Top Knots

Healthy baby hairs set with a dab of gel look perfectly placed like dragonfly wings framing a face. Pull your hair up tight into a ponytail and then roll it around like a barrel down a hill to make the famous ballerina bun. You achieve the two dimensional curlicues around the forehead with a toothbrush. The bun can be set around the circumference with bobby pins or with a hair elastic. There were also scrunchies that can be placed inside of the hair that make the bun look like an obese bagel, but these are no longer. The bun is now created, unless with extensions, naturally. So, voila! What was once the Dutch braid is now the top knot—and if you’re a little bold: two side buns with purposefully set baby hairs. I might add that this trend is not only toward women, but men as well, who often have much smaller buns with the back of the head shaved, like a samurai bun. Like man scarves and purses. This “feminine” hairstyle is for men who have a strong sense of themselves.

For women, there is a working girl essence in the bun, a utility to keep the face and hands free while the body is at work. Buns were for performers, dancers, whose hair was not primary to their performance. Buns are also a sign of composure and refinement from women in Europe and Great Britain in the 1800s in the realm of Jane Austen. Indeed Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice exhibited a usefulness in her bun, by being both sensitive and hardworking a la neoclassisme.

The bun, rather than existing in denial of the hair, is rather, a celebration of it. The long hair itself being a symbol of sensitivity and sensuality and the bun, a careful container of that, without the craft or self-consciousness of the braid. The bun is a simple, straightforward use of the hair, being a direct, masculine counter to the hair itself.

Lined up on the walls of sacred Buddhist shrines are Bodhisattvas, people who have attained nirvana. Upon reaching enlightenment, the spiritual being develops a flame or lotus above his or her head that represents the unfathomable complexity of their state.

Aren’t we looking for something greater than what is before us? When we lift our shoulders, indeed, when we lift our hair does it not bring us closer to that higher power? The Sanskrit word chakra is roughly translated as discs of energy. Each chakra is assigned a color: this, the purple chakra, being the thousand-petalled lotus above the head. This space, that of this highest chakra, is reached through deep contemplation.

This space is otherwise known as the great mystery above us. Based on my summer camping in the wilderness upstate with a man who was mentored by a native man, I learned that there is a seventh direction that is located in the center of the compass. The top knot seems to represent this elevation. As we are, of course, all capable of such higher purpose, you have felt it in you, I’m sure, as if to feel the invisible direction above you.

The hair is one of the most expressive parts of the body, how one chooses to frame their face and ornament their head, crowns them. Hence, the top knot portrays a kind of simple elegance, a casual confidence that is based in utility. All that separates the top knot from a normal bun is the placement on the head, much higher and tighter. The tighter your hair, the more your skin is pulled tight, slightly changing your face. The placement allows for the otherworldly elegance of which I am describing, a contorted face, a bulbous profile. And yet, by nature, full of purpose, not about the hair itself but about the profile, the face, and the movement of the body.

There are so many things to think about - to worry about - to chide yourself over about not living your best life, and witnessing people who are like they have arrived somewhere. And here, like a buried answer, is the top knot that forgives you, that stands away from you and gives you space. That understands the work that you are putting in. That gives your body room. That acknowledges your love and your power at once. The dancer or the athlete does not wear their hair down because it is their body that moves, it is the action that matters.

We want to be seen for our actions, not for what is embellished. These ornaments are lies to the true nature of the body. And yet we are not without pride. We have not entered the digital age to be a mere watcher. We want to crown ourselves, not with the crown of legacy but proficiency, usefulness, to give ourselves a look that is slightly beyond our human nature and allow ourselves to tap into a that, very natural, higher power.