Wrestling is a technical and physically demanding sport that pits talented athletes against each other at close quarters. Because of the intimate nature of a wrestling match, referees and coaches must enforce strict rules regarding the wrestlers' physical appearance and dress. Fingernail length, facial hair and personal hygiene are strictly regulated for the safety and comfort of other wrestlers. Likewise, wrestling hairstyles must comply with guidelines laid out by college or high school sport organizations.
Regulations for Hair
Both the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which governs college wrestling, and the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee, which regulates high school wrestling, have similar rules regarding appearance and hair. Wrestlers must have short hair that does not hang below a standard collar in the back. The rules also mandate short sideburns that descend no lower than the earlobe. If a wrestler has longer hair, he must tuck it into his headgear or a solid, non-abrasive hair cover worn underneath his headgear. Bandannas and hair nets are not permitted in competition.
Regulations for Facial Hair
According to the NCAA wrestling rule book, wrestlers must be cleanshaven and smooth, with no abrasive stubble that could injure another player. The rules permit a short mustache that does not hang down past the lips. Wrestlers with other facial hair, such as beards or long sideburns, can obtain a legal face mask which covers it safely.
Common Wrestling Hairstyles
Due to these regulations, most wrestlers compete with a short style such as a buzz cut or crew cut. Slightly longer hair is permitted, but even styles that fit within regulations can be a disadvantage if they are long enough to grab. Male and female wrestlers who have long hair must braid it and coil it tightly into a hair cover or headpiece. Male wrestlers commonly shave their heads for competition, though they must take care to avoid stubble which the referee could deem a hazard.
Sumo Wrestling Hairstyles
In the Japanese tradition of sumo wrestling, hair regulations are very different than in Western wrestling. Most sumo athletes have very long hair that is styled for competition by special hairdressers. The most common sumo hairstyle is the top knot, or chonmage, which features a large bun of hair on the top of the head. Sumo wrestlers have worn this style for centuries, theoretically to cushion the head from injury. When a wrestler retires, he undergoes an elaborate hair-cutting ceremony that treats his hair with appropriate reverence.
Mary MacIntosh has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing articles to "The California Tech" and serving as an editor for the "Biweekly Frink Digest." She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in computational neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology.