down, run.
- Miranda Lotto from D.Gray-man definitely does this when she first activates her Innocence, by accident. Well, she transforms from this to this. Honestly, which one looks better?
- Lenalee has done this several times, too, before she gets an Important Haircut.
- Gundam X's Tiffa Addil has a ponytailed Hime Cut, but when Barrier Maiden Lucille Lilliant "borrows" her body to ask for help from Jamil, Tiffa's adoptive father as well as her former pupil, she lets it loose.
- Misty/Kasumi from Pokémon normally has her hair tied into a small pigtail. While she is indeed a cute girl, her appearance changes dramatically every time she puts this trope to practice.
- In Pokémon Special, following the rather traumatic incident with N at the Nimbasa Ferris Wheel, White keeps her hair out of its usual ponytail, signifying her depression. She ties it back up when she somewhat comes in terms with herself. Incidentally, fans agree she looks much prettier with her hair down.
- Played very unusually in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Originally, Homura has her hair done up in twin braids, but eventually lets it down. This doesn't signify her becoming more relaxed in the slightest, though; in fact, it marks her transition into being serious. So you could say it's inverted, only it's also played straight, because the character was previously shy, so it signals a growth in confidence. On the other hand, it also seems to represent the loss of her innocence. So it's hard to classify where this one lands.
- Ringo Noyamano from Air Gear lets her long hair loose when she becomes Ikki's link tuner.
- Harley Quinn is shown to wear glasses and have her hair in a bun prior to meeting The Joker. When she goes crazy and springs him from Arkham she loses the glasses and begins to wear her hair in pigtails.
- Nightfall from Elf Quest can't be described as uptight by any stretch, but she does keep her long brown hair under a headscarf except in her most intimate moments.
- Virtually universal in any romance fic involving Minerva McGonagall. Probably something to do with a funny line she had in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
- The silent classic Sunrise features this in its powerful ending, when the Wife, who wore her hair pulled back for the whole movie, is shown with her hair down after she's been rescued from drowning.
- In Loaded Weapon 1, Destiny Demeanor is introduced wearing glasses and her hair up in a bun. When she lets her hair down, she is replaced with an obviously different actress. Colt's reaction? "You should always wear your hair down."
- Lee the masochistic heroine of Secretary mostly wears her hair braided across her head to begin with. As she enters a, well, unconventional romance with her boss, she starts to wear it down, especially at moments when she clearly feels most confident. She reverts to updos somewhat as the relationship founders, but her reunion with her lover culminates in a scene in which he tenderly and sensually washes her hair, which is of course down for the purpose.
- In Blade Runner, Rachael lets her hair down in front of Deckard -- who apparently takes it as an invitation, as he comes onto her rather forcefully soon afterward.
- Done by serious librarian Evy in The Mummy. She is played by Rachel Weisz, so also a Hot Librarian.
- Played in reverse in Pleasantville: Jennifer starts out with her hair down, but becomes more serious as the movie goes on, and pulls her hair back at about the same time as she discovers literature.
- In The Big Sleep, the bookseller woman has her hair all tied up. After the detective chats to her a while, she closes the shop, lets down her hair, takes off her glasses, and ...apparently, helps him pass the time until the person he's seeking turns up across the street.
- A variant is seen in The Incredibles with Violet. She hides behind her hair for most of the movie, but when she gains confidence in herself and her powers, begins to wear it back.
- The heroine of the German film Mostly Martha (and its American remake No Reservations) wears her hair up for most of the movie, finally letting it down after the first time she spends the night with her love interest.
- Jennifer Lopez's character in The Wedding Planner.
- Dr. Susan Calvin in I Robot is the most blatantly obvious, since her hairstyle changes four or five times throughout the movie, each one seemingly coinciding with a meeting with Will Smith.
- Angela Drake in Brewster's Millions. When the movie begins, she's purely professional with her hair up, but near the end she sports a lady 'fro.
- Inverted in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, where Sam puts her hair *up* and her glasses *on* when she loosens up.
- Saavik, in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan, once in an elevator, and once at a more emotional moment. In Star Trek III the Search For Spock, she is seen with her hair down most of the time, and has certainly loosened up some.
