Men play with gender norms in lockdown with return of man bun

Months of lockdown have been hard for many reasons, including the lack of regular access to a hairdresser. Perhaps inevitably – and to the horror of some – it has given rise to the return of the man bun.

The divisive hairstyle has been making a surprising resurgence, with the fitness coach Joe Wicks, the rapper Post Malone and Jude Law all sporting the updo. Paul McCartney ended 2020 with a surprise No 1 album and, perhaps more surprisingly still, a new hairstyle. The former Beatle was spotted holidaying in St Barts with a segment of his hair tied on top of his head.

“I think we are going to see way more guys with long hair in 2021,” said Garrett Munce, the grooming editor on Men’s Health. “Some because they realised [during lockdown] they actually like having long hair, and some just for practical reasons. Coming out of 2020, where most of us spent the better part of the year in quarantine, haircuts became less frequent.”

The man bun is not new – Jared Leto, Cristiano Ronaldo, Orlando Bloom, David Beckham and Matt Damon have all dabbled in the do. The style was popular in the 2010s when it became associated with the second wave of the “hipster”, as the social archetype shifted from “white hipster” to “green hipster” as characterised by the author Mark Greif said in NY Mag.

“He characterises the white hipster as wearing a trucker cap and a white vest,” said Alex Rayner, who has written extensively about the subculture. The “green hipster”, in contrast, was “a person with long hair and a fixed-wheel bike. It’s a softer image and I feel the man bun is analogous with that.”

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Munce said he associates the man bun “with the whole lumberjack style thing – beard, flannel shirt, stiff cuffed jeans, work boots and tattoos. It was a reaction to [the] slick, coiffed, overly thought-out style that young people wanted to avoid.”

It was no coincidence that the man bun later became synonymous with the Silicon Valley tech bro – “the type of guy that vapes, while riding an electric scooter to his job in tech”, said Charlie Teasdale, Esquire’s styling director – and was visually parodied in the television series Black Mirror and Family Guy.

Now the haircut hints at its historical origins and also a sidestepping of gender norms. “It serves as a kind of homage to a traditional, rough-and-tumble view of masculinity,” said Teasdale, “whereas others wear their buns with more of a nod to gender fluidity.”


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