Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Brooklyn, Committing to a Man Bun ~ Spare a Hair Band? A Man Bun to Go

Mark Veltman for The New York Times

Fashion designer Olivier Theyskens.
By PHYLLIS KORKKI Published: January 25, 2012

ON a recent night at Hotel Delmano, a stylish speakeasy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the heavily tattooed head bartender, Sam Anderson, and his colleague, Michaelangelo Davis III, were shaking up cocktails with manly vigor.

And each had his hair done up in a bun. 

In certain arty neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick, some men are twisting their long hair into a form more famously worn by librarians, schoolmarms and Katharine Hepburn. But don’t call the male version an up-do or a chignon. Call it a man bun. 

The line between utilitarian convenience and fashion statement can be hard to draw with the man bun. On the tennis court, players like Alexandr Dolgopolov and Xavier Malisse have been known to wear them. 

Certainly, there and in the food and beverage industry, keeping hair away from the face is important. And at Hotel Delmano, Mr. Davis, 26, sometimes uses his abundant bun as a pen holder. 

But he and Mr. Anderson could not hold up their heads wearing hairnets. As for ponytails, to Mr. Anderson, 30, they evoke “Steven Seagal, hippie uncles and the like,” and would not be a good fit in this neighborhood. A hat is an option, but a bun is less sweaty. 

The man bun is similar in form to the topknot worn by many women — which is going through its own fashion resurgence — but it is often worn slightly lower on the head. 

Once you’ve committed to a man bun, how do you create one? Alexander Kellum, 31, a fine-arts painter and yoga teacher who lives in Williamsburg, bends forward and pulls his long chestnut hair in front of him; then he performs a twisting and wrapping motion until his hair is firmly tucked into a knot at the back of his head. Sometimes he’ll let a little hair poke out for an “abstract expressionist” flourish, he said. A rubber band, a hair band or even a piece of string holds his bun in place. 

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Davis use plain rubber bands to anchor theirs. “I bought one of those scrunchy things, but it just didn’t work,” said Mr. Anderson, who also plays bass guitar for a gothic rock band called River Wild. 

Those seeking help with their own hair can find an instructional video on YouTube. 

Chris Jones, a contestant this season on the “Top Chef” cooking show, uses elastic hair bands swiped from his wife to tie up his bun. The first time she noticed one missing, he said, he told her the cat must have taken it. 

Mr. Jones, who lives in Chicago, is fully aware that some people consider his floppy bun to be ridiculous, but said: “I’m very secure in myself. I’ve actually worn my hair in pigtails once or twice.” 

You could theorize that a man who wears a bun is in touch with his feminine side, but the form also has a masculine tradition. Sikh men have long tied their hair in a bun, covered by a turban. And centuries ago, the samurai wore a topknot. 

Mr. Jones, 31, draws inspiration from that association. “Who doesn’t love the samurai?” he said. “They’re committed to their ways and devoted to their passions.” 

Mr. Jones is committed to growing his hair long so he can donate it to Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children with hair loss. In a few months, his (only very occasional) hairstylist, Andreas Hogue, will give him a marine cut, to harvest the most hair possible. Then Mr. Jones will start over until, once again, his hair is long enough for a man bun. 


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