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Updated: September 9, 2010 02:56 IST

Rugby team knows the value of plaits

Emine Saner
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ON THE BATTLEFIELD: The players and their hidden plaits.
ON THE BATTLEFIELD: The players and their hidden plaits.

Simple hair braids can make anyone feel like a warrior.

“Most of my time is spent in my room, French-plaiting other girls' hair,” said Rachael Burford, centre player in the England women's rugby team, over the weekend. No snide comments about this being what all girls do when they get together, please — Burford, and her braided friends then go out on the rugby pitch where, if you caught any of the recent world cup, you will have noticed that the women are just as fearless as their male counterparts.

“It has got to the point now when I feel a bit weird if I don't do someone's hair before a game,” said Burford. “Some of the girls look really tough with their hair plaited, so it's also a psychological thing — a victorious thing.” Sadly, victory wasn't tied up in those braids — the team lost to New Zealand in the September 5 final — but many of the players, including Danielle Waterman, Sarah Hunter and Katy McLean, looked fierce, like warrior women going into battle.

In literature

“Plaits are the earliest of hairstyles because before haircutting and hairdressing, people obviously had long hair and plaits were the simplest way of keeping it out of the way,” says fashion historian Caroline Cox. For that reason, she says, we associate plaits with both women and men, and particularly those who are involved in athletic pursuits, such as war. Think of Legolas in “The Lord of the Rings”, or the super strong Obelix in the “Asterix” cartoons. “For women, Boudicca or Valkyrie plaits seem to enhance their ferocity,” says Cox.

“It was a practical hairstyle until we get to the 19th century, when it begins to be associated with female children. Even now, plaits on the whole have the meaning of the youthful schoolgirl.” Not an image you will associate with England's nearly victorious rugby team. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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