- Our Man Flint. After she's lured Flint to her apartment, Gila does this to signal to him that she's in the mood for love.
- In Goodbye Lenin the main character notices that his love interest wears her hair down when she is happy and up when she isn't. This acts as a convenient visual aid for the viewer later on when they have an argument.
- In the beginning of The Invisible, Annie goes the full tilt and has her hair in a tight ponytail, combined with a hoodie with the hood up. As the story progresses, and she becomes more sympathetic of a character, the hood comes off, and her hair comes down.
- Lena in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants after she steps out to spend time with Kostas to show that she's now open to love.
- Princess Leia when she gets to the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi.
- Played straight in the radio drama version of the film, where Han mentions it and adds "It looks nice."
- Twice inverted in Tangled, since it was after a long time with Flynn that she put her hair up, and let it back down after returning to Mother Gothel.
- Other Disney examples include:
- Rare villain example: the Queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs during her transformation into the Witch.
- Cinderella, when the effects of the Fairy Godmother's magic spell start to wear off.
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians, when Anita falls into the pond.
- The Aristocats: When Madame wakes up in the middle of the night (although she was wearing a bonnet while sleeping) and discovers that her butler had kidnapped the titular cats.
- The Little Mermaid II: When King Triton turns Ariel back into a mermaid so she can rescue her daughter Melody from Ursula's sister, Morgana.
- Esmeralda, when she is wearing the white dress at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Mulan, when she finishes singing "Reflection."
- Also, at the end of the sequel, the crown Mulan wore to her wedding to Prince Ji Ki actually falls off her head when she kisses Shang.
- Jane Porter from Tarzan, when she starts to abandon her high-class nature in favor of an animal-like lifestyle.
- Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire is often depicted with bangs and a small forward-pointing ponytail during most of the film, but eventually loses both after becoming a queen at the end of the film due to her wearing a tiara, with her now exposed forehead being covered by a tattoo.
- When Belle treats Beast's wound in Beauty and the Beast, her hair is loose for the first time.
- Aunt Polly in Pollyanna.
- Mitsuyo in Villain is a rather dark example; she starts the movie with her hair in a tight ponytail and lets it down when she decides to go on the run with her murderer boyfriend instead of turning him in to the police. After he's arrested she puts it up again.
- In Something New, this is used as a juxtaposition between the characters of Brian (who wants Kenya to have her natural, kinky hair) and Mark (who wants her to keep artificially straight and buttoned-down). The metaphor is obvious.
- In Cursed (2005 film) we are introduced to Ellie with her hair tied up in a bun. After being bitten by the werewolf and thus gaining a natural sexual aura she is always shown with her hair down with the men gawking appropriately. One of her co-workers mentions how much nicer she looks with her hair down.
- Hester Prynne lets her hair down during her secret forest rendezvous with Rev. Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter.
- Played for laughs in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, where Professor McGonagall makes a remark about letting our hair down (in reference to the Yule Ball) and the narration notes that it doesn't look like she's ever let her hair down in any sense.
- In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie's mother won't let her get a fashionable bob because a woman should have long hair as her "secret" beauty that only her lover/husband (well, presumably Katie means husband) gets to see when she unpins it at the end of the day.
- In The Worst Witch books, it's tradition that at the Halloween celebrations all the teachers and pupils wear their hair down. Miss Hardbroom is described to have shining black tresses tumbling down to her waist and Mildred remarks that she doesn't look half as frightening with her hair down.
Live Action TV
- Captain Janeway wore the Bun of Steel the first few seasons of Star Trek Voyager. It disappeared when the writers decided to drop her "This is a Starfleet vessel" persona and let the poor girl loosen up a bit (or when they started stuffing up her character; it's a matter of opinion). Likewise Kes ditched her bobbed wig for long flowing locks, but that was probably to save Jennifer Lien from having to spend hours getting those pointy ears stuck on.
- Seven of Nine also wore her hair down in later episodes when she was doing social experiments in the holodeck. She'd immediately pin it back up when reporting for duty.
