The Rise & Fall of the Man Bun: A Look At The Style So Many Love To Hate
Go to Top

In 2014, the Man Bun was being sported by almost every big name celebrity on the planet. Today, the Man Bun can only be spotted on trust fund millennials who frequent craft breweries. So what happened? How did the Man Bun go from Leonardo DiCaprio’s look of choice to being considered the hipster mullet?

Well, the history of the Man Bun is impressive, but it’s the fast rise (and possible fall) that make the Man Bun an interesting topic for discussion. Without further ado, here’s a look at the rise and fall of the Man Bun.

A Brief History of the Man Bun

The Man Bun is noted for being worn in China during 200 B.C. This helps explain why Man Buns are often found on terracotta soldier statues from this time. The hairstyle was retired at the end of the Ming Dynasty (in AD 1644) and replaced with the queue hairstyle. Yes, the Qing Dynasty government enforced the Han Chinese to adopt a new hairstyle and replace the Man Bun.

The Terracotta Army buried in the pits next to the Qin Shi Huang's tomb sporting man buns

In 16th century Japan, the Man Bun became the hairstyle of choice for sumo wrestlers and samurai warriors. In western society, topknots were often found on what the Romans would consider “barbarians”, such as Lombards, Vandals, and Goths. The Man Bun also managed to survive in the pagan Scandinavian north (which was rumored to be linked with Odinic cult worship).

In 16th century Japan, the Man Bun became the hairstyle of choice for sumo wrestlers and samurai warriors.

In the east, the nomadic tribes such as the Cossacks, Cumans, and Bulgars were also known for sporting the Man Bun. Paul the Deacon described his hair as:

“They uncovered the flesh of their heads by shaving all around the neck, sides, and back of the head until the nuchal zone. The hair on the top, left long, was parted in the middle and hung down to the corners of their mouths.” (HL IV.22).

Judging from his description, Paul the deacon was a real hoot at parties.

What Exactly is a Man Bun?

A Man Bun is a term used to describe long-haired men who actively ignore the trend of having their hair short in the back and short on the sides by wearing their hair in what’s called a topknot. However, there are a few different variables that can make each man’s Man Bun unique:

The Size of the Man Bun – The size of the Man Bun mostly relies on the raw materials available on the head. For example: if a man has a lot of hair at his disposal, he will have a large Man Bun. If the man doesn’t have a lot of hair at his disposal, he might have a small bit of hair sticking out of the back of his hair. Sadly, many don’t consider this to be a true Man Bun, and it will commonly be referred to as a “nubbin”.

Sadly, many don't consider this to be a true Man Bun, and it will commonly be referred to as a "nubbin".

The Man Bun Knot Positioning – The Man Bun (or nubbin) can appear toward the back of the head or on top of the head. Both of these looks can greatly affect how the Man Bun appears. If the Man Bun relocates too far back on one’s head, it is commonly labeled a “pony bun”.

The Hair on the Side of the Man Bun – A full Man Bun requires the same base materials used for a ponytail. This constitutes a large amount of hair (on all sides of the head) to be pulled and put into a Man Bun. However, people have realized that long hair isn’t required for a Man Bun, causing some to cheat the system by closely clipping/shaving the sides with an undercut.

What Brought The Man Bun To A Current Fashion Staple?

Well, the Man Bun has been on a steady rise in the past few years, with Google Trends being a powerful tool to utilize when pinpointing such information. Some have credited David Beckham for making it fashionable, but other have credited a New York Times trend piece from 2012 as the source responsible for sparking the trend. However, early Man Bun Tweets have been discovered and date all the way back to 2011.

David Beckham sporting his infamous man bun

Many have credited celebrities for the surge in interest when it comes to the Man Bun, but many have forgotten the Brooklyn bartenders who sported the hairstyle long before it was a phenomenon. That’s right, the same hair trend that people would have no problem buying – yes, you can buy Man Buns.

The Fall of the Man Bun

The fall of the Man Bun could very possibly be near. Much like all fashion, styles come and go to only be popular all over again in ten years. Since many were not on board when major labels jumped on the grunge flannel fad of the 90s (it was an incredibly high price jump in comparison to purchasing grunge flannel from thrift stores), the sales of phony Man Buns can only spell disaster for what was once known as a pure, honest way to borrow a hair tie from a girlfriend.