JARED DE CANHA

Hipsters everywhere have been on high alert after a video campaign to  eliminate the “top knot” hairstyle exploded across social media recently. Claiming responsibility for these so-called “drive-by” haircuts is Cape Town-based comedic duo Nic Smal and Gareth Allison, who are otherwise known as Derick Watts and the Sunday Blues. These “fashion vigilantes” recently took to the streets of Cape Town with a pair of scissors and a collection tin, targeting seemingly unsuspecting Cape Town men and their “top knot” hairstyles.

A “top knot” hairstyle, better known as an undercut bun style, is a hairstyle trend which erupted in 2014, combining an undercut style of shaved sides with the man-bun top. This hairstyle has a strong historical base, with the earliest recorded man-bun dating back to the symbol of the Buddha from as early as the seventh century BC. The trend was revisited briefly throughout subsequent centuries, with the most notable man-bun being worn by George Harrison, a member of the Beatles. Historically, the man-bun was seen as the hairstyle of choice for warriors such as generals and samurai. However, thanks to a multitude of male celebrities including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio, the “top knot” has become a popular choice for modern males.

The comedic duo, which was founded in 2011, began the #stoptheknot trend on 18 February 2015 in their initial video which seemed to target men with the “top knot” hairstyle. The premise of this video was that the duo were acting as “fashion vigilantes” against something which bothered them in society. In their follow-up video, however, it was brought to light that the video was actually no more than an elaborate hoax that the group had approached as a social experiment, as well as a performance p iece. This hoax was so elaborate that even a hair and makeup artist, Kaley Meyer, was used to help concrete the appearance of the illusion.

 

In a recently released press statement on 23 February entitled “#Stoptheknot creators reveal controversial viral video as elaborate hoax,” the duo stated that the actual intention of the video was their keen interest to observe the reactions of society. In this statement, Nic Smal explained that the duo “wanted to do this video at this point in time for several reasons.” He went on to say that current affairs at the moment, including the chaos at the 2015 State of the Nation Address, the problems which Eskom has been experiencing and the recent Isis videos showing the decapitation of civilians, prompted the duo to create this video aimed at the controversy surrounding the “top knot” hairstyle.

This planned gimmick, which was also created in an attempt to direct traffic towards the group’s Youtube channel, has exceeded any previous expectations after it received over 4.5 million views in less than five days. The story was also broadcast across the globe after local and international media outlets spread the story as far as England, Australia, New Zealand and Los Angeles. The duo also managed to get their “Stop the Knot” video to reach number one in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Ireland, as well as to be rated as the number one prank in the US, according to their press release.

The duo has been on the receiving end of a strong backlash of comments and criticism across social media ever since the video went viral. After the story was shared by the American entertainment website Buzzfeed, the duo has faced a substantial amount of reproach from Americans on social media. In response to the outrage on social media, Allison commented on the intended irony of the piece, saying that their “hipster appearance” was a clue as to the validity of the video. Gareth continued to say that “the hate, outrage, threats and calls to be brought to justice, and even jailed” were intriguing given our country’s current “turbulence”. The duo did, however, offer up Nic Smal’s moustache as a peace offering in their apology video, which explained that the trend was a hoax.

Perdeby asked students if they agreed with the perceived intentions of these “fashion vigilantes”, irrespective of the hoax aspect of the viral video. The resounding answer from the students questioned was that they did not agree with the idea of eradicating the “top-knot” hairstyle by force. Suvania Subroyen, a second-year LLB student, believes that “people should be allowed to express their personal fashion without ‘vigilantes’ taking matters into their own hands.” Nadia Venter, a first-year BIS Multimedia student, agreed by saying that “everyone has a right to express themselves. By cutting someone else’s hair, you are violating them.” Brad Tribe, a first-year BCom Financial Sciences student, agreed that a person’s right to freedom of expression should not be compromised, but felt that “the video was quite funny and was not malicious at all.”

BCom Business Management students Natasha Ashley and Sinead Roberts agreed that people express themselves through their fashion choices and that no person has the right to violate this.

The duo concluded their public apology in their release by citing Ricky Gervais, who said that “a comedian’s job isn’t just to make people laugh, it is to make them think.” While it seems that no top knots were harmed in the making of this internet sensation, this video has definitely evoked waves of new thought among its viewers.

 

Image: Hendro van der Merwe and Monrique Hennig

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