The Showdown: Adult Pigtails

Two writers face off on a highly controversial issue

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Pigtails Are Great If You Want to Look Like a Tiny Baby: Hear me out.

By Chantal Strasburger

It's Unpopular Opinion time. In which I tell you what you should and shouldn't do with your body for the sake of feminism. Ready? Let's go.

First, put down the second hair tie. You only need one elastic to do the job of holding back your hair—just the one—because you are a grown woman and no longer need a hairstyle that was created by parents desperate to keep baby hairs away from sticky mouths. Seeing adults sport pigtails gives me a nauseous feeling deep in the pit of my stomach, which, after 20 seconds of self-psychoanalysis, I've learned stems from society's perverse desire to fetishize schoolgirls and infantilize women. Think "…Baby One More Time"–era Britney Spears, the general motive behind anything that's referenced Lolita ever, and Ariana Grande.

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Now, before we proceed, let me clarify my definition of pigtails. (It's an extensive genre.) I'm talking high-on-the-head, swinging-in-the-wind, Michelle Tanner styles. I'll throw in a PSA that going the Miley double-topknot/twin-nubs route makes you look like a confused alien-rodent, but if that's your personal aesthetic, who am I to judge? Kidding: That's literally all I'm here to do right now.

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Adult pigtails. It feels wrong just typing that out. Try it. It's this twisted juxtaposition of associations that ends up feeling farcical. I also have a creeping suspicion that the simple act of gathering your hair into two sections and sticking them on top of your head somehow anatomically opens a valve that causes baby talk to happen to good people.

My point is, copping the hairstyle of a kindergartner is not doing any respectable woman any favors, and reality is harsh enough without living in denial of your age. Look, I get nostalgic too! Do I miss watching Reading Rainbow? Hell yes. Do I still watch it on Saturday mornings sometimes? Sure. There are plenty of ways to let your freaky-kid flag fly without parading around in a juvenile uniform.

Although overalls are still OK. And scrunchies.

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Double-Dare Hair: Don't let the patriarchy get in the way of your pigtails.

By Caitlin Smith

On March 27, 2014, I tweeted: "Is 26 too old 2 b rocking those @MileyCyrus pigtail buns or...?" More than a year later, asking no one's permission, I rocked them on my 28th birthday. Was I dressing younger in response to the impending end of my beloved 20s? Maybe. Was I finally old enough to have shed my insecurities about whether it was age-appropriate? Almost. Mainly, I just like how they look. That, and I'm a fan of any style that'll transform my feral-child-looking head of hair (thank you, NYC humidity) into a fun look. Really, what's not to love? The style is named after a curly li'l pigtail, after all—that's cute AF!

There's more of a story to the adorable hairstyle than you think, though. In ancient China, pigtails indicated marital status: girls would wear their hair that way to signify that they were single and ready to mingle. (You had to get real creative with your dating techniques before Tinder.) That's most likely why the look has been associated with youth and innocence for so long. But, with pigtail after pigtail making appearances on runways during the past few seasons, the hairstyle has started to morph into something more adult. From Jeremy Scott and Vera Wang to Marc Jacobs and DKNY, designers are proving that pigtails are endlessly versatile (braids, buns, loose, high, low...) and that there are tons of ways to wear them as a grown-up.

All sorts of style icons have been sporting them, too. Lana Del Rey flaunted silky, voluminous ones for her H&M campaign. Grimes tamed snakes and danced with football fans while sporting them in her videos for both "Genesis" and "Oblivion." And we all know that FKA Twigs is a strong advocate (and that anything and everything she does is instantly solidified as cool). My favorite so far may be the pigtail braids Queen Bey wore while posing in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. But some might argue that Miley was the one who really got the ball rolling with those Tumblr-friendly topknots (or "space buns," as she's dubbed them) that she seemed to wear through the entirety of 2013. (I'm a firm believer that she nicked that look from Sailor Moon, but that's a whole other essay.)

Regardless of who truly owns the look, all of these women have a style that's unapologetic and playful, no matter their age. Whether or not pigtails are something you're willing to explore, that's an attitude everyone should practice. Because where's the fun in being so serious all the time?

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