We know what’s on your mind. Man buns are bad. Terrible. A hairstyle crime that gets you laughed at for at least five years. We don’t blame you, especially since footballers have about as much taste as Liberace in a dollar store (hey, Andy Carroll). Yes, it will always be hard to sell the man bun, and the room for error is huge. But if you do it right, you can fix even the most complicated men’s hairstyle.
WHAT IS A MAN BUN?
Let’s start with the definitions. A man bun is a hairstyle for guys with long hair that consists of a ponytail or cluster of hair coiled together anywhere on the crown. When the bun is worn high on the head, it is known as a topknot.
There are various types of man buns, some more acceptable than others. A scruffy ‘full bun’ is just long hair wrapped back into a loose knot, similar to how your girlfriend’s hair looks when she goes to the gym. They’re stacked high and low, and they’re frequently accompanied by facial hair (which is less common on girlfriends).
Man buns are also seen with an undercut, in which the hair is left long on top but shaved short on the back and sides. The difference between top and bottom can be dramatic at times, resembling a detached undercut. Other times, guys keep just enough hair on top to wrap back into what most people regard as a dubious rodent-like tail. The traditional topknot.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
If you think that a hipster web designer in Williamsburg, New York, came up with the man bun in 2008, you’re wrong. It’s not something new. They have been around for a long time, at least 2,000 years. If you want proof, look at the Terracotta Army. Every soldier has a topknot, and many of them are very fancy.
But let’s not give all the credit to the Chinese. Sail east, and samurai warriors in Edo-era Japan were also big fans of man buns. This version, which people in the area called a “chonmage,” kept the helmet but shaved the rest of the head except for a bun of hair on top. Sumo wrestlers also took on the style because they wanted to look like samurai warriors. They did this long before men who worked in organic coffee shops thought to do the same.
It wasn’t a move that most people in the west liked. In Roman times, topknots were seen as a style for barbarians, who were the grunts of eastern Europe and the north of Scandinavia who carried clubs. As a result, topknots were looked down upon by polite society. Change “barbarians” to “footballers,” and not much has changed in the centuries since.
Things did change, though, in the late 2000s. The man bun became more popular after David Beckham started wearing his own version of it. Jared Leto got a mustache. Chris Hemsworth did the same thing. Leonardo DiCaprio was the first to try it, and Orlando Bloom was right behind him. Even though some people don’t like the man bun, these five men are all on the right side of style. We’ll believe what they say over what some strict Romans say.
WHO SUITS A MAN BUN?
A-listers may have had one, but that doesn’t give us regular people free reign to grow one. The man bun is like any other hairstyle in that it looks good on different face shapes.
Carley McGuire, a stylist at Palley Mall Barbers, says that the topknot looks best on people with less defined bones because it can make the face look longer. “This also slims your face, and the topknot goes well with a beard, which will make the style more masculine.”
Just as important is the type of hair. Jamie Stevens, a hair stylist in London, says that both men with thin hair and men with thick hair should avoid the man bun. “Hair that is very thick can be hard to keep under control, making the face look rounder. This can make it look like your head is bigger than it is.”
Which is one of the few places where bigger isn’t better, unlike your arms and other places. “On the other end of the spectrum is very thin hair, which can be just as bad because receding hairlines will be more obvious when the hair is pulled back.”
So that means the best follicles for a man bun are the ones in the middle. If you don’t do this, your crop might be too wild or not enough.
HOW TO GET IT
You have the right shape of face. You have the guts. Now all you need is the hairstyle. You can’t get a man bun without length, and no, that joke about the size of a marble doesn’t count.
Stevens says there are ways to speed up the process of growing your hair out if you need to. “Regular trims are the best way to keep your hair in good shape, as hair that is healthy tends to grow faster.” Even though it might seem counterintuitive to lose an inch in order to gain another, it will keep you from doing any damage that could slow your growth in the future.
Stevens says, “Hair that isn’t cut often is more likely to get split ends.” “Once these start, the hair frays, gets weaker, and can be damaged a long way up the shaft.” The only way to get rid of these hairs is to cut them out, which will slow down your progress toward a man bun.
It’s also important to have the right product. “Hair that is healthy will grow faster, so put conditioner on the ends to keep it moist.” Even though it’s not hard to figure out, many men don’t realize how important it is to use conditioner after washing their hair. Look for ingredients like coconut, palm, or jojoba oil that come from nature and will moisturize the scalp without causing irritation.
HOW TO STYLE IT
Now that your hair is at least shoulder-length, give yourself a big pat on the back. You’ve finished the first step on the way to a good man bun. But you need good skills to get to the finish line.
Nat Angold, a stylist at the London-based barber chain Ruffians, says, “Start at the temple and brush the first section of hair back to where you want your bun to sit.” Aim for the top of your head. If you wear your hair too low, you’ll look like a Greenpeace activist, and if you wear it too high, you’ll look like an Essex girl.
“From there, hold into place with your free hand.” It’s a case of going over old ground. “Do the same thing with each section of hair around your head until you can hold your hair in one hand.”
Note that it’s best to buy a hair band early on (or at least borrow one from your partner). Angold says, “Tie the band around the hair to make a loose ponytail, then twist it and loop it over again.” “This time, instead of pulling the hair through all the way, only pull it through halfway. Leave the ends out of the band. You can also twist ponytails that are longer around the base of the hair band. Once everything is wrapped, tuck the loose ends under the band to keep them in place.”
HOW TO KEEP IT
In general, the more hair you have, the more care you need to give it. To stay on top of the knots, you’ll need more product and regular maintenance.
“L’Oreal Professionnel Absolut Hair Repair “Lipidium is great for dry ends, knots that won’t go away, and hairs that stick out,” says Angold. With longer hair, you’ll run into these three things more and more. “Once you’ve pulled your hair back, a sea salt mist can give it a light hold and texture, and a little matte clay can fix any loose ends.”
Don’t think you can avoid the barber when your man bun has reached its peak. “You should always trim your sideburns and nape hair, especially if you’re going to a formal event where your man bun should be slicked back with no stray hairs.” Angold suggests getting a trim every nine weeks if you aren’t sure how long to wait between visits.
THE BEST MAN BUN HAIRSTYLES
This style, which is the go-to man bun, gets a bad name sometimes, but for guys with long hair, it’s a good way to keep stray hairs from blinding you. It can also be both messy and neat, which don’t take much time, depending on what you have planned.
The low bun is less fussy and more casual than overly-manicured topknots. It’s an easy style that brings a bit of beach-bum ease to the city. Pull the hair back loosely, put a band around it, and forget about it.
AFRO HAIR BUN
The texture of afro hair lends itself to intriguing (and possibly the coolest) man bun alternatives for males. If you wear braids, take a hint from A$AP and get an undercut, or if you have long hair all over, consider a dramatic, reggae-inspired pile-up.