Ever since my little-girl ballet days, I’ve understood the undeniable chic of a well-done chignon. Love French twists for brides. Totally dig a high, tight pony on just about everyone. But with my somewhat sticky-out ears and broad shoulders, a part of me always feels like an ugly little boy with my hair pulled back. I know it might sound strange, but the hair-up situation is a tough one for me to pull off.
Perfect little ballet bun at a 2007 Elie Saab runway show
Oh, but the agony of wearing one’s hair down every single day. It’s hot and can be annoying, not to mention the fact that it must look utterly gorgeous at all moments when being worn down. I suffered so severely from the fear of looking like a boy in high school that I remember clearly the very first–and only–time I attempted a bun in ninth grade. It was eighth period Social Studies and I was wearing one of those thick-cottoned long sleeved Abercrombie tees that were so very important my freshman year. I was so hot that I felt my face flush and sweat forming at the back of my neck.
Giving in to the heat, I reluctantly borrowed a hair tie from a classmate and pulled it all up into a loose, high bun. When my teacher (whose class I had been in for five months) walked in, he asked me if I was new to the school. This was the moment I decided it was time I hightail it out of my hair rut and learn how to experiment. Here is some of what I’ve learned:
For the moment of worry about bumps, cowlicks, and/or uneven parts:
The best way to pull together a chic updo if you have an awkwardly placed cowlick or trouble getting your hair to stay flat on top is to incorporate a braid on one or both sides. This draws attention to the braid and away from any bumps or imperfections. I really like the style shown by Anne Hathaway below. To achieve it, create a deep part on one side of your hair. On the half that has more hair, start a loose French braid a couple of inches below the part (where your roots would start if you hadn’t touched up your color in a couple of months). For an inside-out French like Anne has here, just reverse the regular French braid process, pulling from under rather than braiding over.
Anne gets it right by adding a dangly earring and plenty of liner
Once you’ve braided to the nape of your neck, pull all of your hair together in a low, loose bun. Wrap hair around itself twice and affix all around with bobby pins. Spray to hold, but let any wisps fall as they might. This look is effortlessly chic, and can be worn during the day or to a cocktail party–or both!
For when you want to look refined and polished, but not like a granny:
Messy buns are great, and they’ve remained popular for years now from the runways to the streets. But for some offices and events, they are just too… well, messy. Here is a sleek and easy updo that will keep hair off your face, out of your eyes, and off of your boss’s “Please Re-read our Dress Code” list.
Pull hair back tight, smoothing the top of your head with a boar bristle paddle brush. Create a high pony (if you think it’s too high, it’s probably just about right), leaving about a half-inch section of hair out of the pony underneath. Once you’ve affixed with your ponytail holder, wrap the extra hair around several times to create the illusion that the pony is being held in place by hair, not elastic. Two or three bobby pins from below should do the trick to keep it in place. Spray.
This is what the back of your hair should look like before you curl it.
Then: with a medium-barrel curling iron, take small sections of hair and create tight waves throughout the pony. Spray everywhere with an illuminating hairspray and some Sally Hershberger shine spray. Voila! Like Rihanna, you’ll look peppy, pretty, and ready to rock!
If your ears stick out, like mine do:
Girl, you still deserve to pull your hair up! Here are my favorite tricks for drawing attention away from the ears…
1. Keep some hair in your face. Letting a few pieces dangle will keep eyes moving and make you feel like self-conscious.
2. Body at the back… or on top. A big, voluminous bun or punchy pony creates enough drama to balance your perky ears.
3. Makeup, makeup, makeup. Dark, dramatic liner makes the focus all about your eyes.
4. Remember that no one’s perfect. We all have our little woes. And it turns out, even if you think you look like a boy with your hair up, your boy probably doesn’t agree…