How to Create a Male Top Knot

Eunice Lucero | 24 April 2016

Spoiler: It’ll make the in-between stage so much easier.

As any guy has probably heard from his significant other, having to grow your hair out is one of the biggest pains in the world. As a man, you’ve got limited options during that in-between phase, and planning your look around that dreaded awkward stage is challenging, to say the least. And now that you’re faced with growing out, say, an outlived undercut, you’re suddenly left in a conundrum. What’s a previously clean-cut guy to do? Should you embark on going longer, and try the male top knot? (Hint: Yes, yes you should.)

The male top knot is, quite literally, one of the coolest ways to wear your hair this year. And not only is it a #trending look, it also is a graceful way to wear your longer top lengths while you’re waiting for your undercut to grow in. Read on for tips and tricks on creating—and getting away with—the perfect male top knot:

What is a Male Top Knot?

cool hairstyles male top knot
The top knot is also a great look to balance out thick facial hair. 

First things first: A top knot is just an ordinary knot made by pulling hair halfway through an elastic. It’s positioned on the top of the head only because that’s where the longest hair is for guys, especially when you’re growing out a fade or undercut. For men with already-long hair, the updo of choice is usually called a man bun—hair that’s longer than six inches can usually loop around itself comfortably and be secured into a circle. Yes, like a ballerina bun. Sometimes even with a beard.

Creating a Male Top Knot

Step 1: Assess your needs.

First question: What style are you transitioning from? If the answer is an undercut or any hybrid of, you’re on the right track, since you’ve probably got some length to work with. Anything shorter than six inches and you might have to wait a bit longer till hair grows out, or you risk pulling on hair and inducing some breakage or hair fall. (Plan B: The male “punytail”—like a ponytail, just… tinier.)

A top knot is also an effective way to keep things manageable during gym-tan-laundry time, or when you just can’t deal with hair in your face at the moment. A lot of men also simply want variety and wear their hair both ways—down for play and neatly done up in a knot at work.

Step 2: Get the tools.

Yes, you may borrow her hair tie in a pinch, but we suggest getting your own stash because these little things have a funny way of getting lost in the deep abyss of life (or, say, your duffel bags and such). Choices are pretty straightforward: Most drugstores usually sell hair ties in a bunch. Black or neutral-colored is best for everyday use, and fabric-covered elastics without a metal connector will be the gentlest on your hair.

Step 3: Products.

After you’ve shampooed and conditioned with a clarifying product (we love the classic, herbal-fruity scent of Axe Phoenix 2-in-1 Shampoo + Conditioner), blowdry or air-dry completely. Top knots are styles that benefit from some grip; we think you should switch to a texturizing wax like Bed Head for Men by TIGI Matte Separation, or a molding paste, such as Dove Men+Care Sculpting Paste instead of your beloved pomade, which might generate too much slip. The most common way to wear a top knot is without a part, so begin by applying product on the hair and combing it straight back from your hairline.

Step 4: Tie it up.

Hold a hair tie in your dominant hand and gather your hair into your other, non-dominant hand. Switch grips and simultaneously pull the hair through the elastic. Make a figure eight with the same elastic, pull hair through again and repeat until tight. Once you’ve reached your elastic’s tension limit (usually three twists), pull hair through halfway and leave the ends to splay out against your head. You should have a little doorknob-like bun at this point.

Step 5: Clean it up.

Spiff it up ever so casually by smoothing down any rough knots around the front. Guys with straight hair who wear a top knot will usually have a look similar to a slick-back. Those with curly or wavy hair can also work the style though by not applying too much product and letting their natural texture peek through at the hairline.

As far as sprucing up the style, some men like to balance out the look by growing some scruff at the jaw. If this is up your alley, make sure your sideburns are approximately the same length as your shaven sides for a cleaner look. You can grow your beard out longer, but a closer-kept beard reins in the whole boho feel of this style and keeps it appropriate for the workday.

Would you wear a male top knot hairstyle?