Driving on my lunch break recently, I allowed an opening so that a man could turn onto one of the many alleyways in the twin cities. He gave a very pronounced nod and wave at me as he executed a flawless left turn and made his way. I noticed a beret-style hat over a brown ponytail once his profile was visible. I noticed something else, this in his eyes, deep within his soul: This man lives a serious life.
I pictured the rest of his day unfolding: A frappucino purchase at a nearby Caribou Coffee, perhaps accompanied by a Naked brand juice with guarana and echineacea root. An office meeting with new age favorites blaring from a boombox as colleagues surround a table sitting on ergonomic rubber balls. A perusing through The Economist as steak cutlets are tossed in cooking sherry. And if all goes according to plan-a viewing of “Hardball” with Chris Matthews before an 11:05 bedtime.
All of this thinking prompted me to ask myself: Do all men with ponytails act this seriously? I decided to recall some of my favorite “tailed” men throughout history, factual and fictional, to see if it all added up.
Samurais, 8th-18th Century Japan
The ponytail existed as a way of life for these military servicemen. Codes of excellence that defined them included martial prowess, high standards of conduct, selfless heroism and death before dishonor. In perhaps the most tragic of The Last Samurai’s scenes, Katsumoto’s son was pinned down while his long, proud ponytail was cut off. Serious.
Mario Batali, Chef, The Food Network
This redheaded cooking supremacist hosts the popular Molto Mario program, which serves as a culinary tour through Italy. “Perfectly pristine ingredients, combined sensibly and cooked properly, are the hallmarks of the best Italian food,” he says. Damn.
Alexander Hamilton, United States Secretary of Treasury, 1789-1795
This ponytail-rocking founding father helped the US “get its finance on” during the opening years of the nation. He was an advocate of strong national government, and kept his views despite making enemies with those who believed in strong state legislatures. And most serious of all? He died in a vicious gun duel with angry presidential candidate Aaron Burr in 1804. Serious business.
Steven Seagal, Actor, Musician and Healer
There is no ponytail I fear more than that of Steven Seagal’s. An acting resume that includes Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Under Siege, The Glimmer Man and Today You Die. A guitar hero who has rocked blues guitar with the likes of B.B. King. Bo Diddly and says “Music is the language of Gods that can bring all people together and, for this reason, music is an important part of my life.” A seventh-degree black belt who was the first Westerner to open an Aikido dojo in Japan. A zen healer. No need here to call into question Steven Seagal’s seriousness.
These athletes share a passion for the game unmatched by those with close-cropped haircuts. Roberto Baggio, 1993’s FIFA soccer player of the year, played in 16 world cup matches with Italy. David Seaman, goaltender for UK’s Arsenal, blocked many a soccer ball on the way to many championships. Spain’s Rafael Nadal is rarely defeated in clay court tennis matches. And Joakim Noah, once a clown for Florida basketball, has taken a more serious tone in the NBA, arguing his way into suspensions for the Chicago Bulls. You will be hard-pressed to find athletes with ponytails who half-step in their respective areas.
Fictional Men with Ponytails who Take Themselves Seriously
Furio Giunta, The Sopranos
Guy with deadly life-ending virus, 12 Monkeys
The Patriot as portrayed by Mel Gibson, The Patriot
Who are some of your favorite men with ponytails? I must know!