Pop Culture Moment: Braids Are Power!

Children, what have we learned from our time in Westeros?


If you don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” I don’t blame you because it’s hella violent and disturbing, but I will say that it’s also completely brilliant through Season 5, when the writers had to take off on their own without the source material of George R.R. Martin, and the dialogue suffers greatly for the loss. Still, by that point you’re pretty much in it for the dragons and Jon Snow’s outerwear, even though you will constantly murmur to yourself “why in tarnation do these people of the North have against HATS?” :

You know nothing, Jon Snow!

Speaking of hats and head styling, let’s talk about the amazing way that the show’s hairstyles comment on power. From early on, I figured out that the amount of elaborate braiding on the characters pretty much conveyed how much actual power they had, and I could predict by the braids on the ladies how long they’d last in their quest for the Iron Throne. Take a look:

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. She’s going all the way. Look at all that coiffure!

Sansa Stark, daughter of Eddard Stark, Warden of the North. Not too many braids — and those were mostly adopting the style at King’s Landing where she hoped in vain to become a major player. She’s still alive in Season 7, though, and she’s got some coiffure back after a devastating forced marriage to a psychopath:

Margaery of the House Tyrell. Interesting. Soft, curly, abundant hair, princess ringlets. Sorry, Marge. I correctly pegged you as no match for Cersei when your hair never made it to plaits:

Here’s our girl! Braids for days! She loses them in a contest of wills with the High Sparrow, which I’ll be analyzing in a follow-up post, but here she is at the height of her still semi-sane powers:

Missandei. Badass costuming but no braids, at least not yet, for this former slave and cherished translator to Danaerys.

Another amazing badass, Ygritte. As a wildling woman she has a lot of strength and courage but no actual power. RIP, Ygritte.

Finally, Lady Catelyn Stark. Loved her, but once I figured out that braids conveyed power, I feared for her life. Catelyn is fierce but she made some really stupid mistakes– AND she wore her hair loose with minimal coiffure. You can attribute that to the styles of the North versus King’s Landing, or you can read the story that hair is telling on a symbolic level…

Braids can be powerful, they can be milk maid-ish, they can be hippie-chickish, they can be lots of things. I became fascinated with how braids function in the “GOT” universe and wondered why they would be so important to the visual story. Here’s what I came up with:

On a practical level, intricate braiding requires that someone help the wearer of the style, which communicates wealth (the services of a lady’s maid) or tribal loyalties (the presence of kinswomen willing to put in the time to do the time-consuming labor).

Braids are aesthetically majestic and beautiful when wrapped about the head. They form a natural crown and are understood as such in many of the world’s cultures. One cannot wear a crown of braids without holding the head and neck with dignity and grace. Cersei looks royal in her crown of braids even when she’s not wearing an actual crown.

Braids convey strength because braiding hair or straw or vines makes the strands stronger. Plaiting is a form of weaving that transforms soft, pliable materials into sturdy, durable and even waterproof containers, fabrics and roofing material, and you look at here now to find more information about the same. These women are both very tightly woven. I suspect that one of them will wind up sovereign of the seven kingdoms if they can manage to beat back the Army of the Dead.

What story are you telling with your coiffure?


One Reply to “Pop Culture Moment: Braids Are Power!”

  1. The story I’m telling is “I had chemotherapy and although I didn’t lose all of my hair, it got kind of thin so I wear it super short and spiky in the hope that no one will notice that my scalp is showing through.” I like the haircut but not the scalp showing through. And I think of it as my Badass Haircut, like saying “F#%^ you, cancer!” But no braids here. [Just BADASSERY and I love you!!Praying for your full recovery, my dear lady. – PB]

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