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Are men OK? Man Bun edition

Men are resorting to making their own hair ties. But is it their fault?


Jaya Saxena


Published Aug 25, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 4:36 am CDT

Masculinity seems to be in a fragile state, with men going to extremes to protect their neck(beard)s from all that is pink, floral, and otherwise lady-like. So each week, we’ll dive into the ways men are guarding themselves from a feminized society, as we ask, “Are men OK?”

The man bun has gotten a bad rap. Yes, it’s generally associated with the type of guy who has 14 philosophy credits to his name and insists on ending every conversation with “namaste” even though he’s white, but we can all agree that the people who think men shouldn’t have long hair are buying into some annoying gender norms.

However, because of those same norms, many men who do grow their hair long don’t have the benefit of cultural knowledge of how to care for it. Do you need conditioner? Do you need a hair dryer? And if you want to put your hair up, just what do you use?

For that, some guys from Urbana, Illinois, created Man Bun, hair ties for men. They are…black hair ties. Yeah, just black hair ties like you’d find in any drug store. They come five to a pack for $5, and a portion of the proceeds to go “an organization that raises money for men’s health,” though they don’t specify which.

The only difference between Man Bun hair ties and the black hair elastics from Goody or other beauty brands appears to be size. Man Bun writes it was tired of “tiny hair ties that hurt our wrists and our hair.” It also has this pretty hilarious tongue-in-cheek ad, equating the struggle for men to have long hair to “the first women who wore pants.”

Ultimately, these guys don’t seem to have created hair ties because they think the girly ones on the market will give them cooties (unlike most of the products we discuss here at “Are Men OK?”). Though some might consider wearing a hair tie on one’s wrist to be the ultimate fashion faux-pas, many people with long hair at some point find themselves with no other place to store one. And having a hair tie cut off the circulation in your wrist is a real, if mundane, concern. Anecdotal experience tells me many hair ties out there were designed for people with hair on the thinner side, so anyone with thick, coarse, or curly hair, or with larger (?) wrists knows how frustrating it can be when these hair ties don’t fit your body.

That many hair ties on the market are designed for smaller hands and thinner hair is an example of the way free market determination can veer into bias. Because women, generally, have smaller wrists (but not necessarily thinner hair), it would make sense that men looking for hair ties would see everything out there as “for women,” and want to create a brand that is “for men.”

This happens in the reverse way all the time. For example, take this “smartphone for women.” Tech is still a male-dominated industry, so it sadly makes sense that many products end up fitting men’s lifestyles. Men also tend to have larger hands, so large phones are something many men can use easily, while women (or anyone with smaller hands) have a harder time using them, or fitting them in small purses or jeans that have no pockets. The phones on the market thus become “for men,” and then a company has to introduce a phone “for women,” with all the gender stereotypes that come with that.

So, as weird as it is that Man Bun is making hair ties “for men” that look and function exactly the same way as any other hair tie, it’s not the company’s fault. Instead, it’s a society that assumes any products for long hair would be for women, just as it assumes large phones are for men. It would be great if hair ties could be sorted by size instead of by gender. Hopefully that day is on the horizon. For now, the least we can do is stop making fun of man buns. 

Update 1:10pm, August 25: A representative from Man Bun light-heartedly responded with an elaborate allegory about man-wrists, gorgeous locks, and an entrepreneurial Phoenix rising from the ashes. But that also, basically, “Our hair ties are handmade, they’re larger, they’re fancier. Also, $1 of every sale goes to a rotating group of nonprofits that target men’s health. They’re not exclusively for men, really nothing is FOR men or women; either gender can wear anything they’d like. But they were created with a man bun in mind.”

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*First Published: Aug 25, 2016, 6:30 am CDT