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In defense of the ridiculous clip-in man bun

The clip-in man bun may be the most ridiculous men’s grooming trend since the flower-adorned beards of 2014, but it also kind of makes sense – for a couple of reasons.

Before we get to them, though, a little background about the faux topknot is in order for those of you who might have missed, say, Jeff Rossen strapping one to his head last week for a “Today” show segment.

The man bun proper is a hairstyle in which a long-haired, on-trend male sweeps his mane up and back toward the crown of the head and secures it there by way of elastic band, hair tie or scrunchie. Although it’s certainly not a new phenomenon for men, its enthusiastic embrace by the likes of David Beckham, Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio has resulted in a major bro-bun boom over the last couple of years.

As hairstyles go, it’s about as simple and straightforward as they come, requiring nothing more than a rubber band and hair long enough to sweep back and secure. How long is long enough? According to the folks over at Man Bun Hairstyle (which bills itself as the “Official Site for Manbuns and Long Hair”), 6 inches is the absolute minimum – though 8 inches is recommended. Presumably the clip-in man bun, about the size and shape of a Brillo pad, is aimed at that under-6-inches-of-hair demographic, helping that follicularly less-endowed group walk through life with heads held high – and topped with a generous tonsorial twirl.

There are a handful of places to purchase such plumage online, but the one that’s generated the lion’s share of the bun buzz recently is Groupon, which started offering a 3-inch-by-1-inch man bun (in three colors of artificial hair: black, brown and blond) on Nov. 9. In the eight days since, it’s sold more than 10,000 at $9.99 a piece. (According to this infographic, California is ranked No. 1 in orders by state.)  

Given the tongue-in-cheek tone of the product description (one example: “Attach the man bun to your natural hair the way the lay public attached itself to Arcade Fire”), it’s hard not to see this as simply a novelty, the kind of gag gift you get for the hometown hipster or the Yankee Swap. So to get back to the topic at hand, why then does the man bun make sense? For two reasons:

First, when it comes to male peacocking via obviously fake hair, there’s some serious historical precedent, and by most accounts, the term “bigwig” means what it does because of the mid-18th-century European practice of powerful men reflecting their rank and authority via absurdly towering wigs (see also the Bourbon kings of France).

Second, and perhaps most important in an era that’s striving for gender parity, how can a society quickly condemn the idea of the clip-in man bun, while being totally cool with the bang wig – a curious front-of-the-forehead hairpiece that women have been using to augment their natural hair for years?

I don’t think we can. Hair-wise, what’s fair for the goose has to be fair for the gander. Which means that, as laughable as it may seem, the clip-in man bun deserves its day in the sun.

For the latest in fashion and style news, follow me @ARTschorn

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