- Pam Beesly in the later seasons of The Office when she finally gets together with Jim
- In the second season of Lost, when Ana-Lucia is being tough and in-charge, her hair is pulled back in a ponytail. In her more vulnerable moments (crying to Eko, apologizing to Sayid) it's down on her shoulders.
- In The BBC's recent adaptation of Ballet Shoes, Emilia Fox's frail Sylvia always has her hair up in a scraped-and-elaborate-yet-somehow-also-messy-and-careworn bun until she's shown beginning to fall for her lodger, Simpson, when suddenly her hair is in a loose plait. When Sylvia finally marries him, her long hair is down altogether under her veil.
- Chlo Granger briefly goes "high-bunny" in Waterloo Road.
- Played with in one episode of The King of Queens when Carrie started to wear her hair in a really tight and unsexy bun... until the very end, when she saw how she looked exactly like a gnarly old librarian.
- In Cheers, Lilith letting her hair down led to Frasier kissing her for the first time.
- Farscape: Aeryn Sun. Her hair reflects her emotional state: as an Ice Queen in the first seasons, she wore it in a long ponytail. When she started to loosen up, she let her hair down. Then reverted back to ponytail after the one of the two Crichtons she was in love with died.
- Parodied in an episode of That 70s Show. At the start of an episode, Kelso gets a ticket from a beautiful female cop who wore her hair down. Later that same episode, he meets the same female cop, this time with her hair in a tight bun, and does not recognize her at all. (Averted somewhat however, as he attributes her previous sexiness to the uniform instead of her hair).
- Det. Dani Reese from Life wore her hair pulled back in Season 1. In Season 2, she wears it down, reflecting her new, considerably more relaxed, attitude towards Crews.
- More like "considerably more sexualized role for the audience"...
- Invoked in an episode of Better Off Ted. When Veronica is told that she is too intimidating, she starts wearing her hair down as part of an attempt to be more approachable, and hates it. When told that Phil is falling in love with her new, more positive self, she even sighs and says something like, "This is why I keep my hair up. It maintains distance."
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Maternal Congruence", Leonard's mother Beverly, who is generally cold and emotionless, does this after she gets drunk and starts to feel sexual attraction.
- Subverted in an episode of Arrested Development where during GOB's seduction attempt, secretary Kitty undoes her bun and removes her glasses to reveal horribly frizzy hair and severely crossed eyes.
- Degrassi character Holly J starts out with her hair in a tight ponytail at all times, letting her hair down once in a failed seduction technique on resident hottie Blue. As she becomes more comfortable with people, and stops being the Alpha Bitch, she slowly moves to less uptight hairstyles. Season 9 she wears a series of cute functional hairbands, finally in Season 10 she moved to her hair being unadorned unless for practical reasons for whatever activity is going on. Other characters have done the switch to hair down for Beautiful All Along reasons.
- In Glee, head cheerleader and the Alpha Bitch Quinn wears her hair in a tight ponytail for most of season 1, until her teen pregnancy is revealed and she is forced to quit the cheerleading team. She starts wearing her hair loose and becomes a more compassionate person. At the start of season 2, having given up her baby for adoption, she goes back to her original tight ponytail hairstyle. (Her more relaxed personality is also reflected in a change in wardrobe-- from the sharp cheerleader uniform to more casual clothes.)
- When Elvira, Mistress of the Dark lets her Beehive Hairdo down, she really lets it down! You wouldn't expect such a small beehive to have so much hair in it.
- Annie in Community episode Debate 109.
- Inverted on NCIS. When we meet Ziva, she's a wild, seductive, crazy, Israeli, ninja assassin. Her hair is also absolutely wild. As she becomes more friendly, open, and relaxed, her hair is also tamed somewhat. She's no less badass with her hair in a ponytail, but a little less . . . crazy.
- Modern Family Alex does this in the Season 3 episode, "After The Fire" to appear sexy to a group of nerds giving Luke and Manny a hard time and make them stop.
- The first line in Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" goes "Take the ribbon from your hair/Shake it loose and let it fall.... Played for humor when he and Miss Piggy performed it on The Muppet Show and the Ray Stevens cover.
