When I posted a Facebook status asking men with man buns to come forward and tell their stories, I didn't expect the overwhelming response I received. Men, it seems, are desperate to reclaim—or at least understand—their much-maligned, hipster trash coiffure. Since the New York Times unabashedly declared the testosteronic topknot "in" in "certain arty neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick," the man bun has been alternately mocked and yearned for, a symbol of a certain confidence as well as of a certain outrageousness.
This week, some outlets reported that the man bun now not only gets a bad rap from humanity, but also from science: Dermatologist Sabra Sullivan told Mic that she was seeing an increase in men with a condition called traction alopecia, which is baldness around the forehead and temples caused by wearing tight hairstyles that pull. While women experience traction alopecia, too, Sullivan confirmed that she was seeing more men with the condition—"probably once or twice a week"—and attributed it, "at least partly," to the double-edged popularity of the man bun.
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What does this mean for the future of the hairstyle? How would the already fragile male ego, so often wracked with worry about male pattern baldness, take this news? I asked some men with man buns to reflect.
Adam J. Kurtz, 26, artist
How does this news about alopecia make you feel?
Adam J. Kurtz: It's like saying that going into the sun gives you a sunburn. Like I don't know that if I feel my hair being pulled out of my head, my hair is being pulled out of my head? The term man bun was created for clicks. The hairstyle is called a topknot, and people of all genders have tied up long hair for a long-ass time.
Do people ever make fun of or otherwise comment on your hairstyle?
Definitely had comments, but combined with the rest of me it usually just results in a compliment at the checkout counter of Bed Bath & Beyond.
Do you worry about hair loss?
I don't worry about hair loss too much because my mom's side of the family is so hairy. Maybe that's wishful thinking. Worrying about hair loss is a self-fulfilling prophecy; you'll stress it all away. That's 100% science, probably.
Do you ever feel a camaraderie with other man buns you see in the street?
I feel sort of the opposite of camaraderie. I'll see a guy in khaki shorts with a tiny bit of hair in an actual rubber band, and he just looks ridiculous. If you don't have the hair yet, don't knot it. Rubber bands are going to yank all your hair out. Why are you doing this? I have a lot of cellphone creepshots of these on the train in case I ever start a Tumblr.
A dermatologist recently said that man buns are probably causing an uptick in traction alopecia, i.e., hair loss from tension. How does that make you feel?
Louis: Interesting. I'd never heard of that before.
Do you have any opinions on how maligned the man bun is?
I mainly use it as a way to get my hair out of my eyes. I dislike associating with man buns, I reckon just because it's seen as a fashionable thing, and I feel as though I'm pretty far from fashion. I started putting my hair up a couple of years ago after shaving my head and growing it back and feeling too lazy or lethargic to do anything else.
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Do you worry about hair loss?
I've actually been concerned about hair loss for the past five years, even though my hair is thick. It's more of a paranoia thing in that aspect, I think.
Do you think you'll stop wearing a man bun now that you know?
About possible alopecia? Nah, I'm planning on continuing to grow it out (my undercut is finally gone) and will probably continue putting it up when I need to or want to. Probably the worst thing about the undercut/bun combination was the "hip" white dudes giving nods of approval or using it as a conversation starter. "Sick man bun, bro"—please, no.
You used to have a man bun, but now you don't have it anymore. Why?
Vlad: It was kind of a lot of effort. It was sort of hard to keep it in the sweet spot, where it wasn't too long or [it wasn't] too short. And my girlfriend hated it.
Why did your girlfriend hate it?
She never really gave a good reason. I think it was just too trendy, and she thought it made me look weird.
Can you explain "too long or too short"?
If it's too long, the bun just gets too big. There's a bun-size sweet spot. I could have just been stupid and overthinking it, but I remember occasionally being self-conscious that the bun had gotten too big and made my head look stupid.
Also, I had the undercut-style man bun, which I called the manbundercut, but that never caught on and everyone hated me for it. But I think having the sides of your head shaved messes with the man bun dynamic.
Did that make you feel like you were somehow different from the trendy man buns your girlfriend felt uncomfortable with?
A little bit, yeah. It wasn't a Leonardo DiCaprio man bun. I feel like that man bun very much goes with the sort of slobbish dadbod thing he had going on, where it sort of just signifies having given up but in a way that's weirdly attractive. I feel like tightly cropped haircuts don't have that same vibe, and my man bun was a bit tighter and not huge and floppy.
Do you ever worry about going bald?
The thought literally never crossed my mind. I have ridiculously thick hair; I would never go bald.
Seriously, I broke combs growing up. I don't comb my hair anymore.