The ubiquitous summer ponytail flapping behind your head — it’s so easy and so boring. Instead, be cool and stay cool with this summer’s hottest hair trend: braids. With several variations — French braids, side braids, rope braids and fishtails — you can try a different style every day of the week.
“They’re easy and it’s an interesting way to get hair out of your face,” says Chip Perry, artistic director at Fuze Salon in Charlotte, N.C. “It gives a unique texture to the hair and it’s a little something special without doing a whole lot to your hair.”
Dana Vidrine, manager of Salon Blu in Raleigh, N.C., says braids are all the rage at her salon because they’re an eye-catching way to capture the overarching trend in hair right now — texture.
“You can dress them down during the day, or wear them up at night,” Vidrine says.
Celebrities are rocking braids on the red carpet, and the twirly twists are polishing off the look for runway models. Selena Gomez’s loose and feathery side braid at the Kids’ Choice Awards last spring prompted dozens of online tutorials about how to get the look.
Who can wear them?
You don’t need a cascade of long hair to pull off this trend. Anyone with chin-length or longer hair can wear braids, Vidrine says; they even work for women with styles that are super short in back and longer in front.
If you have a layered hairstyle, a French braid variation — such as one that runs from a side part along the front hairline — would be ideal because they incorporate hair as they go.
And braids aren’t only for the 18-and-younger crowd. Celebrities including Jada Pinkett Smith and Gwen Stefani often are spotted wearing them.
Stewart Hough, a stylist at Just Jane & Co. in Charlotte, says braids are ideal for a special-occasion updo because they provide lots of places to tuck and pin flowers or jewels for a sweet or sparkly look.
How to prepare
For most women, braids will stay best if the hair is “one day dirty,” Hough says. Those with super-oily hair can either use volumizing powder to dry up excess oil or start with clean hair and add products to give it a grittier texture.
For a “wet look” braid that lasts super long, Perry recommends combing mousse or gel through damp hair. Then do the braid and let it dry. He says this is the best braid for the beach, because of its staying power. For extra sun protection, comb aerosol sunscreen through your hair first, then apply mousse or gel before braiding.
Fishtail braids and creatively placed French braids are all the rage with celebrities and runway models. But if your technique is limited to the traditional three-strand braid, you can still enjoy the trend by doing a loose side braid with a feathery texture.
For an easy way to pull off the fishtail look, do a traditional three-strand braid using uneven sections — one large, one medium and one small.
Got a little more braid knowhow? Try using a French braid technique sideways starting at the part along the front hairline, extending back toward the ear. Or do an “up” or “reverse” French braid that sits on top of the head by reversing the way you weave the braid, taking each new strand and weaving it up instead of down into the rest of the hair.
Do it yourself
Here’s how to DIY some of the summer’s hot braided looks:
1. Using a curling iron, create six curls along the crown. Pin them to cool.
2. Pin back most of the remaining hair, leaving a small amount along the side hairline for two small braids on each side.
3. Do a low braid with the hair that was pinned back. Hough did a reverse braid, where you weave the braid by pulling hair up and out instead of down.
4. Release the curls along the crown. Tease them with texture powder. Pin them into a loose pouf.
5. Pull the four side braids back and pin into the center braid.
Side braids into wrapped ponytail
1. Take small sections of hair on the sides of the head and create several small braids.
2. Create a loose ponytail in the back of the head using the remaining hair.
3. Pull one of the small braids to the back of the head and wrap it around the ponytail, fastening it in place with a band at the end of the ponytail.
4. Repeat with the remaining braids, crisscrossing them around the ponytail and pinning them in place with hairpins.
1. Using a curling iron, curl wide side sections of hair.
2. Make a low side ponytail with the remaining hair and fasten with a band.
3. Divide the ponytail into three large sections and one small section.
4. Weave the small section between the larger sections. When the small section of hair runs out, pin it into one of the larger sections with a bobby pin.
5. Pick another small section from one of the large sections and repeat.
6. Tease the end for a full effect.