Cary Joji Fukunaga in his man braids Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
If the internet is ablaze with chatter about your hair, you know you have hit a nerve. After all, it's rare that a hairstyle can be described as controversial. So what is it about True Detective director Cary Fukunaga's hair at this year's Emmys that has sparked so much discussion? In a word: braids.
Have you stopped screaming and crying yet? Good, now sit down and let's talk this through. Is it really so crazy that a man would braid his hair? Black men have been styling their hair this way for years. What exactly is the issue here? Is it that guys should take a laissez-faire attitude to their hair and plaits imply a little too much thought and preparation? Is it a cultural and racial issue, as braids are traditionally associated with black and Native American culture? (Google rapper Riff Raff and make up your own mind).
Jack Guinness Photograph: Richard Chambury/REX
As a male model I've had the chance to play around with my hair. More often than not, my hair is styled for me by someone else. But for the majority of men, such whimsy is not possible. Often afraid of what our friends may think, we wait for a 'lad-hero' who is beyond reproach (like mainstream Beckham or of-the-moment Cary) to move a style from risky to mainstream on our behalf. Sometimes we just need a style champion to lead the way.
Recently Grazia magazine featured a photo of me and christened my hairstyle the 'mun' or the man-bun (I'm just glad I didn't popularise the man-fringe). Incidentally, Fukunaga likes a bun too. Still, my childhood dream of popularising an alternative men's hairstyle had finally come true ( finally all the lads back home would be proud of me). And now the A-list is at it. Game Of Thrones' Kit Harrington sported a bun at the Emmys. The Oscars saw doe-eyed Jared Leto loose-locked and dip-dyed (a look pioneered by Dalston's Bleach salon). And now, Cary Fukunaga has gone full-on ponytail braid. I must confess a vested interest; bar the dip-dye (and I have been tempted) I have been known to sport a bun, ponytail, cornrows, a weave, and a pony braid (after one too many ciders at Glastonbury).
The point is, men having fun with their hair isn't considered normal behaviour. Even famous men. While social conditioning teaches women to care for (or rather, change) their hair, until recently, men have escaped this pressure (I salute women such as Sinead O'Connor who reject this standard and just shave it all off). Styling has been mostly the women's preserve. Though I'm sure he could have carried it off, I can't imagine my granddad going for a 'blow-dry and set' every Friday like Gran did.
Cary Fukunaga at the Emmy ceremony. Photograph: Mark Davis/NBC/NBC via Getty Images
Mainstream options for your average man were once limited, but David Beckham changed all that. Straightened curtains? Gelled fins? Shaved-in lines? 1930s inspired sleek side parting? Things have moved on. Previously, alternative hair (like punk styles) offered men an escape from the mainstream. Now there are more options, more tribes to join than ever before; tribes that aren't counter to culture but are nestled within it.
So if it's not racial, why has everyone got so excited by Cary's hairstyle? It no doubt helps that he is extremely handsome, cool, and he is part of the team that brought us one of the most restrained, intelligent and contemplative TV shows in years. But maybe it reveals just how little innovation there is nowadays, that this hairdo seems subversive or pioneering. It feels refreshing, even a little naughty, to reject the usual slicked-back neatness deemed acceptable for modern men at such events. The celebration of Leto's flowing locks at the Oscars hints at a shifting of the goalposts, a widening in the popular conception of what men are allowed to look like and what is handsome or beautiful. So if I decide to wear my hair in adorable bunches or sass about with a scrunchie top-knot you're just going to have a suck it up. In terms of man-dos, all bets are off, and this is to be celebrated. For this Mr Fukunaga, I salute you.