The boy behind the braid

Reilly Olson, Managing Editor

Some may know him for having a loud fashion sense, while others know him for sleeping through hard classes. His most recognizable characteristic of all, however, is literally growing out of his head.

Senior Brian Yao can be seen walking through the halls of Monte Vista twirling what appears to be a long string around his finger. To the casual observer it might seem to be a yo-yo, but in reality it’s a braid that when left to its own devices can reach Yao’s waist.

“My parents just decided to grow it out when I was a baby because they thought it would be cute,” Yao said. “The plan was to cut it off a few years later, but 17 years later I still have it.”

Friends have teased Yao good naturedly about the unusual hairstyle throughout his years in school, driving him to promise to cut it off at both elementary and middle school graduation. Ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“I was too stubborn,” Yao said. “I felt like after having it for so long it would just be weird to cut it off.”

The maintenance process for such a hairstyle is not as complex as one might think, as it only involves a monthly session of rebraiding and regular washing each day. Yao admits he’s “actually really bad at braiding” which leads him to be a little lazier about upkeep than he’d like.

Despite his lack of braiding skills, the hair has been kept in good condition, which leads to a large slew of questions from curious people.

“I often find questions about it to be more unique than the braid itself,” Yao said. “I’ve gotten people asking me if I’ve ever swung my head violently with a knife attached, and I’ve had people suggest I dye each of the three sections a different color.”

There was also a particularly memorable incident in 5th grade when Brian was assigned to do a science fair project with a partner who suggested they do an experiment on how much weight a single strand of the braid could support.

The answer? 130 grams.

While impressive, Yao is adamant that he will not be taking the braid to college next year.

He lists 3 potential options for braid removal: cutting it off at graduation, offering people the chance to pay to cut off pieces for charity, and giving the gift of cutting it to his successor as LD captain of the speech and debate team.

Whichever way he chooses, he notes that he expects to feel something similar to phantom limb syndrome, such as reaching for the braid when it’s no longer there, but is no longer as stubborn as he once was and has made peace with letting the hair piece go.

Ultimately, Brian is proud of his unique characteristic and as it sets him apart from others.

“I guess some people judge me for it but I don’t really care,” Yao said. “If anything, it’s taught me to not care that much about what other people think and that one simple physical characteristic surely doesn’t define me as a person.”