Curly hair manbun guide for dudes with curls
The other day, we had a curly barbershop customer walk in to our barbershop initially wanting a curly hair undercut haircut. However, when he saw that most of the barbers at our barbershop have man buns, he looked dazzed, as if he had entered another dimension where man buns were the de-facto hairstyle of all men worldwide (in essence, that’s our idyllic, sacred man-bun heaven where all man bun dudes go to once they reach the minimum hair length for a man bun).
So, as expected, this new curly customer started asking Paul (one of our barbers with a manbun) question after question about how to get a man bun with curly hair. And that’s what this man bun hairstyle guide will be all about today, especially since that wasn’t the first time that a curly dude asked us (or me) about how to grow curly hair long to get a man bun.
What is curly hair?
Right, before continuing with this curly man bun guide, we have to define what curly hair is. You’d be surprised at how many guys who have curly hair don’t know that they have curly hair, or how many guys think that curly hair is only the curly hair of Justin Timberlake back in his NSYNC days.
“Got some change for a haircut, bro??”
As a barber, I could give you my own definition of what curly hair is, but I will instead go with the definition from one of the most-famous curly hair websites online called “Manly Curls” and which defines curly hair as hair that grows in a non-straight pattern infinitely and thus curves as it grows out of the follicle. Well, I’ve actually paraphrased and shortened what the full definition is of curly hair as used in that website since you can read some very technical stuff about curly hair there, but this curly hair definition paraphrased above gets the point across: curly hair is any type of hair that doesn’t grow straight.
The reason for paraphrasing the definition of curly hair from the famous Manly Curls website is that the precise observation of curly hair curving as it grows, while straight hair never curves (and instead grows straight indefinitely), is indeed correct. This break-through observation (and I call it break-through since no one in the barber profession had pointed this out so clearly despite this being common sense) brings about the two main hair textures for men: straight hair and curly hair.
Curly hair as a texture is divided into three types: wavy hair, coiled curly hair and kinky curly hair. Wavy hair is the hair that you see on guys like Adrian Grenier or Harry Styles, coiled curly hair is the hair of guys like Justin Timberlake (while at NSYNC) or Troy Polamalu, and kinky curly hair is the hair of guys like Samuel L Jackson or Will Smith.
How to get a man bun for curly hair
For some strange reason, curly guys seem to think that getting a man bun requires some special voodoo magic or some secret hair potion extracted from the Amazon rainforest. Sure, there are many more great curly hairstyles for men but opting for other curly men’s hairstyles in detriment of the man bun just because you think that getting a man bun requires a degree in engineering is just plain wrong. And you’re doing yourself a disfavor by not thinking that you’re fully capable of growing an epic man bun with your curls.
The reality is that getting a man bun as explained in my man bun hairstyle guide is the same for curly hair as it is for straight hair. All that you need is an elastic hair band and hair that has the minimum length needed for the manbun (which, if you didn’t read the previous link, is 8 inches of hair length all across the scalp).
Ok, ok, let’s split hairs (no pun intended) for a second here: growing a man bun with curly hair isn’t “absolutely” the same as with straight hair. While the concept remains the same, there are some tidbits with curly hair that you, as a curly dude, need to consider if you want to successfully grow a lustrous mane of man-bun curls. Here are the main 4 issues that all curly dudes need to be aware of prior to (and while) growing their curly hair long so as to sport a man bun:
- The real hair length of curly hair can be tricky.
- Curly hair tangles far faster and far worse than straight hair.
- Curly-haired men must use the right hair products.
- Curly hair must never be cut into a man bun undercut.
Let’s go through each of the 4 main issues related to growing a man bun with curly hair. And, remember, if you have wavy hair, this guide applies to you, while the same goes if you have kinky curly hair, also known as afro-texture hair or black men’s hair (i.e. afro-textured hair is a very common hair type with African-American males).
Curly hair has two lengths when growing a manbun
Because of the natural coiled shape of curly hair, it will act as a spring when tension is applied to it. This means that, when your curly hair is in a natural state (i.e. no hair products are used), your curly mane will have a different length than when the curls are pulled so as to tie it into a man bun. This hair length effect was coined by Rogelio Samson (from Manly Curls) in his book, The Curly Hair Book.
