Perched atop a mountain of wavy, pulled-back hair is a mangled ball of manliness, a holdover from the days of the samurai. Joakim Noah, the most fashionable Chicago Bull, has a top bun.
In the annals of hair, the top bun renaissance will be marked by the style’s escape from the shackles of gender and Brooklyn’s “hipster” L train. Wearing top buns (also known as the top knot or, according to The New York Times, the man bun), men are straddling both fashion and practicality. And looking sexy while doing so.
The bun’s unisex construction pushes rogue strands of hair away from the face and, in only a few minutes, presents a clean, polished look. Stylist Brandon Williams, who works with the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, tells me that in a generation of NBA players who aspire to classy GQ fashion—Steve Nash shed his Katie Couric tresses for a Mad Men cut, Kevin Durant opts for thick-rimmed glasses—Noah is a rebel.
Once known unofficially as the league’s ugliest millionaire, infamous for his gap-toothed grin and frizzy coiffure, Noah has morphed into a defensive juggernaut. The spawn of beautiful tennis player Yannick Noah and equally beautiful Miss Sweden ’78 Cecilia Rodhe, the 28-year-old has lead a severely undermanned Bulls into a fierce bloodbath against LeBron James and his Miami Heat.
Noah’s hairdo, like his playing style, is “organized chaos, strategic and wild,” says Williams. “It’s pulled back and neat, but has that mess quality to it.” He is not graceful. When his 7-foot frame jumps, steals, and sprints, he look less Air Jordan and more baby giraffe. His shot has zero mechanic perfection. Noah is awkward, probably dangerous, and sometimes comical. But, for him, it always works.
He’s a rebounding machine—slapping, growling, and grinding his way through games. Ryan B. Anthony, a beauty expert who works with NBA wives, says Noah’s look is natural, reminiscent of the long-haired warriors, Vikings, and Trojans. “Your hair is your crown,” he tells me.
Noah’s adoption of the samurai’s top bun, however, doesn’t mean he prescribes to bushido, or the “way of the warrior,” off the court. Hair down and free and swept to the side, he looks like Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt’s arms. His sultry stare pierces the camera.
His right arm, wrapped around a woman, two bottles of beer in his hand. His left other arm, wrapped around two more women, and another bottle in his hand. Sometimes he frolics in the water with topless coeds and red Solo cups. He’s been arrested with marijuana. The hair melds with his bohemian attitude, and loose-fitting, rarely tailored clothing.
On the court, the whistle blows and his hair goes up. There is work to do.