[RPG] guide/reference for possible character hairstyles in D&D Forgotten Realms universe


I was playing a D&D session as a female cleric of Qotal and, at some point, the party encountered some kind of wind monster. As I tried to cast spells requiring concentration, the DM argued that I couldn't because my hair kept getting in my face and made me unable to concentrate on my spells.

Later on, I told the DM that my character would ponytail her hair but he refused stating that I had nothing to tie my hair with nor have any knowledge of hair-tying, as female characters usually do not tie their hair in the D&D universe.

I am looking for an answer to:

Is there a guide/visual reference or limitations for character hairstyle so that their appearance does not break the lore of the D&D Forgotten Realms universe? Or can I trust Google about medieval tied hairs?

Could any of the following limit my character's choice of hairstyle (to the point where I cannot tie them to a ponytail in particular)?

  • Race: As you won't ever see an elf with a big bronze-decorated beard.
  • Technical limitation: Because I'm pretty sure there is no item such as hair curler/straightener.
  • Lore limitation: For obvious reasons you won't ever find a human with a Johnny Bravo or anime character hairstyle.

I am NOT looking for an answer to:

  • Was my DM right about denying concentration because of hair lashing in the character's face?
    • Could be discussed in a separate question, but not this one.
  • Can the DM decide how my character looks/should look like?
    • As long as it shouldn't break the lore, I strongly believe I decide however my character looks like.
  • How should I address the issue of what happened with my DM?
    • Did it by now, turned out fine, we agreed by rereading the rules on Concentration.
  • Should I continue playing with my DM?
    • I understand why you may comment on this, but this is not even close to what I'm asking.

Best Answer

Let me try to address the Forgotten Realms specific lore question directly from officially published text.

Races and Cultures

There are many races and cultures on Faerûn, and correspondingly a wide range of styles. Most often, no single hairstyle is listed in the descriptions leaving a large amount of flexibility in generating whatever players desire for their characters. For certain cultures, there are norms, but the norms are very varied. For example, take Thay and Rashemen, two neighbouring countries: Thayans are known to shave their heads, while both male and female Rashemi keep their hair long.

Here are some examples from the 3e Races of Faerun:

  • Wild dwarves wear little except their long, woven hair, which serves as adequate clothing. They plaster their hair and skin with mud to form a crude armor when going to war. [page 23]

  • Moon elves: Hair is worn in braids or ponytails, twined with wires or beads. [page 38]

  • Mountain orcs often weave braids and tiny bones into their thick matted hair, which is usually black. [page 68]

  • Female Rashemi wear their black hair long, often in elaborate braids. [page 99]

Example Characters

You can also find many official characters who had ponytails by doing a web search with the key: ponytail hair site:forgottenrealms.fandom.com. Doing so on Google on Nov 27, 2019 yielded a long list of male characters and one female: Tarntassa. (What this tells about our real world societies would be an interesting discussion topic.)

Religions and Clerics

It is worth noting that the adventuring garb for priests are practical and with or without a helm, deities would allow their clerics to do whatever they need to be efficient in the battlefield. But even for non-adventuring priests in their ceremonial garbs, quite often the hair is not flowing freely. You can find detailed descriptions of the ceremonial garbs for the FR pantheon in the 2e Faiths and Avatars, which also includes beautiful color pictures [pages 5-13]. Garments that leave long hair to flow freely are actually in the minority.

Qotal Specific

Qotal, the Plumed One, is a Maztican deity. Maztica itself was brought to life by Douglas Niles, who based the setting on Mesoamerican cultures. According to Shannon Appelcline, Niles did extensive research to get the setting "historically accurate" (to the dismay of Ed Greenwood, who preferred a more fantastical Realms). So for the case of your cleric of Qotal, you might get some inspiration from the hairstyles of ancient Aztecs and Mayans. For example, according to Wikipedia article on Aztec clothing:

Aztec women wore hair in two braids that projected in the front like horns ... Women sometimes created a purple highlight in their hair with an herb called xiuhquílitl, and sometimes they shaved their hair completely.

Example Hairstyles by FR Barbers (5e)

Finally, there is a cute 5e adventure for characters of 4th to 6th level that is available for free on the WotC website. Called The Barber of Silverymoon, the module is indeed about a barber shop and has a list of 20 random haircuts on page 6. Some examples from that list are:

  • Braid or ponytail
  • Eighteenth-century French women’s hairstyle (giant bun shaped like flowers, sailing ships, or other objects)
  • Medieval European women’s hairstyle (pulled back in a net, snood, or balzo)