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All About Mohawks (the hairstyle)

Updated on March 17, 2012

The Mohawk’s origins come from either the Mohican, Iroquois or Huron tribes (likely worn by all the above). It’s origin is in question, but we do know that it was worn, along with paint, to look fierce during wartime. In World War II American soldiers used the same technique, adopting Mohawks as an attempt to intimidate German soldiers. More recently the Mohawk was adopted by the Punk crowd, and of course, Mr. T.

The Mohawk is actually older than you might think. A 2,000 year old male body was found in Ireland in 2003, knows as Clonycavan Man, and he wore a Mohawk. Artwork has also been found at the Pazyryk burial ground, dating back to 600 BC, depicting warriors who may be wearing Mohawks (though they look more like helmets to me). Sculptures have also been found of Olmec women who seem to be sporting the hairstyle.

A Mohawk, of course, is when your hair is shaven down on either side and left long in the center. It’s very high maintenance and needs the attention of a buzzer every week or so if you want to keep it looking right. It doesn’t sit well with current conventions of beauty, but neither is it a fully appreciated hair cut. It is a lot more versatile than you might think, and as someone whose been sporting one for the last three years, I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be a way to say “F**k you” to convention, establishment, ‘the man’ or anyone else for that matter. Some people, myself included, just like the way it looks.

Of course, the Mohawk has become a lot more mainstream in recent years. Below are a number of ways the Mohawk is worn in the ancient and modern worlds.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pazyryk Burial Site Artwork What do you think? Hat or hair?Clonycavan man rockin' the 'hawk.Olmec lady being very stylish.
Pazyryk Burial Site Artwork What do you think? Hat or hair?
Pazyryk Burial Site Artwork What do you think? Hat or hair?
Clonycavan man rockin' the 'hawk.
Clonycavan man rockin' the 'hawk.
Olmec lady being very stylish.
Olmec lady being very stylish.

Clonycavan Man

I guess those of us wearing mohawks today all have the Clonycavan man to thank for it. It makes sense to me that this hairstyle is older than we originally thought. One of the defining aspects of our species is the need to make things beauitiful, to decorate and create and to generally celebrate life by embellishing it. The mohawk, being relatively easy to maintain, symmetrical and (in the opinion of many) attractive seems like a pretty obvious choice for ancient people looking to spruce themselves up. It's strange though, Ireland is pretty chilly, seems like shaving your head, and sapping your body heat wouldn't be the best idea in the world. I suppose that's what hats are for.

Pazyryk warriors

This painting is strange to me, the hair (whole head area) is most perplexing. For on thing this guy's head is enourmous. It reminds me more of the masks samurai wore, or a sports mascot without the rest of his costume on. It looks strangely vacuous as well. And with the rest of the picture painted in such lean lines (even the horse's head is smaller than the rider's) it seems like there is something wrong. Plus, the hair on his head could easily just be a short hair cut. Personally, I'm guessing it's not a mohawk at all but wiser people than I have claimed it may be. What do you think?

Olmec Woman

This lovely Olmec lady could be wearing a mohawk, however, seeing as she has massive jewelry in her ears and there seems to be some kind of seem around her head it could also be a hat, potentially on a shaved head. The shape of the plume on her head seems very specific to me. It almost looks like a bird's or alpaca's head. Again, it's hard to tell with ancient art. The way things are depicted is so integrally related to a culture that we can only know through relics. I hope it's a mohawk, though. One more for the team!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mr. T being intimidating. Naima Mora from Top Model and her rather elegant mohawk.A temorary mohawk.Baby 'hawk!A more traditional (lol) punk rock mohawk.Liberty spikes!My mohawk when I first cut it, very poofy :)My mohawk more recently, and much longer. (please ignore silliness of picture)
Mr. T being intimidating.
Mr. T being intimidating.
Naima Mora from Top Model and her rather elegant mohawk.
Naima Mora from Top Model and her rather elegant mohawk.
A temorary mohawk.
A temorary mohawk.
Baby 'hawk!
Baby 'hawk!
A more traditional (lol) punk rock mohawk.
A more traditional (lol) punk rock mohawk.
Liberty spikes!
Liberty spikes!
My mohawk when I first cut it, very poofy :)
My mohawk when I first cut it, very poofy :)
My mohawk more recently, and much longer. (please ignore silliness of picture)
My mohawk more recently, and much longer. (please ignore silliness of picture)

Mr. T

Mr. T has famously been sporting the mohawk for years. For him though, it's a lot more than just a way to look intimidating. He once said that, "My folks came from Africa. They were from the Mandinka tribe. They wore their hair like this. These gold chains I wear symbolize the fact that my ancestors were brought over here as slaves." Mr. T, and his personal reasons for wearing a Mohawk are a great example of how much more this hairstyle can be than a way to stick it to 'The Man'. For him it has become a badge of identity and a connection to his roots. It has become something beautiful. .

