Hairstyle as a dating signal

Yay Pote Gyi

Residents from the distant village in central Myanmar’s Yay Pote Gyi follow a unique tradition. A 200-year-old custom makes women follow a set pattern of hairstyle. It does not follow the latest trends in fashion, instead of the hairstyles signal on the women’s marital status.

Natives of Yay Pote Gyi can tell if a girl is married or signal just by looking at her hair. This tradition of hairstyle is applicable even to the young generations. Young children wear high ponytails, whereas the older ones tie their hair in high knots. In this way, the appearance alone can insinuate the stage of life for the natives.

Unmarried women have a peculiar hairstyle, which tells them apart from married women. “We’ve had these hairstyles for hundreds of years”, says Pyone Pyone Yi, a twenty-four-year-old unmarried young woman, “We have our hair tucked behind our ears. By 18 years old we are ready to date. Before I had these hairstyle boys were not interested in me. But with my new hair, I’ve been asked on lots of dates,” says Yi.

Married women follow a different protocol. Their hair is always tied back in a bun. The bun is a signal for men, that the women are not available for dating.  According to reports, the mothers are responsible to pass down this tradition to their children.

Poor accessibility to the village has kept the villagers unawares about the modern world outside the boundaries of the village. “I’ve lived a simple life and never wanted to be modern,” says Kyin Swe, a fifty-six-year-old villager, “So I have kept this traditional style all through the years.”

However, a new road is been built last year, which has brought the distant village and its habitats closer to the outside world. This has also made changed the villager’s outlook on the traditional hair keeping styles. Women from Yay Pote Gyi are laughed at for the unordinary ways of dressing their hair. Yin narrates of an incidence where the girl’s bun on the head was taunted as “cow dung” by people outside the village.

Since the tradition has long roots, 200 years since its origin, the villagers are adamant of keeping the custom alive in spite of the mockery.