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November 15, 2012

Revenge of The Man Bun

Having previously tortured the assembled villainry with various testosterone-themed delights as the mankini, mancations, mandals, meggings, and manscara, we could not resist this item (warning, should be SFW but regrettably, male brazilians are mentioned), in which a hapless Brooklyn resident turns to the Styles section of the NY Times in search of that elusive sense of not-caring that only comes from slavishly following whatever idiotic fad the Times is hyperventilating nattering about this week.

First up, beards as a weapon of patriarchal oppression:

A beard is a must for any aspiring trendsetter, so I discarded my razor and got to growing. Unfortunately, I can't really grow hair on my cheeks, and the ensuing scruff made me look like a mangy Amish man. So imagine my relief when the Times informed me that, when it came to beards, smugness, not bushiness, was the thing. Some men without beards, the NYT’s Steven Kurutz reports, "are ‘extremely distressed’ by their lack of beard-growing capability. They experience ‘pain and suffering’ and ‘face ridicule’ from their bearded friends. They can even be ‘intimidated by the sight of someone with a great beard.’ ”

As a longtime Internet commenter, I have plenty of experience viciously criticizing people who are different from me. So I stored up some insults and went to Williamsburg's Brooklyn Flea—a weekly food festival and junk market for people fond of plaid shirts and artisanal mayonnaise—to razz the clean-shaven. I spotted the beardless proprietor of a stall selling chalkboards, pot holders, and Sharpie drawings of water towers—the most quintessentially Brooklyn kiosk imaginable. "So, why don't you have a beard?" I asked. "Ha ha, what?" he replied. I ran away.

Mocking strangers to their baby faces was harder than I thought. But if trendiness was easy, then we'd all be silk-screening our own postcards. I decided to give it another go, walking over to a fuzzless man selling eyeglasses. After some small talk, I pounced.

Me: Do the other vendors ever make fun of you for not having a beard?
Vendor: What? What are you talking about?
Me (panicking): You know, 'cause they all seem to have beards and mustaches.
Vendor: Oh, I thought you said beer.
Me: No, I said beard.
Vendor: Yeah, sometimes they do.
Me: Should I make fun of you for not having a beard?
Vendor: Go right ahead!
Me: Your hairless face is disgusting to me.

As he laughed to keep from crying, I walked away victorious, having taught him a lesson he wouldn't soon forget.

"Face ridicule" is one of those delightful phrases that almost begs to be taken out of context. Is the ridicule something to be faced? Or is it a particular type of ridicule - face ridicule, as opposed to butt ridicule? Either way, our undoubted fave has got to be The Man Bun:

In seventh grade, my parents sent me to the orthodontist and paid for braces, which, as it turns out, is yet another way they ruined my life. The Style section reports that the year's trendiest fashion accessory is gap teeth: “These days gap-toothed smiles are regarded not just as a mark of fortune or, as they have been since Chaucer’s day, a sign of sexual rapacity, but also as a positively enviable fashion calling card.” And as everyone knows, nothing goes better with gap teeth than a stupid hairdo: “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.”

Coincidentally, one of my recurring fantasies involves a gap-toothed schoolmarm inviting me to her Bushwick apartment to watch On Golden Pond. I bunned my longish hair, bought a tube of tooth black, and went to the Agenda: NYC streetwear trade show to mingle with designers and purveyors of trendy fashion accessories. I strolled the aisles baring my blackened teeth at everyone I met. A vendor exhibiting crocheted hats went on and on about how each hat was inscribed with the name of the Ugandan woman who made it. “What do you think of my teeth?” I asked when he finally finished. “Do you think they’re trendy?” At another stall, where a barber was giving free haircuts, I scoffed when I was offered a trim. "My hair is trendy as-is," I said. "It's in a bun, you see."

But they didn’t see, and after several similarly frustrating encounters, I realized that my outfit was unconvincing. I had bought cheap tooth black that smeared when it got wet, and it got wet often, thanks to my untrendy salivary glands. At a stall displaying winter hats that were also earphones, the exhibitor appeared nervous when I asked him to assess my teeth. I knew immediately what was wrong. “Don’t worry, I can fix it,” I said, unsheathing the tooth black and smearing it all over my mouth, such that I looked like a fashion-forward railroad hobo. “What do you think? Is it trendy now?" I asked. The exhibitor didn’t immediately respond, but he didn’t need to. The New York Times had told me everything I need to know.

We can hardly wait 'til the Spousal Unit returns to the marital abode. When he retired from the Marines, we teased him relentlessly about growing a ponytail and getting one ear pierced so he could sport a cubic zirconia stud. Regrettably, he seems unimpressed with our earnestly offered fashion advice.

Maybe he'll be more receptive to The Times?

Posted by Cassandra at November 15, 2012 07:18 AM

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When I saw your headline, my first image was of a man wannabe wearing a thong.

