The mohawk (also referred to as a mohican) is a hairstyle in which, in the most common variety, both sides of the head are shaven, leaving a strip of noticeably longer hair in the center. The mohawk is also sometimes referred to as an iro in reference to the Iroquois, from whom the hairstyle is derived - though historically the hair was plucked out rather than shaved. Additionally, hairstyles bearing these names more closely resemble those worn by the Pawnee, rather than the Mohawk, Mohican/Mahican, Mohegan, or other phonetically similar tribes.
The Mohawk and the rest of the Iroquois confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Oneida) in fact wore a square of hair on the back of the crown of the head. The Mohawk did not shave their heads when creating this square of hair, but rather pulled the hair out, small tufts at a time. The following is a first-hand account of James Smith, who was captured during the French and Indian war and adopted into the Mohawk tribe:
[A] number of Indians collected about me and one of them began to pull hair out of my head. He had some ashes on a piece of bark in which he frequently dipped his fingers in order to take a firmer hold, and so he went on as if he had been plucking a turkey, until he had all the hair clean out of my head, except a small spot about three or four inches square on my crown the remaining hair was cut and three braids formed which were decorated
Therefore a true hairstyle of the Mohawks was one of plucked-out hair, leaving a three-inch square of hair on the back crown of the head with three short braids of hair decorated. The three braids of a True Mohawk hairstyle are represented today on traditional headdresses of the Mohawk known as a "Gustoweh". Mohawk Gustowehs have three upright eagle feathers that represent the three braids of long ago. When not decorated, the very short braids were allowed to hang loose as seen in Good Peter's image in the referenced article.
The hairstyle has been in existence in many parts of the world for millennia. For instance, the Clonycavan Man, a 2000-year-old male bog body discovered near Dublin in 2003, was found to be wearing a mohawk styled with plant oil and pine resin. Artwork discovered at the Pazyryk burials dating back to 600 BCE depicts Scythian warriors sporting similar mohawks. The body of a warrior occupying one of the kurgans had been scalped earlier in life and wore a hair prosthesis in the form of a mohawk. Herodotus claimed that the Macai, a northern Libyan tribe, "shave their hair so as to leave tufts, letting the middle of their hair grow long, but round this on all sides shaving it close to the skin."
Depending on how it is worn, the mohawk can be a high-maintenance style. Regular, careful shaving or trimming is required to maintain a clean line between the shaven and unshaven (or short and long) portions of the hair; this can be especially complicated in bi and tri hawks.
If the hair is to be worn up, brushing, backcombing, blow-drying, and twisting are required, as well as the application of sprays and in some cases other holding agents like white or clear glue, egg whites, cornstarch, or gelatin. The amount of time required for styling may increase considerably with longer hair or complicated styles such as liberty spikes (sometimes known as a libertyhawk).
Some wearers enhance the look of their mohawks with hair dyes. This too can require a great deal of initial effort and maintenance, especially in styles where the color(s) form an integral part of the style. In some cases, for example, mohawk-wearers who normally wear their hair up in a fan style dye the hair in even lines or stripes of color, either horizontal or vertical.
Although a mohawk is most widely defined as a narrow, central strip of upright hair running from the forehead to the nape, with the sides of the head bald, the term can be applied more loosely to various similar hairstyles, many of which have informal names.
Classic (1970s–1980s) mohawks
Mohawks or mohawk-like hairstyles can be cut in patterns deviating from the simple central strip. For example, a mohawk with multiple parallel strips of hair may be called a "bi-hawk" (for two strips), a "tri-hawk" (for three strips), etc. A hairstyle resembling a sideways mohawk, such as one that runs from ear to ear or temple to temple, is called a "crosshawk".
"Liberty spikes" are spikes of hair in the mohawk instead of a row. The spikes can be of a single color, or dyed various colors. Bright colors are common, but when this style is worn by members of the goth subculture, it may be dyed in darker tones. The term also applies to this style when it is worn over the entire scalp.
A "deathhawk" features voluminous teased or backcombed hair, and is common to the deathrock and goth subcultures. Small sections of hair left at the side of the head, just in front of the ears are known as "Deathlocks," "bat wings" or "devilocks", and are normally associated with the deathhawk style.
A Chelsea hawk is a mohawk with bangs, generally popular with females. Oi!skinheads, as depicted in the movies This is England and Combat Girl, keep a long fringe at the front but shave the back and sides. A longer version of the haircut dyed black is sometimes worn by emo girls.
A "lazy hawk" is a typical Mohawk, except left unstyled, resting on the wearer's head, and can be seen in The Marvel Comics character Daken (Wolverine's son), who is shown since his birth with a mohawk (long with the sides shaven).
A mohawk styled like a fan is a fanhawk. A variant of this is the "rayhawk," a short mohawk dyed bright blue; it is named due to the popularity of the style among Tampa Bay Rays players. The style has become popular among 'Rays fans.
A wide mohawk extending almost to the temples is referred to as a "shark fin". Shark fins are popular among the British chav and raver subcultures. The back is shaved into a V-shape and it is usually spiked and bleached blond. This is also known as a "V-cut mohawk". A similar haircut is worn by some emo and pop-punk fans. A mohawk that starts on the occiput and runs down into a rattail or mulletponytail is a "rat-hawk".
A "boghawk" or bog hawk is worn by a small subset of folk metal fans. The name comes from one of the oldest known mohawks, which was found on a bog body - the Clonycavan Man, who is believed to be a druid. Many folk metal fans honor the culture and ways of Proto-Indo-European religion. The hawk is usually wide and long and is styled in a messy fashion to mimic the look of tree sap.
Rather than the strip of longer hair in the center of the scalp, a "reverse mohawk", also known as a "nohawk" or "hawkmo", features a shaved strip from the forehead to the nape of the neck leaving hair on either side of the line.
A fauxhawk or "fohawk" copies the style of a mohawk, but without shaving the sides of the head. The fauxhawk is typically worn with a small but noticeable spike in the middle, though usually considerably shorter than many traditional mohawks. The style re-emerged in the early 2000s, with some of the popularly known wearers being David Beckham and Jónsi. The fauxhawk is known in the Hoxton and Shoreditch districts of London as the "Hoxton fin".
A fauxhawk where the hair down the center of the head is longer than the hair on the sides is a "euro-hawk". Sometimes the top of the hair is long enough to cover up the shorter sides when combed down. Some of the more popular sports figures and fashion models can be found wearing euro-hawks in various lengths, textures and colors. The mohawk has been a style mostly seen on punk rockers and the like, but fauxhawks and euro-hawks have transcended to all hair types. The ponyhawk or pony hawk is a type of euro-hawk created by a row of ponytails going down the middle of the head. This look was worn by contestant Sanjaya Malakar on an episode of the television series American Idol.
A "curly hawk" or "curl-hawk" is similar to the fauxhawk, this lesser known hawk is in traditional faux style but consists of long thin curls. Having been made famous by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen during the early years of Full House, this is most commonly sported by infants.
^[* S.I. Rudenko, Kul'tura naseleniia Gornogo Altaia v skifskoe vremia ("The Population of the High Altai in Scythian Times")(Moscow and Leningrad, 1953) translated as Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen, M.W. Thompson, tr. (University of California Press, Berkeley) 1970. ISBN 0-520-01395-6]