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The chonmage (Japanese: 丁髷) is a form of Japanese traditional topknot haircut worn by men. It is most commonly associated with the Edo period and samurai, and in recent times with sumo wrestlers. It was originally a method of using hair to hold a samurai helmet steady atop the head in battle, and became a status symbol among Japanese society.
In a traditional Edo-era chonmage the top of the head is shaved. The remaining hair was oiled and waxed before being tied into a small tail folded onto the top of the head in the characteristic topknot.
In the Edo period of Tokugawa Shogunate Japan, orders were passed for Japanese men to shave the top, front of their head (the chonmage hairstyle) and shave their beards, facial hair and side whiskers. This was similar to the Qing dynasty queue order imposed by Dorgon making men shave the pates on the front of their heads.
In modern times, the only remaining wearers of the chonmage are kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers. The sumo style of the chonmage is slightly different, in that the pate is no longer shaved. However, the hair may be thinned in this region or the crown of the head shaved, called nakazori, to allow the topknot to sit more neatly.
All professional sumo wrestlers wear a chonmage as soon as their hair is long enough to do so. Sumo wrestlers with sekitori status are required on certain occasions, such as during a honbasho, to wear their hair in a more elaborate form of topknot called an ōichō or ginkgo leaf style, where the end of the topknot is splayed out to form a semicircle, resembling a hand fan (sensu). Given the uniqueness of the style in modern Japan, the Sumo Association employs specialist hairdressers called tokoyama to cut and prepare sumo wrestlers' hair.
The chonmage is of such symbolic importance in sumo that snipping it off is the centerpiece of a wrestler's retirement ceremony. Dignitaries and other important people in a wrestler's life are invited to take one snip, with the final one taken by his trainer. For most wrestlers who never reached a sekitori rank, his retirement ceremony will be the only time he wears the more elaborate ōichōmage.
In modern fashion
Outside Japan, so-called "samurai buns" have been worn by a minority of young British, Australian, Canadian, European, and American men during the mid-2010s. Unlike the traditional chonmage, the hair on top of the head is kept long, and the back and sides are shaven This hairstyle, reminiscent of the samurai topknots in jidaigeki movies, was popularised by celebrities including Orlando Bloom, Jared Leto, Zayn Malik, TOWIE's Joey Essex, Harry Styles, and Brent Burns.
- Ji or Touji, the traditional Chinese topknot
- Queue, the Qing-dynasty Chinese hairstyle also involving a shaved pate
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- Media related to Chonmage at Wikimedia Commons
- The dictionary definition of chonmage at Wiktionary
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