Naima Mora

Naima Mora is the woman who won Cycle 4 of America's Next Top Model. At the time she was sporting the beautiful mohawk you can see in the picture in the slideshow above. She didn't keep it long after the show ended but she was the first woman I ever saw who made a mohawk pretty and feminine instead of aggressive or rebelious. She became my inspiration years later when I decided to take to the razor myself.

Temporary Mohawks

It has long been common for women (including, at one point, Christina Aguilera) to dabble in mohawks without committing to buzzing their hair off. I've seen a lot of women sportng mohawks that have been achieved with stratefically placed corn rows and a lot of gel.

In the same vein a lot of parents buzz little baby mohawks onto their infants heads. It's so freakin' cute and only lasts a couple weeks since their hair grows in so fast.

More "traditional" Punk Mohawks, and Liberty Spikes

And here, in bright pink, is the mohawk that most people think of when they think of the "The Mohawk". This is the one that tends to denote youthful rebellion and sometimes anger. It's meant to look kind of ratty and greasy (unavoidable really considering how much product you have to get in their to keep it up), and is often seen as a badge of anarchism. The funny thing about these mohawks is they require so much maintenance. You have to shave the sides every few days or at least once a week. You have to be constantly bleaching and re-dying them to maintain the bright colour and you have to buy a ridiculous amount product. If anything, maintaining this hairstyle is a great boon to hair product corporations all over the world.

My Mohawk (3 years ago)

I had a mohawk in highschool that was a misguided attempt at being quirky. I had dyed my hair every colour I could think of and was still bored. Unfortunately I buzzed it really short and couldn't avoid looking very butch (much to my boyfriend's chagrin). I let that grow in as fast as I could but a few years later I realized how much I missed it. My first trip to the salon was with a picture of Naima Mora in hand, I was thrilled the result. Who knew I could look feminine and have a mohawk too! But, I've never been one to spend a long time on my hair. I need something I can brush and be done with, but having long hair has always been so chaffingly boring.

I let it grow out. I can still pouf it (and do on a regular basis) when I want to get my rockabilly on but more often than not I leave it down (it's a little past shoulder length). To my great delight it has been described by others as pretty, elegant and feminine. It's the only haricut I've ever kept for more than six months.


I think that, for women especially, our hair can have a great effect on us. A bad hair day often becomes a bad day. I think this probably relates to the fact that long, healthy hair is a sign that we are healthy and fertile. But whatever it comes from we need to feel that our hair is beautiful. Don't be afraid to experiment or take on a hairstyle that has meant other things that you don't personally relate to. If you can make it your own you may find it's the best things you've ever done (to your hair).

Have you ever had a Mohawk?

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Let me know what you think about Mohawks in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I currently have a hawk and I curl it. It is super cute and feminine. Of course i kept it to my natural color (blonde). I am to old for funky colors.

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      I like your style Robin!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm 45 and I just got a mohawk it's orange red color,I like it

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Yes Aex, it seems like they have been around for a very long time. I was watching a documentary about the migration of man not too long ago and in the reenactment a few of the first people in Europe and North America were sporting mohawks. Clearly the history channel did it's research.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Some people call it racist for white people to have Mohawks. Those people have little education in pre christian Europe then. Actually the Cossack soldiers in the 1500s wore Mohawks too. It's a universal haircut, not just native American

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      They are certainly not for everyone. I love mine but I do wonder how long I'm going to be able to pull it off.

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope your daughter enjoys it :)

    • Mmargie1966 profile image


      7 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      I'm not opposed to the Mohawk. My daughter and many of her friends have had one...all different lengths and colors. I'm 45 years old, and just don't think it appropriate for a woman my age wearing that type of hair style.

      I say, if its your way to express yourself...go for it!

      Thanks, a.r., I plan to send this to my daughter.

      Voted up and useful :)


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