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Are man buns really the new beards for hipsters?

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Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell

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John Lowry, who works in Mane Hair Salon, South William Street, Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

John Lowry, who works in Mane Hair Salon, South William Street, Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

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John Lowry

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Colin Farrell

If you cast your mind back to last year, beards were a red-hot topic.

They were pretty much everywhere and style commentators wondered if this tonsorial trend, one long championed by the population's hipster contingent, had become so ubiquitous as to make it annoying and to possibly even kill it. Rumours of the death of beards were clearly exaggerated because they're very much still with us and still relatively cool, although they're unlikely to generate as much discussion anymore now that they've gone mainstream.

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Conor McGregor has massive self-belief. Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie / SPORTSFILE

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Conor McGregor has massive self-belief. Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie / SPORTSFILE

The recent buzz about lumbersexuals, aka the rugged outdoorsy types with a full-on but well-looked-after beard and decked out in a plaid shirt, still keep them on-trend. But the current distinction for most controversial and interesting male look lies with the man bun, also known as the 'mun'.

Essentially, it's a bun that sits on top and slightly to the back of the head, topknot-like, worn by a demographic aged late teens to 30s. It can also be positioned closer to the nape of the neck and it's usually artfully mussed.

The preferred way Irish men like to wear theirs, as evidenced by a recent non-scientific survey (mine) of Dublin's creative quarter, is to keep the sides short so as to make the bun part look even more dramatic. Tumblr site F**k Yeah, Men With Buns is an illuminating - or alarming, depending on your viewpoint - insight into many permutations of the mun.

As with most things hipster, the look is thought to have come out of Shoreditch in London about five years ago, while one of the first early media references to the mun was when the New York Times documented it in 2012.

The style has steadily risen in popularity since then and 2014 has been its year - put 'man bun' into internet tracking tool Google Trends to see how interest in it has pinnacled in the last 12 months. Celebrities' seal of approval has unquestionably played a part in this with David Beckham a decade ahead of everybody when he wore a tidy bun to collect his OBE at Buckingham Palace in 2003. More recently, One Direction's Harry Styles and actors Jared Leto, Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Hemsworth have all cemented the mun as the A-list hottie's hairstyle of choice.

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David and Victoria Beckham

David and Victoria Beckham

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David and Victoria Beckham

In Ireland, the rise in the mun trend can almost certainly be linked to mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor, who is as known for his distinctive man bun and cocky attitude as he is for his prowess in the UFC ring.

While it's a fresh new way for men to wear their hair long and out of their faces, opinions are divided on whether the man bun is a great or a ridiculous thing, and more importantly as to whether it will become as omnipresent as the beard.

Irish Independent Weekend style columnist Darren Kennedy is not a fan. "I think they're fairly hideous and 'try hard'," he says. "They're just hipster beyond hipster as far as I'm concerned. On a child, it's fine; on a little girl it's cute -but on a grown man I'm just not into it."

Darren contends it's a look that suits very few men.

"On 0.1pc, it can look really good because they're just the most masculine of manly men that you've ever seen in your life and actually it doesn't really matter how their hair is done," he says. "But once it's done wrong or on the wrong person, it's horrendous, like a shaggy mess, and it can scream tragic fashion victim."

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Most man bun-wearers themselves would of course disagree. "There's a youthful, London, Shoreditch kind of feel, but there's a quite Scandinavian feel to it as well. It's really flattering for a man's face shape and bone structure," says hairdresser John Lowry (31), who sees his as more of a 'high top' than a mun.

He also believes that the style suits a Celtic complexion far more so than a beard does. "Irish beards can be multicoloured, we've got an awful lot of ginger and golden tones, even in dark-haired guys. You were seeing people having their beards dyed secretly," he says.

At Sugar Cubed on Dublin's Clarendon Street, salon manager Mark Byrne says that summer saw the zenith for requests for the man bun hair style but not so much any more. "There seems to be a lot of stick around the mun and a lot of controversy around it. It's like Marmite - you love it or you hate it," he says. "A lot of men are going short again. Grooming is back and they're keeping the beard long and the back and side short, nearly to the scalp. It's a real 'barber shop' look."

As to whether women or other men find man buns attractive, it's a matter of opinion.

There can be great solace that the man-bunner in your life will always have a hair bobbin or scrunchy handy and it's admirable that he is obviously a bit in touch with his feminine side and is choosing to express himself creatively, via the medium of hair. But it's also disconcerting to think that he might spend more time and thought on his 'do' than you, and it's possibly a misleading representation of his true personality.

Journalist Grace Dent opines on high-end men's fashion website Mr Porter that women smitten by a mun won't recognise their partner once it's taken away.

"You fell in love with a man bun: a modern-day swashbuckling urban pirate, sipping his chai latte and leafing through Proust," she writes. "Months later he's bored of the itchy scalp and being mistaken for a woman by horndog truck drivers and the bun days are gone. Bye bye, Jared, hello Normal Joe."

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John Lowry, who works in Mane Hair Salon, South William Street, Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

John Lowry, who works in Mane Hair Salon, South William Street, Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

John Lowry, who works in Mane Hair Salon, South William Street, Dublin. Picture: Damien Eagers

Even if it appears unlikely man buns will reach the frenzied heights of beard obsession, it seems we'll still be seeing them for a while yet.

"It's not going away," says Sugar Cubed's Mark Byrne. "I think it will hang around but it's not going to be for everyone. It's for those who want to stand out a little bit more from the crowd."

And perhaps there are double points for anyone with a beard and muns at the same time.

 

Hairdresser John Lowry, 31, explains why he loves his look

"I'm always experimenting with my hair and in the last while I've just been growing the top of it and keeping the sides really tight and I'll wear it up in a little bun or a ponytail. Sometimes I put a braid in and play around with it.

"A lot of guys are wearing it either knotted over or in a ponytail, and when Conor McGregor started braiding his, a lot of people started doing that as well. Pinterest has been an influence for me in terms of how to style it and what to do with it.

"There are little tiny baby 'doughnuts' you can get that you can put in around your ponytail and mess it up so that it looks like it's bigger if you want. It's so versatile and it's not high maintenance. It's actually the easiest thing ever. I've got thinning hair so in a way it makes me look like I've got far more because it's all brought back and the bun looks relatively voluminous.

"We're seeing a lot more around and I think it's part of the hipster movement that's happening at the moment, where guys are getting far more experimental with hair."

Irish Independent