When a male character in a movie has a ponytail, the ponytail often says more about him than any of his words or actions. Whether he’s dangerous, heroic, sleazy, or even just bangin’ someone’s ex-girlfriend, a ponytail is a warning sign to all – there’s something a little suspicious going on with this dude. A ponytail is to men what press-on nails are to women: frightening, creepy and not found in nature. Sometimes all you need to know about a man you learn in his ponytail – otherwise known as brotail.
By Nathan Bloch
The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.
10. Kevin Costner in Waterworld
Nothing makes a dude grumpier than spending his entire life adrift at sea, never having a patch of earth to call his own. You can only drink your own piss so many days in a row before you’re ready to either jump in the sea and drown or grow a ponytail. Kevin Costner’s character, Mariner, went with the latter option. The world was the worse off for his decision.
Despite the fact that Waterworld was a cinematic cannonball in the deep end of the box office swimming pool when it came out in ’95, soaking everyone who came near, it has left something to the legacy of ponytails. It’s true: Costner’s ponytail is one of the greasiest, thinnest, and just all around rattiest of any ponytail ever recorded on film. You’d think a guy who spends a good amount of time around water would eventually get around to washing his unkempt locks. But who needs a shower when you’ve got a ponytail?!
9. Antonio Banderas in Desperado
Source: Columbia Pictures
Here’s a guy who’s good with a guitar and a gun, and carries either of the two at any given time in his guitar case. Nothing spells badass like pulling a fire arm out of your case when everyone thinks you’re about to play a little flamenco guitar. And the Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) does just this. He’s out for vengeance and good music, and is liable to bust out a little of both in the same scene if provoked.
Few people have made the ponytail look as cool as Banderas, and few people ever will again. It never hurts to have a lass like Salma Hayek on your arm while you’re toting your weaponry and sporting your brotail – though it’s been proven that it’s twice as lethal to be attacked by a man who disguises his blood lust beneath a penchant for sweet melodies and long locks.
8. Tim Robbins in High Fidelity
It’s one thing to have your girlfriend stolen by a douchebag, and it’s another thing altogether to have your girlfriend stolen by a douchebag with a ponytail. Somehow it’s like salt in the wounds to know that your girlfriend deemed a dude with a ‘tail cooler than you. And when his name is Ian (or Ray) and he wears rings on his fingers and beads around his neck, it’s that much worse.
As Ray, Tim Robbins is the classic Ponytail Guy. You know who I’m talking about. The guy who acts like he’s super down to earth ‘cause he claims to read Lao Tze and practice Tai Chi. The guy who says he never gets angry but seems like he’s always about to go ballistic whenever he misplaces a Birkenstock. The guy who wants you to think he’s at peace with mankind but spends his Thursdays scamming on other dude’s girlfriends when they’re having a girl’s night out. The guy who wants you to think he’s not materialistic ‘cause he doesn’t put gel in his hair, but in fact spends more time maintaining his ponytail than most guys spend masturbating.
7. Richard Tyson in Kindergarten Cop
Cullen Crisp, Sr. (Richard Tyson) is a bad, bad man. That he deals drugs and shoots people is the skinny of it. But just in case the drug dealing and people-shooting wasn’t enough to tip us off that he’s a real bad guy, the dude wears a ponytail. It’s hard to say what’s more dangerous, Crisp’s penchant for drug trafficking and murder or his proclivities for ponytails. Both can be crimes against humanity, but only one is a crime against common sense.
I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but let me just say that usually when a man with a ponytail (or dredlocks) goes up against Arnold Schwarzenegger it’s going to get a little bit ugly, and you’d have to be insane to bet against the muscles from Austria. A better fight would have been Antonio Banderas from Desperado vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger from Twins, and you’d be wondering the whole time whether Danny DeVito would side with Arnold or his fellow man in ponytail.
6. Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall
Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow is another rare guy who can rock the ponytail and actually make it look good. Of course, any guy who fights bears can rock a ponytail without breaking a sweat. Fighting bears pretty much makes you exempt from any standards of male grooming. In fact, it pretty much makes you exempt from everything.
The great part about Ludlow’s ponytail is that it’s an early twentieth century ponytail, and these are more legit than contemporary ponytails. Back in the day real men didn’t groom with as much frequency as we do now. Beards, hair and teeth were all subject to much less scrutiny. Other things were prioritized above hygiene, such as eating, breathing, and survival.
