Hair today, gone tomorrow
Suspension of disbelief is something that's simply inherent to playing video games. It's a digital fantasy, so just roll with it, people! When it comes to character creation, artists have free reign, knowing that silly things like physics and gravity have no bearing on in-game costumes and weapons. But no matter how lenient you are of outlandish designs, there's one piece that's often just too much to get over: the hair.
It seems like concept artists have a grudge against barbers and their hair-destroying ways, because they go absolutely nuts with the locks, curls, and tresses that get slapped onto on their heroes and villains. Then again, maybe they're not as unrealistic as they look. To get to the bottom of this haircut conundrum, we consulted with Hillary Henninger, an expert hair stylist with years of professional experience. It's time to untangle these head-mounted mysteries once and for all.
Spike trap (Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII)
Wearer is best known for: Being angsty; wielding a sword that must weigh three times as much as he does.
Trademark hairstyle: Classic pointy-haired anime, in the same vein as Goku and his ilk. Even with the CG stylings of Advent Children, it hardly seems possible to achieve such a pointed, feathery plume.
But can it be done? "This could be a form of dreadlock," Henninger explains. Cloud's hair looks like "gnarly sections that aren't separating, so they're staying together." Add in some hair glue, and Cloud's style won't be far off. There is a catch: Cloud's mane is probably a disgusting hair graveyard by now. "Around 100 strands of hair fall out a day. With dreadlocks, none of it's falling out, because they're all dreaded together. So it's basically half dead hair." Blech. Get it together, Cloud.
Flat top (Guile, Street Fighter II)
Wearer is best known for: Sonic Booms, advocating others to go home and be a family man, and a theme that goes with everything.
Trademark hairstyle: This is the mother of all flattop haircuts, which instantly snaps back to its original form even after Guile assaults it with a flick of a comb post-match. If you were to balance a level atop Guile's noggin, we'd imagine it would sit perfectly straight.
But can it be done? Nope. "Every hair is growing at different paces," says Henninger. "There's three stages of hair growth, and every single one of your hairs is in a different one. Unless, every morning, he has a guillotine he uses to chop his hairbut he would need help." Basically, we're looking at a multi-person hair dresser job every time Guile gets out of bed in the morning.
White guy fro (Eddie Wachowski, SSX Tricky)
Wearer is best known for: Being extremely white, as well as the only video game character to be voiced by David Arquette.
Trademark hairstyle: A gargantuan afro, which is as majestic as a lion's mane and as smooth as a giant orange. One wonders if Eddie's actually able to maintain that marble-like texture, or if the PS2 simply isn't capable of rendering a wooly head of hair.
But can it be done? Sort of. "Depends on how coarse and curly this guy's hair is," says Henninger. But no afro could ever be that smooth, no matter your nationality, she explains. "That could just be a big Styrofoam ball spray-painted." In essence, Eddie's fro is an oversized, glorified version of those dorky toppers you see on car antennas.
Test tube baby (Female protagonist, Legend of Mana)
Wearer is best known for: Being a nameless hero that endeavored to restore the Mana Tree and its magic-enabling properties to life.
Trademark hairstyle: Either those are metal rods coming out of her cranium, or this is just one of the weirdest hairstyles we've ever seen anywhere. Strangely, nobody seems to notice that this poor girl's head looks like it's in the middle of a cupping therapy session.
But can it be done? Nada. "That must be heavy," says Henninger. "I don't know how they'd be staying in there." Even if they were fiberglass pipes, there's just no way. "If you're moving around, there's nothing for them to hold on to. That's going to pull the hair right out." The only way this could be possible is if they were metal-coated bones jutting out of her skull, like the far less fortunate version of Wolverine.
Straight up (Benimaru, King of Fighters)
Wearer is best known for: Pairing up with Kyo and Goro to fight as Japan Team; having electrostatic superpowers, being sexy and knowing it.
Trademark hairstyle: Benimaru's eraser top is the stuff of legends, but it's actually done completely sans hair gel. Instead, it's the static energy constantly buzzing about Benimaru that keeps his hair standing on end.
But can it be done? "It's definitely possible," says Henninger. "Static can definitely raise hair. Can it raise all of it to stay straight up all the time? No." Benimaru's hair could even be fatal. "Even if he had some product in it, that has some moisture in it, so he would definitely be electrocuted." Shocking.
Magical hairsuit (Bayonetta, Bayonetta)
Wearer is best known for: Wielding four magical pistols at once; summoning a vortex of hair to create giant heels or dragon-like monstrosities to crush angels to smithereens.
Trademark hairstyle: The craziness doesn't stop at Bayonetta's beehive hairdo. Look closely (or just play the game), and you'll notice that her entire outfit is made entirely on her own hair. A skintight outfit, at that.