When I was growing up, braces were both trendy and a source of immense amusement. In one of my 7th grade classes, another guy was at substantially the same stage with his braces as I was with mine, and by good fortune, we sat on opposite sides of the classroom. We had much good fun shooting our rubber bands at each other. From off our braces.

And now I really must strike back at this Man-X stuff: putting on my best Progressive squeaky voice, I ask, "Hey, Baby--wanna see my...contraceptives?"

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at November 15, 2012 10:26 AM

Don't call it a chignon? No, I insist absolutely on calling it a chignon. I wouldn't pass up that opportunity on a bet.

But it is funny what hairstyles connote effeminacy in different ages. Top-knots of various sorts have been sported by manly men in many cultures. I've never really understood the mania for shortening or removing hair in either men or women. Nor have I ever found anything the least bit attractive about an over-manicured or primped man. The least hint of a man-made scent sends me running in a way that even a three-day-old sweat smell never could do.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 15, 2012 10:27 AM

Top-knots of various sorts have been sported by manly men in many cultures.

Yes, including in New York!

Posted by: Grim at November 15, 2012 10:57 AM

In its lust to have the sexes trade places/appearances the Style section, unwittingly I think, ignores women – or are they that certain women are a finished product?

If the men are to up with chignons then have the women sport the patriarchal barbiche.

The new 'bohemian'.

Posted by: George Pal at November 15, 2012 11:50 AM

I don't mind a bit of after shave on a man, so long as it's not flowery or heavy or too sweet.

But the older I get, the more I appreciate a guy who just looks like a guy. I can't describe the look - it's not really all that well defined in my mind, but I know it when I see it and it always makes me melt a little bit inside :) It's sort of a combination of "happy" and "doing something".

Posted by: Cassandra at November 15, 2012 11:58 AM

Bleah. One of the things I like best about my post-law-firm life is that I don't have to get on elevators with scented people.

Posted by: Texan99 at November 15, 2012 01:54 PM

Being able to smell after shave on an elevator is more than I would like.

I love to wear cologne, but it gives me a headache. I've only ever found two I can bear - one is a very light rose/honeysuckle (sounds awful but I get compliments on it all the time) and one is mostly lemon verbena.

The right amount is when you get just a brief, tantalizing hint for a second or two. If I can smell it all the time, I agree that's way too much.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 15, 2012 02:40 PM

//Gave up on reading the Slate piece 'bout halfway through.

Removes muddy Wolverines, hitches thumbs in bib-overhauls suspenders, inhales the heady aromas of the barn, the hay, and the <CENSORED> wafting from the discarded Wolverines and old overhauls then wonders if buzz-cuts, muttonchops, or Fu Manchu's will ever be fashionable again?

Decides it matters not, neither does the topknot.

Begins humming...//

Posted by: Alstair Cooke's cousin Cletus at November 15, 2012 06:29 PM

Any man who CAN'T grow a beard (not say 'should') might fall short in a couple of other ways.

Know what I mean, Vern?

It's a bit of a "right of passage" for most men. Most men outgrow it. Then there's me.

I've had a "beard" off and on since I was 19 or so. I have a goatee now that I spend time grooming every other morning.

My eldest son is rather fair haired and watching him try to cultivate facial is pretty comical.
My second son is fifteen and I can tell he will have heavy beard when he turns 18 or 19.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 15, 2012 07:20 PM

The spouse had a beard when we got married. His mother pestered me constantly to make him shave it off. Even in high school, he had a 5 o'clock shadow by the end of the lunch hour.

My favorite Nasal Academy story is that they made him shave the upper third of his chest as a plebe, which I thought was just plain weird. It was hard enough to get used to the [strike]military[/strike], err... Navy haircut without all that manscaping going on.

As the saying goes, "that ain't right....".

Thankfully, the Marines appear to have better sense :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 15, 2012 08:42 PM

Beards are pretty kewl. The Engineer ditched his razor upon retirement, and grows a beard in winter and is clean-shaven in summer.

The Young Gentlemen of Chez Engineer have beards that are heavy, blond and red.

The Lad has yet to sprout facial hair.

Posted by: Carolyn at November 16, 2012 08:00 AM

I mostly quit shaving after leaving the army, so I sport a beard most of the time. However, due to my hair stalling out on growth at an awkward length, I shave my hair (and consequently the beard as well) about every other month. It's free and near impossible to mess up.

Posted by: MikeD at November 16, 2012 08:35 AM

I may have mentioned that when I was in China the locals named me 大胡须, which means "Big Beard." Except 胡须 apparently refers to an ancient tribes of barbarians, famous for their bearded faces, who lived to the west of China. So really the name means "Big Western Barbarian." With a beard.

Posted by: Grim at November 16, 2012 11:30 AM

I've been bearded since 1970. Maybe 1969. When Spice met me, she would call me "Fuzzy Face". I've mentioned shaving it off, either with or without a mustache, and she firmly says "No.". Which is also what she says to my occasional teasing about fixing the silver and grey that my cinnamon and pepper have become.

Posted by: htom at November 16, 2012 11:35 AM