Oh, yeah – and fighting bears.
5. Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown
As Ordell Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson brings a certain chaotic, unpredictable element to the ponytail. We know from the outset that he’s a bad guy, but you never really know what exactly that ponytail of his really means. Is he cruel, greedy, or just downright mean? It doesn’t help that he also sports a variant of the ponytail on his chin – the chintail. That just throws even more confusion into the mix.
What do you get when you have a tail in the back and a tail in the front? You get a man you need to avoid at all costs. Ordell has bad news written all over him, and he tries to screw pretty much everyone who crosses his path. The chintail is like saying, “I liked the ponytail so much, I decided to replicate it on my face.” It’s like killing a man and then refusing to give him a proper burial. Few things are more follically frightening on a bad guy than a ponytail, but the chintail/ponytail combo is definitely one of them.
4. John Turturro in The Big Lebowski
Jesus Quintana, a.k.a. “The Jesus”, doesn’t do anything half-assed. This goes for bowling, polyester and, yes, it sure as sh*t goes for ponytails. He’s undaunted by those things that would daunt your average man. Scissors and electric shavers do not stand a chance against his fearsome goatee and ponytail.
When it comes right down to it, Jesus is the guy you want on your team, because when he decides to throw down he’s most likely throwing down big balls. He might not have invented the ponytail, but hell if he didn’t tame it and then make it wild all over again – just to make you squirm.
3. Val Kilmer in Heat
Source: Warner Brothers Pictures
Heat is a genius movie because it takes a group of guys who would in any other film be labeled “bad” and makes them more or less good, or at least sympathetic. Val Kilmer’s character, Chris Shiherlis, is one of these good bad guys, and he makes us feel even more morally conflicted because he rocks a ponytail. The guy steals money for a living and is even involved in the murder of several security officers, but on top of all this we have to deal with his brotail. This makes it very difficult to know how we feel about him.
Of course, in the end we like Chris. It’s hard not to. And we certainly can’t hold his brotail against him. He fights the good fight and in the end becomes a fugitive, from his life and his family.
But more than all of this, something very important about Chris and his ponytail must be noted to really appreciate his stature within the world of cinematic brotails. In a metaphorical transition from husband, father, and thief to fugitive, Chris’s ponytail is gone when he finally returns to his wife and learns that he must run from the law. His loss of ponytail is a kind of loss of self, and thus a metamorphosis into something strange and different. The good times are over and he is forced to shun his family and life as he knew it.
Chris learns that to lose his ‘tail is to lose his tail, and all the creature comforts concomitant with society are forever forsaken him.
2. Sean Connery in Medicine Man
Sean Connery is going to make just about any kind of coiffure look good, and he rocks the ponytail with gusto as Dr. Robert Campbell in Medicine Man. He’s a cantankerous curmudgeon with a nasty streak of old world sexism to boot, but in the end his brotail symbolizes that he’s open-minded enough to eventually come around to his female research assistant, Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco).
Connery brings a charming sagacity to the ponytail, a respectable gentlemanliness that it lacks in younger men. What would otherwise signal rebelliousness or truancy in lesser men, Connery makes both intellectual and wise. The danger with the Older Gentleman Ponytail (OGP) is that it can easily devolve into the Slovenly Senile Ponytail (SSP), one of the worst kinds of ponytail. Connery daringly walks the fine line between these two ponytails in Medicine Man.
1. Steven Seagal in everything
Steven Seagal’s mother once attempted to cut off his ponytail at an early age. He spent the next twenty years of his life in a coma, from which he awoke as a fully grown man in possession of some of the most dangerous martial arts skills the world has ever seen. And, yes, his ponytail had grown back.
Steven Seagal without a ponytail is like Abraham Lincoln without the Civil War. Steven Seagal without a ponytail is like The Dukes of Hazzard without Hazzard. Steven Seagal without a ponytail is like mashed potatoes that have been merely squashed.
Back in the day, ponytails were known as queues, and if you were a soldier in any European army then you were required to wear your hair in a ponytail. Somehow that sense of martial honor infused itself into the marrow of Steven Seagal’s soul, and he hasn’t been able to exist – at least onscreen – without sporting the ‘tail. He’s elevated what could have become a historical oddity into a cinematic necessity, and reminded us that a ponytail on a man doesn’t automatically make that man a sissy.
Sometimes it makes him Steven Seagal.
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