But can it be done? At face value, maybe: a beehive-extensions combo could work. But with the suit? There's just no way. It could never contour to your body. "Even if it was long enough, it still wouldn't be thick enough to cover you," says Henninger. If Bayonetta only settled for the best--Russian-made, real hair extensions--it might cost her up to $1,500. Yikes. On the other hand, her basic bob in Bayonetta 2 is drop-dead simple to do.
Striped pompadour (Vulcano Rosso, Street Fighter EX 2 Plus)
Wearer is best known for: Being of the most forgettable Street Fighter characters ever made; using volcano-summoning powers to avenge his slain lover.
Trademark hairstyle: Imagine a zebra's torso with a tentacle for a head, and you pretty much have Vulcano's hairstyle down. This might be what Alfalfa from the Little Rascals will look like as an adult.
But can it be done? Yes, and rather easily compared to the others here. "You would just be doing slices of highlighting [the hair]," says Henninger. There would be a hellish amount of bleach and foil on Vulcano's head, but it could be done. Henninger describes his pompadour as very "Elvis-like," which could be achieved through copious amounts of teasing.
Helmet head (Hakan, Super Street Fighter IV)
Wearer is best known for: Lathering himself in olive oil during street fights; having the same skin complexion as Hellboy without anyone batting an eye.
Trademark hairstyle: At first glance, it's easy to mistake Hakan's coiffure to be a weird skullcap with metal rivets. But nope--that's his haircut, which amazingly retains its shape even when it's dripping with viscous, follicle-obliterating oils.
But can it be done? HELL no. "I don't know how you could get a tool that could do that," says Henninger. "Oil would make everything slick and fall," so Hakan's hair would deflate immediately. Plus, the color could never stay that blue for long, unless it was burned into blonde hair (unlikely). Conclusion: "Not even remotely possible."
Inverse fish hook (Charlie, Street Fighter Alpha)
Wearer is best known for: Being Guile's best bro; having the name "Nash" in Japan; quite possibly dying in an M. Bison-started fire.
Trademark hairstyle: Depending on which Alpha you're talking about, the sharp right angle jutting out of Charlie's head is different degrees of extreme. Keep in mind, Charlie is able to do double backflip Flash Kicks while keeping his hair perfectly steady.
But can it be done? Likely. Looks like a wire deal--the question is, where does the base go? "One thing it could be is connected to a clip of some sort," says Henninger. There's another, more horrifying possibility: "This could potentially just be a hairpiece," says Henninger. "This could be something that's artificial, that he stuck on, just to be cooler." The jig is up, Charlie. You're a balding man covering up a terrible secret.
Aerodynamic wings (Heihachi Mishima, Tekken)
Wearer is best known for: Hosting many of the King of the Iron Fist tournaments; throwing his son Kazuya off a cliff.
Trademark hairstyle: This is what happens when you're balding, and rather than rocking a hideous comb over, decide to spike your sideburns into full-on horns. It just goes to show that even when you're over the hill, nothing's stopping you from having a wicked haircut.
But can it be done? Easily. "That's just a lot of product, and his hair isn't that long, so it wouldn't be that heavy," says Henninger. He could even maintain it into old age, considering the hair will only get thinner.
Missile launcher (Daryan Crescend, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney)
Wearer is best known for: Possibly being the only international detective that moonlights as a rock guitarist.
Trademark hairstyle: Yes, Crescend's 'do does look a bit phallic, but given his fashion sense, it's actually meant to resemble the nose of a shark. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice his shark-tooth zipper and toothed hoodie; the gaudy hairstyle simply ties the look all together.
But can it be done? "There's no way," says Henninger within seconds of seeing Crescend. "To have [the tip be] white, I don't know how you could do that. That's not the end of his hair; I'm seeing tips [on the back of his head], so to dye the middle of the hair with that precisionthat just wouldn't work." Unless Crescend's wearing a cone on his head, this simply can't be done.
Hole-y mohawk (Birdie, Street Fighter Alpha)
Wearer is best known for: Choke-slamming people with a chain, then licking said chain in a profoundly discomforting way.
Trademark hairstyle: It's like you took a cookie cutter and slammed it through the world's most magnificent mohawk. From the sides, it looks a bit like a blonde can opener.
But can it be done? No way. "If there's a plastic thing on top of his head," says Henninger, "that would work. If it was hair, that would never work." It's elementary, really--if you cut a hole in your hair, there's nothing for the upper parts to stand on. A perfect disc-shaped gap in a mohawk simply isn't possible in the real world.
Cinnamon bun antennae (June Lin Milliam, Star Gladiator)
Wearer is best known for: Using a halo--excuse us, plasma ring--as a futuristic weapon; being a gymnast in the 24th century.
