Loose Side Braid
When pushed off to one side and intentionally messy, a traditional three-strand braid is anything but boring. Create a deep side part, then place hair on the opposite side. (For example, if you part on the left, the braid should go on the right.) For added fullness and body, work a volumizer throughout. "The texture is what makes the look sophisticated, rather than childish," says Reyna Zaragoza, stylist and lead educator at Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago, who likes Unite Expanda Dust Volumizing Powder ($24; shop.unitehair.com). Loosely braid the hair, and don't worry if some pieces fall out; the goal is imperfection. Secure with a hair tie, then gently tug on each side of the braid to loosen it and make it look wider, Zaragoza says.
Take a little Scandinavian inspiration with this plaited look that's much easier to do than it appears. Create a center part (using your fingers is fine, it doesn't have to be perfectly straight), then braid each side in a basic braid, so that you end up with pigtails, says Zargoza. Lift one up and over, so that it crosses your head, and secure the ends with bobby pins behind the opposite ear. Repeat on the other side, placing the second braid just behind the first. Finish with a hit of hairspray to tamp down errant flyaways.
Transform a basic ponytail with a fishtail braid. Pull hair back into a pony, securing it at the back of your head, right where your skull starts to curve outward. To create the fishtail, split the pony into two equal-size pieces. Take a small strand from the left section and bring it over to the right. Repeat on the other side, taking a small piece from the right and crossing it over to the left. Repeat until you get to the end of the ponytail. Secure with a clear elastic, then wrap a tiny bit of hair from the ends around to cover the elastic. Gently tug on the braid to loosen it, but not so much so that you lose the definition. Keep in mind that this look is best for those with long hair, since on a shorter ponytail the fishtail braid won't be as dramatic.
Elegant yet effortless, this 'do is perfect for special occasions and also for every day because it keeps your hair away from your face and off your neck. Find your natural part and split hair into two sections. Take one section and gently start braiding (a French or regular braid works well), moving ever-so-slightly away from the hairline. "Remember that this look is whimsical and soft," says Gregorio Ruggeri, co-owner of Salon Ruggeri in New York City, so don't pull too tightly. Braid along the hairline until you get to the nape of your neck, and use an elastic at the end of the braid. Do the same on the other side, placing that braid on top of the other and securing both with bobby pins.
Wondering what to do with those bangs you're trying to grow out? Braid 'em! Take a small section at the front -- about an inch wide, so that you can see the detail of the braid -- and French braid it right along the hairline, explains Zargoza. Pin in place, then pull a little bit of hair from the back of your head over the top to hide the pins, adds Ruggeri.
It's time to change up your same old topknot. To create this simple but sophisticated style, Ruggeri recommends braiding a ponytail in a classic, three-strand braid. Secure at the end with an elastic, then very gently pull apart the braid to loosen it and make it look larger, he says. Bring the braid toward your forehead and pin at the base of the ponytail, before coiling it around the base to form the bun. Pin in place, then give your head a good shake to make sure everything is tight and secure, suggests Zargoza.