The lockdown staple – ideally complete with a scrunchie – the top knot has a long, much more meaningful history than it’s often granted. Like so many hairstyles, there’s way more to it than just hey, this looks cool: disciplined hair is loaded with significance, far beyond being a practical approach to styling. What we call topknots have deep relevance in religions including Hinduism, Sikkhism and Buddhism – and in the Ayurvedic system the Rishi knot is believed to guide the flow of energy and prana through the body, like a spiritual antennae. In Māori culture, the tikitiki was a signifier of status, while in Edo Period Japan, the traditional hairstyle for a samurai was the chonmage – head shaved except for hair on either side which was pulled to the centre of the head and worn in a topknot. Samurai who were defeated in battle even had to cut off their knot as a sign of shame.
Top knots have long been associated with other pivotal life moments too; in Joseon Dynasty Korea, the sangtu knot denoted to the world that a man had got married – and so prevalent was the style that men even had special hats made with a space for their top knot. In China, 15-year-old girls were announced as coming of age through the ji li hair-pinning ceremony, where her hair would be tied up in a bun, often by a married and respected female relative.