The Messy Bun:
Messy buns are the hair-equivalent of sweatpants. They’re either worn by someone who could not care less what you think, or — like pigtails — they’re worn by someone who is trying super, super, super hard to look cute without looking like they tried at all. Very often you can discern the former from the latter by asking yourself, “Is that bun actually messy, or artfully messy?” Signs of an irreverent MB: front bumps, pieces that failed to make it into the hair tie, weird bits sticking out in unflattering ways. Signs of a messy-on-purpose MB: J.Crew-esque whisps of hair surrounding the face.
MBs are the knot of choice when the subway is too hot after a long day, when your first rubber-band breaks during a workout class (always carry a backup), when you haven’t had your first cup of coffee yet but need to run an errand, or when you’re watching “the game” at a sports bar.
The Ballerina Bun:
Slicked back and twisted behind the head, ballerina buns should be avoided unless you are, in fact, a dancer, or if you have a celebrity stylist grooming you for a black tie event.
This style is hard because most people don’t have enough hair to prevent them from looking slightly bald at the temple. However, if pulled off correctly it says, “I can drink red wine in a white dress and not spill a drop.”
The Sock Bun:
The sock bun is the exception to the ban on ballerina buns for the woman who wants to look polished. A blazer and gobstopper pearls are often nearby. By following the instructions of at least 20 different YouTube video tutorials, this look can be achieved by almost anyone whose hair hits her shoulders. It’s acceptable for corporate jobs and non-weekend nights out, but beware: it’s a look, and someone will absolutely ask you if there’s a donut hiding in there.
The Top Knot:
The bun of choice for anyone who works in fashion, art, music or lives in Williamsburg — aka influencers, hipsters, people who care about influencers/hipsters or at the very least people who use the word “influencers.” And “hipsters.” Sitting at the crown of one’s head, the top knot is like a loud-printed statement piece: if you wear it, own it. Top knots also require your hair to satisfy the Goldilocks test of not too much, not too little. With thin hair you run the risk of looking like you’re preparing to put a wig on, and with too much you’ll end up looking like a small furry animal is chilling on your head.
The French Twist:
Wearing a French twist is like faking a British accent — the effort to appear sophisticated is typically extremely counterproductive. But there are two kinds: those held up by bobby pins, and those secured with clip. French twists held up by bobby pins are exclusive to black tie events with a cultural components, like the opera. Rule of thumb: if you can’t wear elbow length gloves, don’t do one.
Meanwhile, French twists in a clip are reserved for moms who are running late to pick up their kids from school. To avoid temptation, throw out any clips large enough to engulf your forearm.
The Half Bun:
Half buns are quickly taking the place of top knots in both fashion and hipster culture. It says, “I consider style without putting too much effort into it,” or, “I forgot to shower again, but only the top part of my hair is gross. The bottom part is still killing it though, so I’m gonna let it do its thing.”
The Cinnabon (contextually, the Cinna-bun):
The Cinnabon cinna-bun says, “I am enjoying life today.” It’s a highly caloric but freaking delicious delicacy that can be purchased at indoor malls and transportation centers.
Like comedian Jim Gaffigan once said, you need a nap about halfway through the pastry. Set your alarm, though, because it’s the middle part that counts — it’s gooey and doughy and has absorbed extra frosting, so it’s more or less a forkful of heaven. Avoid contact with actual hair.
The Man Bun:
The holy grail of buns; a topic ripe for controversy. Some people revere a man who dares to bun his hair (think John Snow, Jared Leto, Miles McMillan). Those who don’t like it — male or female — secretly wish that they themselves could pull it off.
Now show us your bun and tell us what it says.
Illustrations by Charlotte Fassler. Click here for more insight into what your habits say about you.