Ahoge: The “Outstanding” Hairstyle

Do you remember those cartoons you used to watch as a kid? Each character was made to embody a distinct personality, and their features would match this. This observation can be made with most shows, whether these shows are classified as anime or not.

Take, for example, the cartoon “Dexter’s Laboratory”. Dexter was given dark-rimmed glasses to emphasize on his smarts, matched with sharp features to show his impatience and grumpiness. His sister, on the other hand, was taller (overpowering), always smiling, and had blond hair in pigtails, signifying a sense of happy go lucky childishness.

There are many different factors that artists add to their characters to give a hint on what their personality is like. From facial features, different-shaped and sized body parts, and clothes, the options are endless. For anime and manga, however, the cultural implication that Japan has may not make this as noticeable as western cartoons do. That’s where the idea of ahoge comes into play. What is ahoge, and what does it represent?

Photo by Farhan Perdana (Blek)

The Lock of Hair That Sticks Out: Ahoge

If you’ve ever seen an anime character who has a single lock of hair prominently spiking or popping out of his or her hairstyle, then you’re looking at a character sporting an ahoge. That’s all it really is – a single tuft of stubborn hair that refuses to follow the flow of the rest of the hairstyle. This gravity-defying hairstyle is not sex or age exclusive; boy, girl, man, and woman – doesn’t matter. All are capable of carrying an ahoge, but it is assigned much more often on hairstyles of female characters.

The appearance of this pointed lock of hair varies in length, width, and location. It can sprout out of both long-haired and short-haired styles. Some tufts are long and skinny, others are short and thick. It’s commonly found at the top of the back of the skull, but can also be located at the front of the head, or lining the forehead. The location and look of the ahoge also can have something to do with what it represents about the character who sports it.

Characters who have an ahoge hairstyle don’t choose to have this because it is naturally-occurring. People who don’t have ahoge but want to have it usually go through great lengths to styling their hair to get one, so it’s important to notice that outlying slick of hair in those shows wasn’t a conscious fashion choice by the character; it is a genetic trait.

What is The Meaning Behind Someone Having the Ahoge Hairstyle?

As mentioned earlier, artists usually have a reason for making a character look a certain way. In Japanese culture and anime, having an ahoge indicates that the character is mischievous, humorous, carefree, strange, unintelligent, and/or naïve. This is because of the etymology of the word “ahoge”, which literally translates to “foolish hair” or “idiot hair”. Because the lock of hair looks completely out of place, it has been dubbed idiotic, making the character look less serious than usual.

The characteristic of foolishness that was once only labeled as the hairstyle supposedly rubs itself off on the character, so some of the anime or manga characters who have ahoge tend to be a little more cheery and oblivious than their counterparts in the show. Then again, there are also many characters who are dead serious but still have the silly spike of hair standing out. It all depends on how much the artist relies on imagery to depict his character, and isn’t a solid or justified measurement for one’s character.

History of the Ahoge Hairstyle

The phenomenon of Japanese characters having ahoge is nothing new. This has been going on for as long as manga and anime have been popular, with a history stemming back all the way to the year 1953 with characters created by the legendary manga artist Osama Tezuka – one of them being Astro Boy. What really brought everyone’s attention to the existence of the term ahoge was a storyline branch of the show “Pani Poni Dash!”, where character Himeko Katagiri’s lock of hair was personified to mimic her own emotions.

Is an Ahoge A Cowlick?

In a sense, the ahoge hairstyle is birthed from having a cowlick. A cowlick is when a patch of hair grows a different way compared to the rest of the hairdo. It’s called a cowlick because of how it mimics the look a calf has on its fur when its mother cowlicks it. Not all cowlicks produce ahoge, however; it is just one manifestation of a cowlick among many other kinds.

Ahoge In Western Culture

Because the ahoge hairstyle can be an actual phenomenon in any human’s hair growth, it is not unique to Japanese culture. It is seen in movies from the west as well, One of the most remembered characters sporting an extra endearing, long, slim, singular spike of hair is Alfalfa from the movie “The Little Rascals”. As for western animation, an example is Beast Bo from Teen Titans Go, who, no matter what he did to tame the unruly lock, couldn’t get it to slick down. In Live Action TV, Ed Grimley, a character from Saturday Night Live, also has one. Even Tintin from the cartoon and comic “The Adventures of Tintin” had one.

Popular Anime Characters with Ahoge Hairstyles

Having an ahoge hairstyle seems to be quite a hit when it comes to anime and manga; the list could go on forever. Some notable mentions go to Goku from Dragon Ball Z, who didn’t have just one, but an array of it all over his head. Ed from Fullmetal Alchemist has a glaring ahoge right at the hairline of his temple.

Many of the characters in the show “Axis Powers Hetalia” carry the wayward bunch of hair strands, each giving a little bit of a description of the character. For example, Korea’s ahoge has a little face drawn on it, while the Italy brothers’ ahoge are almost identical, except they are the reverse of each other.

