The allure of the big bun
Not since the poodle perm has there been a hairstyle as controversial and divisive.
Big buns – careful how you type it in Google – have been spotted everywhere from the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival to film premieres and atop the heads of stars of the hit reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex.
Once the preserve of women not wanting to get their hair wet in the shower or to hide greasy hair the day before a shampoo, big buns are no longer confined to times when no one can see you, and have burst onto the catwalk.
From the Kardashian sisters’ elegant topknots to Alice Eve’s swirl and Sarah Jessica Parker’s enormous crowning glory, it seems the higher the bun, the more dramatic the look.
Balancing on the crown of the head, they add instant glamour with a topknot that can be as messy or as neat as you like.
And unlike most celebrity hairdos, this one is low-maintenance and so easy to recreate at home, all you need is an old sock.
The fashion stylist Wendy Nguyen posted a video on YouTube showing how the updo could be achieved in five minutes using a discarded sock and it has notched up nearly two million hits.
Not everyone is a fan, though. The big bun, which seems to owe more than a passing nod to the gamboo’a favoured by women in the Gulf – they use the hair accessory to add height to their shaylas – is frowned upon by some conservatives.
And some fashionistas sneer at a look which runs the danger of resembling a Croydon facelift (to the uninitiated, the Croydon facelift refers to the much-derided hairstyle of women from a certain south London quarter, which involves pulling the hair into a ponytail or bun so tight, it stretches the face taut.)
“The big bun can look amazing and as if you have spent a lot of time on it, even if you haven’t,” says the stylist Rain Baxter from Roots salon in Jumeirah, Dubai.
“I have seen girls wearing them out and they are very easy to do, especially with a doughnut-shaped hair accessory. The key is to keep it loose, otherwise it can look too severe.”
Not everyone can carry it off, she warns: round faces can look even rounder with a bun balanced on top of their heads.
Brian Montgomery, a stylist from Saks in downtown Dubai, agrees buns should be kept looking deliberately loose and casual, adding: “I have noticed more women coming in over the past couple of months asking for this look for the weekend, particularly as it gets hotter. It is very visual and suits any hair length.”
He says it is a new spin on the Brigitte Bardot-inspired backcombed look dating back to the 1960s.
Jane Gaughan, 30, an Irish primary schoolteacher from Abu Dhabi, has been turning heads with her huge bun on nights out, helped by a doughnut ring to create the look.
“The first time I wore it, people did not recognise me,” she says.
“I saw pictures of Sarah Jessica Parker and the Kardashians with buns and decided to try it myself. I have really long, thick hair which I usually leave down but this is a really easy updo and looks very glam. It takes five minutes and I get lots of compliments.”
She adds the only downside is the wearying weight of the hair piled on her head. “After a few hours, it feels like a small animal or a child is hanging off the back of my head.”
The big bun crosses cultures and nationalities, with younger women from the GCC region long favouring hair piled high under their shaylas, either as a mark of individuality, in a streak of rebellion or for the simple practical purpose of keeping their shayla on their head.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some Arab women even wrap their hair around milk cartons to give extra height.
The hairstyle has sparked debate among clerics about whether big hair is un-Islamic.
Erica Charves, 33, who writes as Opinionated Hijabi, says: “They seem to be getting bigger and bigger. I am not into hadith politics but there is an Arab saying: ‘Eat what you want but wear what other people want.’ Society has always had an opinion about what women wear.”
“It is a kind of blind imitation,” grumbles Wedad Lootah, an Emirati youth adviser and relationship counsellor. “It has nothing to do with our religion, culture or traditions.
“I once saw a girl with hair four storeys high – it looked like Jebel Hafeet or Mount Everest. I have no idea how she got it so high.”
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Updated: June 11, 2013 04:00 AM