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Pigtail: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A woman with long pigtails.

In the context of hairstyles, the usage of the term pigtail shows considerable variation.[1][2] According to most dictionaries, a pigtail is a braid of tightly woven hair.[3] The name is based on the short, thin and kinked tail of a pig, referring to the way a short, tight braid may stand out from the scalp through asymmetric tension of the weave. However, the term may also apply to a single braid regardless of length or tension, focusing instead on the knobby texture of the overall structure.

Alternately, the plural term pigtails may be applied to a pair of two braids or ponytails on opposite sides of the head.[4] The latter hairstyle is also known as bunches, especially in British English; the "pigtail" analogy for this usage appears to be based on the upright position of short ponytails when tightly secured against the scalp, or alternately to the vaguely helical shape of curly hair descending from a high ponytail.

Pippi Longstocking sporting her signature pigtails.
In some English-speaking regions, this style is called "pigtails."


Word origin and usage

Bedouin woman with pigtails, 1880s.

The term pigtail appears in English in the American colonies in the 1600s to describe a twist of chewing tobacco. One of the steps in processing the tobacco was to twist a handful of leaves together to form a compact bunch that would then be cured (dried, either with or without smoking). The term "pigtail" was applied to the bunch based on its resemblance to a twisted pig's tail.

From the later 1600s through the 1800s, the term came to be applied to any braided (plaited, in British parlance) hairstyle. The British army also adopted a single pigtail or "queue" as its standard dress for long hair.

Robert Louis Stevenson mentions "pigtail" referring to hair and then to "pigtail tobacco" in the first and fourth chapters of Treasure Island, respectively.[5]

Most dictionaries still define "pigtail" as a single tight braid. However, many American English speakers use the term to describe two symmetrical bunches of hair on either side of the head, braided or not. In some cases, the term only applies to unbraided hair. This usage of the term can be seen on personal and professional websites devoted to hairstyles or even by typing "pigtails" into a search engine.[6][7]


There are numerous styles of pigtails a person may wear their hair in. They may be braided, straightened, beaded, ribboned, fishtailed, and even French braided. Pigtails can be placed on different parts of a person's head. The higher the pigtails the more childish look it gives. The lower pigtails give off a more conservative look.

In many regions, pigtail bunches and pigtail braids are traditionally given to very young girls, though it is not unusual for teenaged girls or even grown women to wear them as well in informal situations. It is very rare for men or boys to wear pigtail bunches.

In Britain, pigtails do not convey a childish connotation. Even to this day British barristers wear a wig with pigtails as a sign of their authority.

In some regions of China, traditional culture related the wearing of pigtails to a girl's marital status. A young, unmarried, Chinese girl would often wear two buns, or bundles of hair on either side of the head to display her availability to prospective husbands. However, when this girl would marry, the two pigtails, or buns, would be replaced with just one, thus indicating her marriage. It is thought, that this may have led to the western view of pigtails being typically associated with children and young girls; unmarried Chinese girls who had immigrated to the western world would still wear their hairstyles as they had in China. This cultural aspect gradually spread to westerners, although its meaning was largely lost. It is worth noting, however, that Chinese boys and men did not change their hairstyle regardless of marital status.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster: pigtail
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ Stevenson, R. L. (2006). Treasure Island. Retrieved October, 2008, from Project Gutenberg database.
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]

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