According to Rogelio Samson, curly hair has two types of lengths: visible length and extended length. These two lengths are exactly what I’ve described in the previous paragraph: the visible length of curly hair is the one when the hair is in a natural state, while the extended length of curly hair is the one when the hair is pulled or flattened.
Because of the two actual lengths of curly hair, many curly men make the mistake of relying on their visible length to determine how long their hair is. Thus, many curly men spend months wasting their time trying to grow their visible length to the minimum length of a man bun. I’ve seen this happen countless of times with curly guys growing their curls long for the first time; since your curly hair is going to be pulled so as to tie it into a bro bun (another name for a man bun), you only need to get 8 inches of extended hair length and not 8 inches of visible length!
Bear in mind that the extended hair length of curly hair is usually about twice the length of its visible length. What this means is that you can easily spend an extra 18 months of your time futilely growing your curls long to wear a man bun (believing that you need your curls to have a visible length equating the minimum length for a man bun), when 18 months ago you could already tie an epic man bun when your extended hair length was 8 inches (enough to tie a manbun) and your visible length was only 4 to 5 inches.
It’s crazy how many curly guys fall for this and Rogelio Samson has done a huge service to many of these curly dudes by saving them a lot of wasted time with such an easy to remember method. If you can, get The Curly Hair Book as it’s loaded with tricks like this one that will save you a lot of pain and wasted efforts.
Curly hair tangles the longer your man-bun hair grows
Once your hair reaches the “long hair” classification (i.e. 6 inches of extended hair length), it will start to knot and tangle fast if your hair care isn’t in good order. Every month we get at least two poor curly souls who come to our barbershop in a sign of defeat to get their growing curls chopped off as they’re all tangled up.
You must take this seriously: curly hair can tangle furiously without you realizing it. How to avoid your curly hair from tangling in the first place once you have enough hair to tie a man bun or top knot? By using a conditioner daily or almost daily and breaking up the tangles as soon as you notice them in the shower.
The best way to avoid tangles with long curly hair is to wet your hair daily in the shower and to coat the hair with conditioner, leaving the conditioner on your wet hair for two minutes. During these two minutes, you softly run your fingers down your long curls and then pull apart any tangles that you find (again, doing this softly). Once done, rinse the conditioner and you’re set.
To give you an idea of how lustrous and glossy your curly mane will look by simply using a conditioner every other day (or daily), here’s a picture of a wavy-haired male with his hair loose and untied (he uses a conditioner daily):
This next picture below was taken once he tied his wavy mane into a man bun right after the previous picture. See how aesthetic and full his wavy man bun looks.
If you have never used a conditioner before, you will be amazed at the results that such a product will yield on your hair. Likewise, you will soon get used to using a conditioner daily as you rapidly coat your hair with it while showering and then, as you wait for the two minutes to be over, you swiftly spot any tangles and undo them as you continue to clean the rest of your body in the shower in those two minutes. Seriously, folks, even I can do this without feeling like a woman, so you too will be able to use a conditioner daily like it’s nothing (and the doors to our man-bun heaven will open automatically for you).
So use a conditioner, dude!
Long curly hair requires special products if you want a “mun”
In case, you didn’t know it, a “mun” is another word for a man bun and you must use two main products for your curls if you want to wear a good-looking man bun (not wearing a good-looking man bun is considered a sin, so it’s your call).
As you will have learned in my man bun products guide, both a styling cream and a leave-in conditioner are recommended hairstyling products for styling a man bun. However, when it comes to curly hair, this isn’t just recommended, this is a “must”.
By far, the best hair products for curly guys are a styling cream, hair gel and a leave-in conditioner, and this includes for the curly man bun hairstyle. However, out of these three curly hair products, a styling cream and a leave-in conditioner take the trophy home when it comes to being the most useful products for y’all curly guys.
You see, curly hair in men has big issues with being moisturized, hence most curly dudes get frizzy curls the second that their curls grow longer than an inch. They (curly dudes) aren’t providing the much-needed moisture to their curls, which then leads to hair that looks and feels dry; in fact, dry curly hair in men is similar to hay. What’s even worse is that, with a curly man bun made up of dry non-moisturized curls, the actual bun will look like a huge ball of tumbleweed.
The solution to having shapely curls that make your curly manbun stand out from the crowd is to use either a leave-in conditioner or a styling cream any time that you want to style your man bun. It’s as simple as coating your long curly mane (when it’s damp) with either of these two products and then proceed to tie your bro bun. Presto!