Ahoge in Video Games

Pokemon has a lot of characters who have ahoge. In the Diamond and Pearl version, you’ll see one on the bird Pokemon Starly, whose ahoge grows into a crest the more Starly evolves. Next, one of the Elite Four members, Aaron, has a big one on his head. Other Pokemon like Deino and Zweilous have them too, perhaps to connote how clumsy and silly they can be.

Harvest Moon’s main characters also have them, specifically the ones from Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade. Same goes for the versions “A Wonderful Life Another Wonderful Life”, with Celia. Street Fighter option Dan Hibiki on the other hand also carries one that springs to the back of his head. Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 1 also have characters (Knight’s Sprite and Ramza) who have such forelocks.

Hair Antennae versus Ahoge Hair

Take note that hair antennae are very different from ahoge hair because they have a specific, soft and long curve to them that isn’t exclusive to ahoge, Antennae also come in pairs or more. Ahoge always has a single lock of hair coming from the same base, not sharing its base with any other locks of wayward hair. Hair antennae also tend to droop more compared to ahoge. Then again, hair antennae are the same with ahoge in the sense that having it still (sometimes) depicts someone who isn’t as smart or as serious as other characters.

Examples of those who have hair antennae include Ed Elric’s father, Van Hohenheim. He has antennae located (just like his son) on the hairline of his forehead. Cardcaptor Sakura’s main character, Sakura also has several antennae sticking out of her hair. Lastly, Saito Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin also has four separate antennae that droop over his face.

Complete Your Cosplay Look with The Best Hairstyle

When trying to perfect mimicking an anime character’s look, it’s important to take hair into account, along with how you dress. The hairstyle (especially the correct color, length, texture) really carries and brightens the entire look for cosplay. When it comes to drawn characters, the anime industry is especially meticulous with how hair looks. This means you must be meticulous too. Though you may not naturally have the ahoge hairstyle that the character you’re portraying does, there are ways to fix this. Grab that gel and hairspray, and get down to business with a good tutorial.

A Tutorial for Seizing That Real Ahoge Hair Look

There are many tutorials online on how to get the perfect ahoge look. Many of them use a wig and make do with it from there. While your specific character may not have the same hairstyle as the tutorial does, you may still use it for a general idea of how to make an ahoge wig.

First, study your character. What kind of hair does he have? Is it long, just above the shoulder, or short? Find a wig that matches it in terms of color, shape, length, style, and texture. Once you do, that’s when the customizing begins for the ahoge. Basically, you’ll need water, copper wire, glue, a paintbrush, some scissors (preferably ones that cut through hair well), a paper plate, and a chop of hair from the wig you’re using to shape the ahoge.

For the beginning, cut the copper wire to the length of how long you want your ahoge to be. You may want to leave some few extra inches of wire so you can tuck that part into the wig and secure it with ample support. Create the shape of the ahoge that you desire. Mix two parts water with one part glue on the paper plate, and dab the mixture with your paintbrush.

Then, Soak a clump of hair that is all parallel to each other (make sure that the hairs don’t crisscross, as this doesn’t produce an aesthetically correct or pleasing result) until it’s just about moist, but not drenched. Paste the glue-soaked hair around the wire carefully. Mold your hair onto the wire in parts, and let each segment dry before moving on to the next. You can speed up the drying process by using a blow dryer; just keep it on minimum warmth and speed.

Once you’ve covered the entire wire, smooth your surface by adding the final coating of hair for an even surface. Stick your ahoge wire on something so that the part that’s being molded doesn’t come in contact with anything else, which could possibly ruin your creation. Wait a couple of days, and voila – you have you ahoge. All you have to do now is secure it in the part of the wig where it belongs, perhaps with a few hidden clips and pins. You are now the proud owner of your very own ahoge wig.

Find Ahoge Wigs Online

If the process of customizing a wig to fit your ahoge is too much of a hassle, you may want to buy an ahoge wig online instead. Though there’s less of a chance that they have the exact wig you want, at least you can see what choices you can work with just in case.

Grey Hair: A Sign of Age?

Developing grey hair is a sign of age, though some people tend to grow this a little earlier than others. Hair turns grey because certain cells that used to produce color slowly come to a halt. Another reason could be because of hydrogen peroxide that builds up naturally in hair. Having an ahoge is completely independent of the color of your hair.

In anime, many characters have white hair, despite being relatively young. Some say that this is because of the transition from manga to anime, saying that manga is usually black and white, and it’s difficult to assign a color with so many in the spectrum. Others say this is done to make the character extra unique, letting him/her stand out more from the rest.

The ahoge hairstyle could happen to anyone, in any country around the world. If you have one, don’t worry – just as many of the anime characters disprove the parallel with “idiot hair” and being an actual idiot, so can you. Wear your ahoge loud and proud.