Trademark hairstyle: Take pigtails, twirl them into a ball, then make them defy gravity. They look like a cross between antlers and a snail's shell.
But can it be done? Sure, either through wires or a hairpiece setup. "This could all be her regular hair, and the antennae could just be clip-in wig things." If they were fake, custom-designing extensions for June's head could cost upwards of $100. And they'd need what Henninger describes as a series of interwoven "hardcore clips" to stay in.
Spaghetti ram horns (Larxene, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories)
Wearer is best known for: Being the only female member of Organization XIII; perforating her enemies with electrified throwing knives.
Trademark hairstyle: Another antennae-like hairstyle, grafted onto a slicked-back pixie cut.
But can it be done? Sure. The blue eyes implies that the blonde color could easily be natural; "all she's doing is gelling it back, then putting some wax or hair glue [on the sides]," says Henninger. Alternatively, Larxene could stick a wire in her hair, a la Pippy Longstocking. Though we're not sure that'd play out so well in combat--Henninger emphasizes that "if she's moving around, that would never stay."
Extended donut (Agent J, Elite Beat Agents)
Wearer is best known for: Using the power of dance to help people in need and defending the planet from an alien invasion.
Trademark hairstyle: It looks like a giant picked up Agent J by the hair, twirled it tightly around his pinky, then gently placed him back on the ground so as not to ruffle his snazzy suit. All of this was done to the tune of "Jumping Jack Flash," by the way.
But can it be done? Shockingly, this hairstyle is possible. "If he could have a really long part of his hair combed over," explains Henninger, "he could take his hair, wrap it around a Styrofoam donut, and pin it in." Even crazier is the fact that he might be able to make it stick whilst dancing. "It's pretty light--if you're spraying it and securing it enough, it would probably be OK."
WTF is happening (Seymour Guado, Final Fantasy X)
Wearer is best known for: Preaching for the church of Yevon; massively c-blocking our hero Tidus when he asks Yuna to marry him.
Trademark hairstyle: Without the spikes, Seymour's hair would be fairly ordinary, even with the deep navy blue coloring. With the spikes, it looks like some kind of freakish spider/jellyfish hybrid has implanted itself onto Seymour's skull.
But can it be done? "This is not hair," Henninger says conclusively. "This is a headpiece. There's no way. At best, it's plastic or a styrofoam, spray-painted thing with a headband." And a custom-made hairpiece wouldn't come cheap--Seymour must be fronting the bill with all that Yevon money.
The Rapunzel (Millia Rage, Guilty Gear)
Wearer is best known for: Using her hair as a deadly weapon to carry out assassinations.
Trademark hairstyle: Setting aside the fact that her hair can morph and lash out at will, this mane is as long as they get. And the fact that Millia uses her own hair as a chair during some intros is truly impressive.
But can it be done? "This is impossible to maintain," says Henninger. "How would you even start to brush it? You couldn't function." To shampoo and wash such a style would take hours upon hours, and just forget about blow-drying. Plus, to achieve this length, you'd probably have to start growing it from birth. Sorry for the bad news, Guilty Gear cosplayers. The final verdict? "Completely impossible."
Red Marge (Kindle, Advance Wars)
Wearer is best known for: Commanding Black Hole troops with an iron fist; excelling at combat in urban terrain.
Trademark hairstyle: As her name suggests, Kindle rocks a fiery-red head of hair, which looks like it could pop a balloon. And we have no idea what's going on with that little curvy knot where her bangs should be.
But can it be done? Perhaps, but it's impractical as all get-out. "Money-wise, for the dye alone, that would be around $200," says Henninger. "Her eyebrows are darker, so you'd have to bleach all of it first [to achieve the bright red color]. Product-wise, she could easily have a beehive, and just put the hair around it." And the battlefield can't be good for her 'do: all that hair product would likely retain all the ash and dust that's kicked around by the surrounding warzone.
Polychromatic 'hawk (Duck King, Fatal Fury)
Wearer is best known for: Breakdance fighting, having a duck entourage.
Trademark hairstyle: A razor thin Mohawk that's both bright yellow and deep blue. It frequently bobs back and forth during battle, be it on the streets or the dance floor.
But can it be done? Yes, for a price. Duck King would have to bleach his hair profusely and shave the sides of his head constantly to maintain the look. "You'd have to do that every three or four days, because hair grows fast," says Henninger. "He'd then have to dye it blue--but blue color is only pigment, so it's only going to be on the outside." He'd also need ample amounts of hair glue and wax to make it stay, and burn in the blue hue with a flat iron. Total cost? "Probably around $150, each time." Doesn't sound like breakdancer money to us.
So, any good ones (like Amy Sorel from Soulcalibur, above) that we might've missed? Let us know, because we've now got the go-to authority on video game hair on call. Are you envious of any of the hairstyles that only game characters could pull off?
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