- Charlie Rich: "When we get behind closed doors/Then she lets her hair hang down..."
- In The Rainmaker, it takes a Con Man to convince Lizzie that she's beautiful with the pins taken out of her hair. (Her joyful exclamation of "is it really me?" became the title of one of the songs in the musical adaptation, ,110 In The Shade.)
- Played with a man, and in a completely different meaning, in Les Misérables the musical. Javert does this in almost every performance during his BSOD song. It symbolizes his strict personality being splintered, but when it comes to Philip Quast, it's clearly Fan Service.
- Magda in Tanz der Vampire. Human!Magda has a skinny red braid. Vampire!Magda has voluminous, cascading red tresses.
- Ilse in Spring Awakening (when played by an actress with long hair). In the first act, when she is living with her strict family, she wears her hair in two braids. In act two, after she runs away to live in an artist colony, her hair is down.
- One community-theatre production of Ragtime had Mother wearing her hair up in a very staid sort of style in Act I, then wearing it loose in Act II after moving to Atlantic City (and meeting Tateh, whom she falls in love with and eventually marries after her husband dies).
- Ashley Williams does this between her appearances in Mass Effect 1 and 3. As a result of her newfound hotness, she promptly went from "Williams" to "Ashley" in the minds of the fans.
- Terra does this at the end of Final Fantasy VI, to go with her stated change in outlook.
- At the end of Metroid: Other M, Samus is seen out of her Power Suit and Zero Suit, and into what looks to be a uniform, hair let down and rather Rapunzel-ish. Though she ties it back into a ponytail after a while, the dialogue and her expression easily convey her feeling of peace and coming to terms with Adam's death and the resolution of the Bottle Ship incident.
- Chris Lightfellow from Suikoden III dons a casual outfit for her 3rd chapter. Her character portrait for that segment of the game even looks a good deal more relaxed than the scowl she usually settles with.
- Fiery Redhead Aika from Skies of Arcadia normally wears her hair in two noticeably stiff braids. She lets it down whenever she's sleeping or grooming, and it looks much softer and prettier.
- Tavatiana, of Gene Catlow, inadvertantly does this by dunking the back of her head into a fountain. She doesn't realize it, however, until she gets back. But then, she does ask Cotton if she should leave it like that...
- The uptight Necr... sorry, Croakamancer Wanda Firebaugh in Erfworld becomes a lot sexier (and much more open towards the protagonist) when she does this late in the comic.
- In one Least I Could Do storyline, Rayne pursues a woman simply because she wears glasses and he wants to complete a mental "Sex Bingo" card. Issa demonstrates how pathetic Rayne is by getting the woman to do this, completely infatuating him. After beating up his friend Mick to try and impress her, Mick is upset...until she does it again.
- A sort of reverse example happens with Vaarsuvius in The Order of the Stick when the elf cools down after his/her rampage of insanity, admits his/her mistakes and ties his/her Evil Makeover-induced Wild Hair into a ponytail. With his/her Headband of Intellect.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, after Annie messed with Jack's half-recovered brain and he in return messed with her, she let the hair down and took a deep breath before saying she's sorry. Combining it with a subtle case of Puppy Dog Eyes made the apology absolutely irresistible.
Tom: That... totally works.
- At the beginning of The Powerpuff Girls episode "The Main Event", as the girls wake up from their sleep, we get to see Blossom with her hair down.
- In the Rankin/Bass Christmas special Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, Miss Jessica's normally bunned-up hair is let down during her "I Am Becoming" Song "My World is Beginnning Today" as she moves away from her former strict schoolteacher demeanor and decides to stand by Kris no matter what. She does put it back up into a bun after the song, though she does wear a blue dress from that song on instead of the black one she wore before.
- Some girls and women who ordinarily wear their hair up will incite the kind of reactions shown in media if, for some reason or other, they have their hair down and they're out in public to get these reactions in the first place.
- Women and girls with Rapunzel Hair will sometimes wear it up everyday for practical reasons (to protect the ends from damage, keep it from getting tangled, etc.) and only let it down for special occasions