Done With The Man Bun

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Done With The Man Bun

Words by Ms Grace Dent

20 November 2014

Why the current men’s hair trend for a “topknot” is a definite do not.

The man bun is coming. Yes, at some level it’s already here, living louche on the back of Mr Jared Leto’s pretty head; or on a yacht-splayed, sun-kissed Mr Harry Styles; or on Mr Russell Brand as he battles global capitalism between Ashtanga sun salutations. But no, I mean really coming. To a high street and office just like yours.

Also known as a “mun” or a topknot, the man bun is achieved by gathering long locks and tying them with a hair band on top of the head. If, that is, it ever can be described as an achievement. To me it’s always going to look slightly like when your Aunty Susan went on that “Well Woman” retreat and took up macramé. Though one doubts Mr Leto has had many complaints from flustered admirers.

While the beard trend whispered of tight grooming schedules and hours spent snipping and oiling, the man bun emits “Boho and busy”. Maybe not even busy of body – although tight abs are rarely unwelcome – but certainly busy of mind. “Oh, I’m flat out,” it says, “far too busy to worry about combing. I’m just chock-a-block right now reading the new Naomi Klein, taking fencing classes and nurturing my sourdough starter.” Busy thinking really deep thoughts. And of course, busy being sensitive and, hell – by having pretty girly hair – not prepared to buy into traditional outdated modes of masculinity. By being this womanly, the man bun wearer says, I’m 10 times more manly than you.

Obviously, underneath the bun one could be a raging, cerebrally stilted nose-picker, never happier than making underarm fart noises and watching his Man v. Food TiVo backlog, but this is the beauty of the man bun. Stick a bun on Mr Bradley Cooper and suddenly we’ve forgotten him in Wedding Crashers or The A-Team. The bun speaks of fascinating encounters in far-off climes since his Academy Award or starring on Broadway in The Elephant Man. Mr Jake Gyllenhaal’s man bun transforms him from bright-eyed jock to “really serious dude who has probably been in a remote Ottawa cabin for five months preparing for a serious Method acting role in a film you’re too lazy to understand”. In the past year it has crossed over from popping up on Mr David Beckham during a dadventure to appearing atop the head of that guy in the IT department wearing the “I know HTML (How to Meet Ladies)” T-shirt. Though he won’t be meeting me. I’m sure this will affect a million men’s decision on the matter but I’m declaring myself a man bun encounter-free zone. I do not want one spilling across my pillow.

Because as a woman who’s wandered around for years with hair piled in a messy, high bun – think Ms Helena Bonham Carter three Martinis down – I know the truth behind this bouffant. Buns mask many dirty secrets. I’ll say it quietly: the bigger and the more bumptious my lady-bun is, the further between hair-washes I am. Yes, squeaky-clean hair is lovely – who doesn’t want to smell like a mountain glade? – but clean hair is neither use nor ornament if one wants quick, thrown-up-in a-knot, instant glamour.

Clean hair has no volume, it flops free of its hair band instantly and allows random strands to waggle and blow in the breeze. Clean hair sucks. The best bun, one that stays up magically, framing one’s face and emitting loud raffish elegance, is typically the result of three or four days styling product overload, grease and hair-brush avoidance.

There, I’ve said it: the unpalatable truth. Mr Styles’ man bun looked sublime, but I’ll wager that up close it stinks of flaky hairspray, saltwater, booze, ciggies and being sat too close to a beach barbecue. Buns can be rather pungent, which is why they’re probably best on film stars we worship from afar. You can run your hands through a bun during sex, but you do so at your peril. Play may need to be suspended if one traps a hand entirely and it needs to be cut free with scissors.

Yet the main fact that makes me a man bun refusenik is the threat of subterfuge. Just as, presently, millions of women have no idea at all who their partner actually is if one takes away the beard, the same will come for my sisters of the man-bun era. You fell in love with a man bun: a modern-day swashbuckling urban pirate, sipping his chai latte and leafing through Proust. Months later he’s bored of the itchy scalp and being mistaken for a woman by horndog truck drivers and the bun days are gone. Bye bye, Jared, hello Normal Joe.

Of course this is the problem men have had with women for centuries. Style-wise, we are masters of disguise. You went to bed with Ms Megan Fox; you woke up next to Ms Kathy Bates in Misery. Quite simply, I’m not half the woman you think I am. It’s all a clever blend of body-shaping undergarments and hairstyles stolen from Hollywood stars. How jolly frustrating for us that in the age of the man bun, men are in on this disguise act too.

Illustrations by Mr Antony Hare