A ponytail is a hairstyle in which most or all of the hair on the head is pulled away from the face, gathered and secured at the back of the head with a hair tie, clip or similar device, and allowed to hang freely from that point. It gets its name from its resemblance to the undocked tail of a horse or pony. Ponytails are most commonly gathered at the middle of the back of the head, or the base of the neck. Depending on fashions, they may also be worn at the side of the head (over one ear), or on the very top of the head (allowing the hair to fall down the back or one side of the head).
Women (as opposed to girls) of the Georgian period, and up until the 20th century, would never have been seen outside of the boudoir with their hair in such an informal style as a ponytail.
Today, women commonly wear their hair in ponytails in informal or office situations (they are likely to choose a more elaborate style for a formal occasion such as making a braid or adding accessories to the ponytail). It is a practical choice as it keeps hair out of the eyes. They are also popular with school-aged girls, partly because flowing hair is often associated with youth, and also because of its simplicity. A young girl is likely to be able to retie her own hair after a sports class for example.
In the late 1980s, a short ponytail was seen as an edgy, "in-your-face" look for men who wanted to stand out from the crowd, but keep their hair flat and functional (cf mullet). Steven Seagal's ponytail in "Marked for Death" is an example of such.
Men who wear their hair long, or sometimes in mullets, frequently tie it back into a ponytail, but avoid the top- or side-of-the-head variants, although these variants can be used for practical reasons for keeping it off the neck.
In the second half of the 18th century, most men in Europe wore their hair long and tied back into what we would now describe as a ponytail, although it was sometimes gathered into a silk bag rather than allowed to hang freely. At that time, it was commonly known by the French word for "tail", queue. It was a mandatory hairstyle for men in all European armies until the early 1800s, after most civilians had stopped wearing queues. The British Army was the first to dispense with it, and by the end of the Napoleonic Wars most armies had changed their regulations to make short hair compulsory.
A ponytail is a common hairstyle worn mostly by girls. It involves tying back a large section of hair on the scalp.