Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

The origins of the hair braid and its significance in 'Game of Thrones'

There's more behind Daenerys Targaryen's choice of hairstyle than we realise

Emilia Clarke plays white-haired Daenerys Targaryen. HBO via AP
Emilia Clarke plays white-haired Daenerys Targaryen. HBO via AP

The braid might just be one of the most versatile hairstyles around. It can be worn tight to the head or flowing loosely, thick or thin, neat or messy. And while many eras and cultures around the world have left their mark on braid styles, the basic plait’s origin dates back more than 30,000 years.

The oldest record of a plait comes from a braided statue known in academia as the Venus of Willendorf, thought to have been made between 25,000 and 30,000 BC. However, African tribes have been braiding for centuries. For many tribes, the hair was a symbol of power, and intricate and ornate braiding styles were used to reflect this, with details varying from tribe to tribe. In ancient Egypt, young girls wore plaits, while for royalty, braids were intricately decorated with gold thread, flowers and ribbons.

In ancient Greece, braids were seen as a sign of wealth and were worn pulled back in delicate updos – the more intricate the braid, the higher social status you were deemed to have. Meanwhile, for Native Americans, braids were worn loosely as pigtails, and symbolised strength and unity.

Fast-forward to the modern day and braids are still as prevalent, and are worn by women of all ages, from all cultures. A quick search on YouTube will bring up more than one million braid tutorials, many of which are inspired by Game of Thrones’s Daenerys Targaryen. What fans of the show might not know, however, is the significance of the hairstyle in this context. Have you noticed how her braid gets more detailed as the series has gone on? That’s because back in season one, Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke, revealed that each braid symbolised a victory on the battlefield, so perhaps we can expect a few more braids to join before the series is out.

Updated: April 18, 2019 03:38 PM

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