Ashley Hamer expected the “clip-in man bun” to receive a few scattered guffaws when she wrote a Groupon ad for it last week.
Instead the puffy attachable-hairpiece sale went viral, inspiring a #Manbun hashtag on Twitter and countless memes, many of which involved photoshopping faux man buns on celebrities (Obama, Donald Trump, and NBA commentator Ernie Johnson, for example). Hundreds of media outlets—from CNN to GQ to the New York Post—quickly hopped on the bandwagon with incredulous “Can you believe this is a thing?” coverage.
Hamer, an editor at Groupon’s headquarters in Chicago, still can’t believe it. “It’s a surreal experience to see your words just about everywhere. Sometimes I’ve been tempted to say ‘Hey, I wrote that!’ on Twitter, but I’ve just been sitting back and watching.”
The ad’s popularity isn’t totally shocking. The term “man bun” has been bouncing around the Internet for a few years—it’s believed to have originated in a January 2012 New York Times piece describing the tied-up locks of a pair of bartenders in Brooklyn)—but 2015 has been the year in which it’s become something of a craze. Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio and fashion-forward folks in some of the country’s tonier zip codes have been sporting them, and “how to grow a man bun” has been one of the most popular style-related search terms on Google this year.
However, the trendiness of the man bun is the source of much of the furor over the ad. Hipster-bashing humor often goes viral on the Internet, and when you toss in the ridiculousness of a tiny bun-shaped wig that can be perched atop your cranium you get an easy target for online rage. (“Buy them and burn them all!” proclaimed a headline from Complex magazine describing the Groupon ad.)
Not that Hamer necessarily disagrees: when she first got an e-mail about the clip-in man bun, she reacted similarly.
“My immediate reaction and was like ‘Oh god, no, what is this? Why does this thing exist? Who would buy it?'”
Hence the sarcastic edge in the copy Hamer wrote:
One of the hottest trends in men’s fashion, the man bun has been popularized by fixed-gear bicyclists and introspective Hollywood actors alike. But although the hairstyle oozes with fashion sense, those who sport it might find themselves outcasts in sports bars, motorcycle gangs, and the annual government-mandated machismo test. This attachable—and, equally important, detachable—man bun lets you blend in with your surroundings, putting it on when you smell fair-trade coffee or hear a banjo, and taking it off when someone utters the word bro.
Like all things that go viral on the ‘net, the man bun is now getting the contrarian-think-piece treatment, but Groupon’s got its money worth already. It’s sold 11,000 faux man buns at $9.99 each in a little more a week—not bad for a novelty product not featured prominently on Groupon’s site (Hamer has also followed up with a blog post revealing that Chicago is number one in clip-in man bun sales).
“The sales were purely driven by coverage,” said Groupon spokesperson Erin Yeager. “Considering that, the man bun has been blowing it out of the park.”
Hamer chalks up the success of the product to sheer luck. She thought an ad she wrote previously for a “selfie brush”—a hairbrush that has a slot for your iPhone so you can take vain pictures of yourself while grooming—should have gone viral too.