No single hairstyle is quite as versatile as the braid. Whether you’re a child on the playground or a full-grown woman in the boardroom, the style is a perfect fit. For long-haired women, a quality braid can be the difference between a seriously good hair day and uncontrollable bedhead.
However, even the most competent braider can use a fresh dose of inspiration every once in a while. Instead of tying the same old French braid, use these braid tutorials for long hair to guide your next ’do. As with all updos, we recommend starting with second-day hair or locks that’ve been sprayed with product to give them a little grip and texture. Gather a comb, a few elastics, and a can of hairspray. You’re ready to try something new.
The Chic Fishtail Ponytail
If you’re the queen of the traditional braid, learning to fishtail braid is an easy way to step up your hair game. We find that starting with a ponytail is almost always easier—no slippery layers to contend with.
Divide the tail into two sections, then begin by crossing a small strand from the left section to the right section. Repeat the process, moving one small strand from the right section into the left. Be sure you’re pulling tightly (you can always loosen your braid at the very end).
Once you’re at the very end of the tail, tie your braid off with a satin or velvet bow. Instant glam!
The Laidback Fishtail Half Ponytail
There are enough iterations of the half ponytail to make even the most dedicated hair lover dizzy. Still, we’re constantly impressed at how flattering the style can be. The loose lengths offer all the femininity and sexuality you want for a night out, while the top half of the style highlights your facial structure.
This version of the half ponytail requires spritzing your hair with a texturizing spray before getting started. Section off the top half of your hair from ear to ear. Begin a fishtail braid with the top section, dividing it into two pieces before crossing a small strand from the right piece to the left. Pull tight, then crisscross the strands again.
Here’s the key component of this style: Once you’ve completed a few repetitions, add a strand from your hairline into the plait and continue fishtail braiding. Repeat this until you’ve run out of hair and tie off the style with an elastic. Pancake the braid, pulling choice sections loose to make it look artfully disheveled.
For a thicker fishtail braid, clip extensions in at the crown and the nape before beginning to braid. No one will guess that your braid got a little extra help.
The Braided Mohawk Ponytail
Fitness magazines love to suggest all sorts of elaborate ponytails for the gym or the boxing ring. Instead of wasting all that time and effort on your class instructor, take an athletics-inspired style out on the town. This braided mohawk ponytail is tough but fashionable, combining the functionality of an updo with the ease of a braid.
To begin, you’ll want to flip your head over and begin creating horizontal sections of hair down the back of your head. Each one should be about an inch wide and tightly secured with a ponytail. Once you have four to five sections, use a comb or brush to smooth them (spritz with hairspray as needed).
Now, you’re going to create a rope braid from your ponytails. Begin twisting the two ponytails nearest to your crown in the same direction before looping them around each other in the opposite direction. Although it may sound complicated, you’ll be surprised at how easy rope braids are to master—if you’re doing it right, they won’t untwist when you let go. Keep the style close the scalp, twisting and adding ponytails all the way down the back of your head. Finish with an elastic and fluff the braid for extra volume.
The Looped Faux Braid
Looped braids are perhaps the most misunderstood members of the family. There’s no actual strand weaving here, just cleverly disguised ponytails that look so much more complex than they actually are. Get up the nerve to give this style a shot just once and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it becomes a go-to in your daily routine.
Start by sectioning your hair with a horizontal part from ear to ear before bringing each half into a ponytail at the back of your head. They should be very close together. Working with the top tail, secure an elastic about 2 inches from its base. Split the section in half, then pull the bottom ponytail up and through it. Add an elastic in the same way to the top ponytail, then pull the bottom one through again.
Repeat the process until you’ve run out of hair, securing the style and gently tugging both sides of each loop to give the style mega volume. Pull out a few pieces of hair around the face to make the style look a bit more effortless.
Double Dutch Pigtails
The boxer braid craze may be over, but we’re still not over the look of polished twin pigtails. If you’ve already mastered the French braid, you’re certainly capable of taking on its Dutch cousin. Instead of crossing your strands over the top of the braid, you’ll just pull them under to create an inside-out look.
Start with a crisp part down the back of your head, dividing your hair into two sections. Beginning with either one, Dutch braid down the back of your head—the tighter, the better. Secure the style with an elastic at the end of the pigtail and begin again on the other side.
Working from your hairline, gently pancake your braid. Tug each section until it’s voluminous and fluffy, leaving the pigtail portion just a bit smaller for dramatic effect. In no time at all, you’ll have a style that’s ready for work or play.