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Palgrave Macmillan

The Ponytail

Icon, Movement, and the Modern (Sports)Woman

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • Combines sociology, anthropology, and emotion-oriented theories in a meaning-centered study of the ponytail
  • Draws upon print media over the past 80 years to hermeneutically reconstruct gendered codes and the meaning of ponytails
  • Draws upon Durkheim's realist notion, Durkheim's Elementary Forms, and cultural sociology of performance and iconicity
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: Cultural Sociology (CULTSOC)

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About this book

This open access book adopts a cultural sociology of materiality to explore the hallmark of the female athlete: the ponytail. Studying a wealth of news articles about ponytails in sports and society, Broch uncovers this hairstyle’s polyvocality and argues that it is a total social phenomenon. By separating his approach from the cultural studies tradition, Broch highlights how hair is imbued with codes, narratives, and myth that allow its wearers to understand, maneuver, and criticize social gender relations in deeply personal ways. Using multiple theories about hair, bodies, myths, and icons, he creates a multidimensional method to show how icons are imitated and used. As women navigate their practical lives, health issues, and gendered expectations, the ponytail materializes their dynamic maneuvering of cultural and social environments. Sporting a ponytail—itself an embodiment of movement—is filled with a performativity of social movements: a cultural kinetics that is never apolitical. 

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Table of contents (8 chapters)


“Broch’s fascinating study demonstrates conclusively how iconic symbols condense mythic cultural terrain-- and why that process matters. Not since Barthes has scholarly interpretation revealed more about the icons surrounding us. But Broch goes further, to show how iconic symbols offer means for all of us to challenge and change mythical cultural terrain. A must-read for all cultural sociologists, as well as for scholars interested in the changing field of gender and sport.” (Lyn Spillman, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, USA)

“Drawing upon cultural and social theory, and media analysis, this book offers a highly engaging and thought-provoking analysis of the unique social, cultural, and material dimensions of the ponytail and the multiple meanings and (re)interpretations of this iconic hairstyle. You will never look at the ponytail in the same way again!” (Holly Thorpe, Professor, University of Waikato, New Zealand)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Elverum, Norway

    Trygve B. Broch

About the author

Trygve B. Broch is an Associate Professor at the Department of Public Health and Sport Sciences, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway. He is also author of A Performative Feel for the Game (Palgrave) and a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University, USA.  

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