Everyone has an everyday superpower. You know, like reciting the alphabet backward or making perfect eggs over easy every time (please come into my life if you exist). My everyday superpower is braiding (and talking in a somewhat believable British accent, but that’s usually dependent on how many drinks I’ve had and if I’m wearing my faux-fur coat). I remember the first time I ever learned how to braid—or rather, the many times my patient mother attempted to teach me how to braid on three pieces of yarn, taped to a table, before I finally, finally mastered it. From then, it was braiding my fellow children’s choir members’ strands on the tour bus, then braiding my best friends’ hair into intricate and heavily hair-sprayed styles for prom. I never practiced, yet each time I attempted one, it turned out quite good (#humblebrag). I had a gift—or so I thought.
These days, I’ve foregone the tight French braids of my choir days in favor of a much more laid-back—okay, lazy—option: a loose side braid, preferably tousled and done on second-day hair. This is my go-to hairstyle for two reasons: It takes all of five seconds, but it doesn’t look like it took five seconds. (I like to imagine it gives me an effortless model-off-duty vibe, but mainly just hope that it doesn’t expose the fact I haven't shampooed in days.) For years, we’ve been content, this braid and I, going through hardships and triumphs together, breakups and first jobs, each time emerging from some valley or mountain closer and stronger than ever.
And then one day everything changed. My co-worker walked into the office sporting a side braid unlike anything I’d ever seen—or rather, I had seen, but only on red carpets and Pinterest boards. The braid was breathtakingly fat, textured, and carelessly deconstructed. I was entranced; I was bewitched. It was the braid I didn’t even realized I’d been missing all my life, and it made my own suddenly basic version look like it was done by a sixth grader (which, to be fair, is about the skill level required to pull it off). The moment I saw it, I knew my life was teetering on the edge of a cataclysmic shift. I demanded my co-worker tell me her secret, and (somewhat startled) she did. Keep scrolling to find out the secret!
Selena Gomez, Blake Lively, Gabrielle Union—all talented, beautiful women who happen to possess major braid game. Their braids are full-bodied, mesmerizing creations, and you’d never guess that three simple strands could ever transform into these works for art.
Well, guess what—I know their secret now. My co-worker (and many hairstylists I’ve spoken to since) informed me that the key to a Hollywood-worthy braid is all in the technique: you need to create a super-tight braid first, secure, then go back and gently pull the sides apart to “fatten” the braid up. If your strands are fine, add a texturizing powder or spray, like Bumble and Bumble’s Prêt-à-Powder ($12), to your hair before braiding for a texture boost. The more textured your strands are before pulling apart, the cooler, messier look you’ll end up with (see the above celebrity references). This applies to any type of braid—fishtails, three-strand braids, four-strand braids, you name it.
Heart pounding (How had I lived entire life without the knowledge of this?!), I woke up the next morning, excited to try this tip out (and also about the fact I had an excuse to not wash my hair). Instead of spritzing my trusty Oribe Texturizing Spray ($22) through my strands and wrapping them over each other into a loose braid as usual, I spritzed, then created a super-tight braid instead. I secured it, then glanced up in the mirror. It looked terrible.
I told myself to be patient, and then, the moment of truth: The deconstruction happened. I pulled the sides apart, marveling at how Chrissy Teigen–esque my braid was turning right before my eyes. The finished product was a much fuller, textured, interesting-looking braid—with barely any more effort required. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to take my braid to the next level—I felt like I had found my (braid) soul mate, and I didn’t even have to give my number to the bartender to do so.
These days, I only ever braid using this technique (unless my end goal is to shake them out into soft waves, in which case I keep things loose—a tight braid will leave you with ’90s crimps). I feel like I was living in a shadow for the better part of my life, and have emerged into a light-filled, glimmering meadow. Suffice it to say my braid life has changed—will yours?
Tell me—do you braid using this technique? If not, try it and tell me what you think below! Then, check out more holiday braid inspiration.