Our actions have unintended consequences. Sometimes a butterfly flaps its wings and a hurricane pummels the other side of the world. Other times a sister mildly suggests that her brother have his Seth Cohen standard-issue Jewfro tied into a man bun and he decides to wear it that way for more than 24 months.
I swear it was an accident. It was November 2014, and my brother Josh and I were headed to the wedding of one of our dearest and oldest and most fastidious friends. We’d known the bride since birth, basically, which is why we both appreciated that Josh would have to do something, anything to the mess of curls he’d by then already started to cultivate. This would be a black-tie event. Even in a suit, he would barely have passed muster at Coachella.
At first, I just proposed he at least brush it. But he seemed enthusiastic about hairdo ideas for the first time maybe ever, so I got excited. Try a low ponytail, I offered. No! Try a man bun! I texted him photos of Jared Leto. I sent covert Snapchats of men I saw on the street—buns in the wild. I G-chatted him #inspo while he was at work. I said it would be fun, a hoot, a one-time-only gag. The bride would laugh. We would all take a million pictures. And then he’d get a haircut, a good shear.
I sent covert Snapchats of men I saw on the street—buns in the wild.
It took me some time to convince him, but not much. Sure, he said. He’d do it. Drunk on my modest power and influence, I said I’d take care of everything. I enlisted Mischa G., an always-game stylist at Bumble and Bumble, to do the job. (Man-bun making is serious business, requiring professional help.) I printed pictures of Orlando Bloom to prepare. I set the appointment. And I went to it, documenting the entire frame-by-frame ordeal in a dramatic photo series.
At the wedding, many tipsy people complimented Josh on his new look. It was different, “cool.” Now is a good time to point out that Josh lives in Los Angeles and works in television. If the man bun fits, wear it.
So, he did. He wore it for months and months and months.
I was horrified. Even the dudes in Williamsburg have moved on, I beseeched him. It’s time to get a haircut. But he liked it. He loved it. The curls, now well past his shoulders and far more luscious than mine, if we’re being honest, had become his trademark. He was Josh with the bun. He looked like Tarzan, but people seemed to think it worked. It was a defining characteristic, and he wasn’t about to lose it just because the idiot who’d come up with the idea now regretted her poor judgment.
I launched a furtive effort to get him to change his mind. I Instagrammed passive-aggressive man bun #content. When stories that man buns caused hair loss circulated on the web, I fired off link after link. “But is it worth baldness?!?!?!?” I wrote in one email. He never responded.
I dropped it after a while, soothing myself with the knowledge that few man buns are forever. He’d get tired of it eventually. And a few weeks ago, at long last, he did. He wasn’t over it, per se. But he was ready for a fresh start and a good haircut. I was elated. I was ecstatic. I was on the phone with Bumble and Bumble in under five minutes. It had to be Mischa, of course. We set the date for December 29, assuring the forces that be that we’d complete exactly one worthwhile human act in 2016.
Mischa protested as soon as she saw him. “It’s so beautiful,” she wailed. “What if I refuse?” But Josh had made up his mind. He showed Mischa several photos of Adrian Grenier and Adam Brody, whose looks he liked and which she deemed “too fussy.” They went back and forth, eventually settling on a reference picture in which Adrian looks like he’s attempting to heal our divided world with only the power of his gaze. Keep it up, Adrian! After that, a ruler was brandished and it was affirmed that Josh would be able to donate at least 10 inches to Locks of Love.
And then! Mischa sectioned his hair into five very cute little ponytails and sawed them off one by one. Obviously I filmed the entire event for Facebook Live.
Once the initial cut was over, Mischa primed Josh’s hair with Bumble and Bumble Tonic Lotion while it was still damp and patted on a quarter-size dollop of Grooming Cream. She massaged it and diffused it, and when it was all over she sent him on his way, into a universe that now had one less man bun in it. Josh loved it. I loved it. Our grandma loved it.
We gushed, analyzing the finer points of the cut for the rest of the afternoon. He looked taller! Older! Smarter! He looked serious! He looked famous. “I just realized I look like Rachel Maddow,” he texted me a few hours later.
And then I made my most solemn request: God, Universe, Beyoncé, please: May 2017 bring us fewer man buns and more Rachel Maddows.
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