These four styles tend to serve up a whole lot of confusion. What’s the difference between them and how do you choose?
That’s what we’re clearing up today in a typically comprehensive fashion.
Yes, there are some similarities between them – especially a couple of them more than others. But ultimately, they’re very different styles and there’s a good chance that one of them will suit you more than the others.
Considering the time it takes to grow, style, and maintain each of these styles, it’s a good idea to get to grips with what they are before diving headfirst and committing to them.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Man Bun Vs Top Knot: What’s The Difference?
With man buns, the hair is pulled back, wrapped, and tied into a coil, usually at the level of the crown or lower. In contrast, top knots sit higher up on the head, usually above the level of the crown and on top of the head.
There are plenty of similarities between these two styles, most importantly how they both involve pulling back the hair and tying it up.
But the key difference is where the tying occurs.
As the name suggests, “top knots” often sit on top of the head, while man buns sit at the back of the head.
Because of this, you need less length to tie a top knot than you do to tie a man bun. This makes top knots a better option for men with shorter hair who don’t quite have enough length to tie a man bun yet.
Another difference between them is how they’re tied.
Top knots are often left unwrapped and uncoiled, so that you’re left with a little tuft of hair sticking out of the hair tie.
It almost looks like a very short ponytail that sits on top of the head.
This isn’t always the case, however. Top knots can sometimes be coiled, but it’s tricky when you’re not working with much length.
Man buns, on the other hand, are almost always wrapped and coiled so that you’re left with something that actually looks like a bun.
For one, it’s easier to do because you’ve actually got enough length to do it. But it’s also what differentiates it from the ponytail.
In other words, if the hair was tied beneath the level of the crown, was not wrapped and coiled, and simply left to flow freely downward, it would be a ponytail and not a man bun.
Finally, a key difference between man buns and top knots is what you do with the sides and back. With top knots, it’s very common to trim or even buzz the sides and back down, so the long hair on top is given more prominence.
Summary Of Differences:
- Positioning – Top knots sit higher up on top of the head, while man buns are coiled at the back of the head (at or below the crown).
- Coiled Vs Uncoiled – Man buns are wrapped and coiled while top knots often aren’t.
- Sides And Back – With top knots, the sides and back are often trimmed short. With man buns, the top, sides, and back are kept an equal length.
Man Bun Vs Top Knot: How To Choose
When choosing between styling a man bun and a top knot, take these points into consideration.
This one is by far the most important.
If you don’t have enough length, you won’t be able to tie a man bun. To tie a proper man bun that sits at the level of the crown or lower, you’ll need at least 10 inches of length.
So, you can expect it to take over a year of growth to get to this point.
With top knots, because it sits higher up and often on top of the head, you don’t need as much length. In addition, you don’t even need to coil it.
For a top knot, you’ll still need at least 6 to 7 inches of length. Although this may still seem long, the beauty of it is that you can start tying and styling them while you’re waiting to reach a point where you can comfortably tie a man bun.
Man buns have a higher maintenance requirement than top knots.
Part of this comes down to the length. As man buns require longer hair, you’ll need to work harder to keep it clean and well groomed.
Regular shampooing, conditioning, and brushing will be more important.
In addition, because the sides and back are often trimmed or buzzed short with top knots, it massively cuts down on the maintenance requirements.
With top knots, you often only need to worry about the hair on top. The short sides and back are super easy to take care of.
In addition, man buns just take more time to style. This is especially the case when you’re just starting out with them.
It’s quite rare to “get it” on your first couple of tries. To get the shape you want, it’ll take some practice.
You’ve got “neat buns” and “messy buns”. Messy buns just have a more relaxed and loose appearance, while neat buns are more tightly coiled with fewer stray hairs sticking out.
But even messy buns take time and practice to get it looking messy and not untidy. Messy man buns still need to look intentional and there’s an art to tying them.
Top knots, on the other hand, are much easier to tie. You usually aren’t coiling them, and you’re just dealing with less hair in general. It’s quicker and easier to get right – more beginner-friendly for sure.
There’s a lot more you can do with a man bun than there is with a top knot. Once again, this mainly comes down to the length.
With top knots, the hair isn’t quite long enough to experiment with. A top knot is quite well defined in terms of what it’s going to look like.
A small tuft of hair that’s tied and sits high up. It may or may not be coiled back on itself – it usually isn’t.
But man buns are surprisingly versatile.
You’ve got neat buns, messy buns, braided buns, man bun undercuts, “highball” man buns (think Jon Snow), and more.
They’ll take time and practice to get right, but if you were ever tired of a particular man bun variant, you’ve always got others you can try out.
Man Bun Vs Mullet: What’s The Difference?
Man buns are formed by pulling the long hair on top backward and tying it into a wrapped coil below the crown. In contrast, mullets simply consist of short hair at the front and long, untied hair flowing downward at the back.
The two styles are very different, although long hair is required to style both of them.
Well, with man buns, you need at least 10 inches in order to have enough hair to comfortably tie one.
But with mullets, there’s no specific length you need as you don’t have to have enough length to tie anything back.
A common misconception is that if you’ve got a mullet, you can convert it into a man bun if you want to. After all, you’ve got enough length at the back – right?
Unfortunately, what people often forget is that mullets are defined by having short hair at the front. This hair would be too short to tie backward into a man bun at the back.
In order to tie a man bun, the hair at the front would need to be long enough to tie back – at least 10 inches.
That’s what makes these styles so different, although superficially looking quite similar to some.
Both of these styles have gone through both popular and unpopular phases.
Mullets were incredibly popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s, adopted by everyone from rock stars to TV actors.