Here’s how much of a difference a good styling cream can make on your man bun. See this picture of a black male with long frizzy curls prior to using a styling cream for his man bun:
Now see this next picture below of his curly mane tied into a man bun after having coated his curls with the styling cream. Notice how the natural shine of his long curly hair is enhanced and how the frizz has disappeared; that’s how good styling creams are for curly dudes with long hair and manbuns!
Lastly and as said earlier, you should also be using a regular conditioner in the shower to keep your long curly mane in check. Failure to do this will result in the styling cream and the leave-in conditioner not working as well as they’re supposed to do when styling a man bun or top knot. Feel free to check out my man bun hairstyle guide (see the link in the menu) to learn about all the steps to styling your curly man bun or top knot as well as how conditioners and styling creams are the best hair products for getting a stunning man bun.
Never get a curly man bun undercut or top knot undercut!
The undercut is a great haircut and it’s one of the main haircuts used by barbers as styling foundations to cut the hair of male clients. However, while a man bun undercut haircut with straight hair looks great, the undercut (or the man bun undercut) is a horrible haircut for curly hair.
An undercut requires that the hair on the sides and back of the head be buzzed very short and abruptly from the hair on the top of the head, which in itself creates the famous “mushroom hair” effect as seen on the picture below of a curly dude (Rogelio Samson has a lot of information about taming curly hair and the mushroom-hair effect on his Manly Curls website).
Curly hair grows up and out, and, even with 8 inches of extended hair length for curly hair and thus enough to tie a man bun, curly hair will still stick out and to the sides when left untied. Ergo, if you buzz the hair on the sides and back of the head as per the instructions of an undercut haircut, you will be magnifying the mushroom-hair effect on your head with the hair on the top of the head, as the hair on the top cannot fully hang down and instead hangs at an angle.
The above is exactly the same reason for many curly guys complaining about their hair looking like a mushroom or a Christmas tree when they’re growing their curly mane long, and the period of time that it takes for one’s own curly hair to finally lose the mushroom-hair shape is what’s known as the “awkward stage” of curly hair growth. The awkward stage in curly men growing a man bun hairstyle can last from 6 months up to 3 years, depending on how long you want your hair to be and whether you have wavy hair (i.e. the shortest period of time under the awkward stage) or kinky curly hair (i.e. longest period of time under the awkward stage).
Overall, if you want to grow a man bun with curly hair, you must avoid the undercut haircut! The best way to grow a man bun with curly hair is to grow the hair from the same length all across the scalp. So if your curls on the top of your head are two inches long then the rest of the curls on the sides and back of your head must also be two inches long. This is absolutely the best way to grow a curly man bun, and the end-result will be the timeless full man bun style.
If you don’t want to grow the curly hair on the sides and back of your head for your man bun, then some alternative haircuts to the undercut are:
- Long taper haircut: hair on the sides and back are cut with scissors only.
- Short taper haircut: hair on the sides and back are buzzed with a hair clipper only.
- Executive contour haircut: the hair on the sides and back are tapered mid-way with scissors mid-way and then a hair clipper is used.
- 2-step undercut haircut: unlike with the regular undercut, the 2-step undercut has the hair on the sides and back of the head buzzed with two different hair clipper lengths, thus creating two horizontal hair-cut layers or “steps”. Rogelio Samson actually pioneered this haircut online.
With curly hair long enough to tie a man bun, avoid fade haircuts or whitewall haircuts. You want to have some hair length on the sides and back of the head, and you want that length to either be tapered or be blended via sequential hair-clipper lengths (i.e. 2-step undercut).
Concluding our curly man bun guide
While all manbuns are created equal, the path to get there differs slightly depending on your hair type. Curly hair has never been the kind of hair type that mot guys are happy with having, yet, slowly but surely, the sentiment towards curly hair in men is becoming more and more positive thanks to websites like Manly Curls and thanks to the efforts of us barbers encouraging you curly dudes to grow your curls out and even get a man bun. So long as you keep in mind the advice in this curly man bun guide, you will be ready to sport an epic bro bun or top knot!
If you still have more questions about how to grow a man bun with curly hair or about anything related to curly manbuns, then you can read our Man Bun and Top Knot FAQ or you can ask your questions below.
Guide last updated: 21st August 2015