Out with the man buns, in with the man braids

The Braid-y Bunch


By Renyi Lim

Out with the man buns, in with the man braids

Man…braids? Who’s rocking them?

Most prominently, Jared Leto – who, incidentally, never seems to have a bad hair day – was spotted at this year’s Golden Globes sporting a messy ombre French braid with a sharp white tuxedo. New York label Boyswear took things one step further during their Spring/Summer 2016 show for Men’s Fashion Week by sending their models down the runway with yodelayheehoo braids, draped sweetly under their ears. In a classic trickle-down trend effect, #manbraids can now be seen all over Instagram, with plenty of open-minded, adventurous guys deciding to have a go at plaiting their hair.

Is this some sort of newfangled trend?

Hardly. Men have been braiding their hair alongside women since human beings first decided that grooming was a good idea: cornrows, for instance, are thought to date back to 3500 B.C, while ancient Celtic nobles living in 750 B.C. experimented enthusiastically with elaborate braided hairstyles. Another famous plaited style, the Chinese ‘queue’ braid, was worn exclusively by male Manchus of Manchuria between 1664 and 1912, where the hair above the temples was shaved and the remaining hair was tied back in a long pigtail.

Plaits seem kind of feminine to me.

Try watching the History Channel’s TV series, Vikings, where every warrior worth his Scandinavian salt appears on screen bearing an impressive selection of braids woven into their long, flowing locks (and, on occasion, beards). The antihero of the series, Ragnar Lothbrok – played by Australian actor Travis Fimmel – can be seen with a particularly fine plaited mohawk that no one would dare point at and laugh, especially if he’s storming in your direction with an axe. Likewise, on Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo – Season One’s Dothraki horselord, in the form of the imposing Jason Momoa – displays his prowess in battle via the length of his braid. Respect the man braid, yo.

But I don’t have hair that flows like Jared Leto’s!

You needn’t worry about a thing: the men of Instagram have proved that you don’t necessarily need long hair to get the best out of a braid, and you don’t need poker-straight hair, either. In fact, a bit of rumpled, textured hair can make a plaited style look slightly wilder and windswept. Even if you tend to lean towards a hairstyle that’s cropped closer to your scalp, all you have to do is grow the hair at the top of your head ever so slightly longer – just enough to let you plait it down firmly and neatly. Get it right, and the look can turn out subtle, eye-catching, or just plain charming.

Alright, you’ve convinced me – I’ll give braiding a try. What do I need?

First, get your hands on some miniature snagless hairties (make sure they’re either the same colour as your hair or made from clear plastic, so that they don’t stand out too much) and a good hairbrush to get any tangles out before you start plaiting. Acquaint yourself with the basic rules of braiding – and then try it out! It might not look amazing on the first go, and it may turn out that you need to grow your hair out a little more before you can plait it properly, but practice really does make perfect in this case. If you’re super-impatient – and let’s face it, most of us are – get a sympathetic and clever pair of hands to do your hair for you instead. 

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