They’re much less popular than they used to be, but do seem to make small comebacks every few years.
There are more modern variations where the hair at the front is left in a straight fringe, as opposed to being parted and feathered backward like the classic retro version.
Man buns are far more popular than mullets but also do go through phases of decline followed by a resurgence.
Man Bun Vs Mullet: How To Choose
Choosing between these two styles is generally a pretty easy decision. You’re bound to be drawn toward one more than the other when it comes to the way they look.
But if you wanted to break it down to make the decision easier, consider the following factors.
1. How Retro Do You Want To Go?
Mullets are about as retro as you can get. So much so that you’re bound to draw attention to that fact.
Even with the more modern variations it’s hard to escape the ‘80s aesthetic no matter how hard you try.
This may be exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s safe to say that you can expect a mixed reception. Some may love it, while others may not.
Although man buns have been worn by men in several different ancient cultures, they aren’t exactly seen as “retro”.
They’ve made such a huge comeback that they’re still considered “modern”, although perhaps incorrectly.
Ultimately, both of these styles will most likely garner a mixed reception and that’s not something you should really care about. After all, you can’t please everyone.
But if you wanted a distinctly retro, 70s/80s aesthetic, the mullet would definitely be a better option for you than the man bun.
Man buns are tougher to maintain than mullets – this is important to bear in mind.
Although both styles incorporate long hair, the higher maintenance requirement of the man bun comes from the tying.
Mullets don’t need tying. You’ll need to keep it clean, brush it, and maybe use some styling product.
But tying a man bun is an art in itself. It takes time, practice, and commitment.
In addition, you probably won’t need quite as much length for a mullet. In any case, the length will be concentrated at the back and the hair at the front is short.
Overall, you’ll probably be dealing with less overall length when it comes to mullets and so the maintenance requirements will be lower in any case.
Man Bun Vs Undercut: What’s The Difference?
An undercut is a style where there is a sharp transition between the shaved sides and the longer, slicked back hair on top. In contrast, a man bun is where the hair is pulled back, tied, and wrapped into a coil below the crown.
Undercuts are known for their “disconnected” appearance. In other words, the shaved/buzzed sides appear “disconnected” from the longer hair on top due to the sudden transition.
The sides aren’t blended gradually into the top; the lengths are very distinct from each other.
With undercuts, although the hair on top is often slicked back, this isn’t always the case. In fact, you can do pretty much anything with the hair on top.
Because of this, an “undercut” can actually form part of many different styles and is not really a style in and of itself.
The hair on top can be pulled forward into a fringe, shaped into a pompadour, or even faux hawk. As long as the top appears disconnected from the sides, it can safely be labelled an undercut style.
This brings me to the most important point.
An undercut can, in fact, have the top pulled back into something which resembles a man bun. The man bun undercut is definitely a thing.
However, because the hair at the sides is shaved or buzzed down, you won’t be able to form a proper and full man bun. There just isn’t enough hair to pull back and do so.
What you’ll most likely be left with is something more like a top knot – it’ll usually sit quite high up and above the crown.
This is the difference between a “man bun” and the “undercut top knot”.
With a man bun, the sides are left long, pulled back, and wrapped into the bun. With an undercut top knot, the sides are shaved while the top is left long and tied into a small, high up knot.
As with any undercut style, you’ll have that disconnected appearance between the sides and the top.
Man Bun Vs Undercut: How To Choose
Choosing between a full man bun and an undercut can be difficult for some men. They’re both quite bold and attention-grabbing styles.
It’s quite likely that men who are into man buns would be into undercut styles as well.
Consider the following points if you’re finding your decision tough.
Due to the shaved sides of undercuts, there’s just less hair to take care of. With man buns, the top, sides, and back will be long.
Longer hair takes more time and effort to maintain with shampooing, conditioning, and brushing becoming more important.
In addition, with man buns you need at least 10 inches of hair.
With undercuts, the hair on top doesn’t necessarily need to be that long. It just needs to be significantly longer than the sides to create that disconnected appearance.
As a result, you could reasonably have an undercut with pretty “short” hair on top. This would reduce maintenance requirements even further.
Undercuts are also often easier to style, depending on what you’re doing with the hair on top. With classic undercuts, all you’re doing is slicking the hair back – this is very easy to do.
With man buns, you need to learn how to tie a proper one that looks as neat as you want it to, in the shape that you want it.
This takes time, energy, and practice.
So, if you’re looking for a lower maintenance style, an undercut variation would be more appropriate than a full on man bun.
As I mentioned earlier, both of these styles are pretty eye-catching. No matter how you wear it, the eyes of others are often drawn to the bun at the back of your head.
It isn’t exactly uncommon, but it still isn’t exactly something you see every day. People like looking at stuff they don’t see every day.
It usually won’t be in a bad way, but some men may not want this attention.
Having said that, undercuts are also often attention-grabbing due to the sharp, disconnected transition from the shaved sides to the longer hair on top.
But is one of them less eye catching the other?
I would say that a small, neatly wrapped man bun below the level of the crown can still look quite subtle and understated. For one, it probably won’t be visible from the front-on view anyway.
Undercuts, on the other hand, aren’t as subtle and will most likely catch the eyes of those around you way before a man bun would have.
While many men love the unique edge that styles such as these give their aesthetic, others may prefer something more subtle.
Out of these two styles, if you’re looking for a more “under the radar” look, go for a man bun. But not just any man bun – a neat, well-wrapped, small man bun that won’t be the first thing people notice about you.
Hopefully, this article has cleared up any confusion you may have had about man buns when comparing them to other, similar styles.
Knowing the difference between available styles is the key to finding the right one for you.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.