No matter how long or short your hair is, braids always make a major impression. Not only do they highlight your hair's natural texture and color, but they can also mask any signs of a bad hair day—no washing or heat-styling necessary. They're the ultimate hair dream, allowing us to maximize our manes with minimal effort yet wind up with a finished result that looks like it took more time than it did.
All this to say, there's a common misconception that braids only work for medium-length to long hair, keeping those of us with short hair via bobs, lobs, pixies, short afros, and curly tapered cuts from fulfilling our full braided potential. We've made it our mission to dispel that myth. Below, we've collected some major short braided hairstyles with the help of experts.
Meet the Expert
- Lacy Redway is a celebrity hairstylist based in New York.
- Niani B. is a master braider and natural hair stylist at Naturalicious Salon in Canton, MI.
Keep scrolling for 15 inspiring braids for short hair to try ASAP this season.
Click Play for 3 Easy Braid Styles You Can Actually Do
Crown braids hold a special place in our hearts and these short hair braids
on Kerry Washington are no exception. Niani notes that this look can be done on all hair types using extensions that best match your hair texture. "To achieve this classic look, braid or mold your short hair down using a gel (we love the Naturalicious Dramatic Definition Gel, $33)," she says. "Use a braid extension hair to create braids, then pin them in place to secure the braid in a headband look and camouflage your hair."
French Side Braid
In the middle of growing out a pixie? Go for a loose French side braid, seen here on Shailene Woodley. It's equal parts boho and fresh and instantly masks uneven hair growth. Niani notes that this works best on naturally straight, wavy, or blow-dried textured hair. And if you need to fake the volume, we love John Frieda's Volume Lift Air-Whipped Foam Mousse ($8).
Front Plait Braid
Show unruly bangs who's boss by taming them with a front plait braid. The braid itself can be made as thick or thin as desired, and the "waterfall" effect it gives is runway-esque yet playful at the same time. Keep the style frizz-free by combing through the hair pre-braiding with Living Proof's No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream ($38).
Ruth Negga's classic cornrows stunned the red carpet at the 2017 Met Gala. Redway, the artist responsible for the look, explains her process: "I started by sectioning her hair into 1 1/2-inch sections with Harry Josh Pro Tools Carbon Tail Comb ($20). I used a bit of water on each section to add grip on her Type-3 curl pattern, which is also short, along with R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Hair Gel ($29) to make sure the braid would not unravel or loosen."
Achieving box braids can be a lengthy process, but they're so worth it when they turn out like Amandla Stenberg's. Begin by installing medium-sized box braids with faux braiding hair. "Leave out the front corner section for larger cornrows to give the style some added flair," notes Niani. Then, secure the ends of the braids with these Small Mini Hair Elastics ($3) and cut the hair to your desired length.
Classic French Braid
Ruby Rose stuns in this braided number that proves it is possible to French braid short hair. Ideal for naturally straight or wavy hair types, get the look by first running a pomade through the hair to create grip. Then, make a tight off-centered French braid and secure with bobby pins.
Shoulder Length Box Braids
If you love box braids but don't want to pay/spend 12 hours of your day getting them done, take inspiration from FKA Twigs. Her shoulder-length box braids are also braided with some reddish-copper color that adds some extra dimension. To keep your roots flyaway free, use Eco Style Professional Olive Oil Gel ($3).
Layered Rock and Roll
We're all for an edgy look, but this one takes the cake for being wildly rock and roll. Give your mane a deep side part and create one braid straight back on one side of the head. Pin the end under the rest of the hair to secure. Leave hair straight for a sleeker 'do or add a light bend like Ashley Benson for messy definition.
To fake volume at the front of the bangs, pull them to the desired side and tease ever-so-lightly. Spray with a bit of hair spray and blow-dry for 10 seconds to secure the volume in place.
Issa Rae can do no wrong in our eyes—the constant switch-up of her hair keeps us on our toes, itching to see what trend-setting 'do she dons next. To DIY this elegant updo, part your hair ear to ear, then part the top half into three sections and the under half into two sections. "Braid three cornrows on each side section in the front, then create two braids with your back section, adding the ends from the three front sections into the two back braids," explains Niani. Finish by pinning them up, smoothing out edges with the Eden Coconut Shea Control Edge Gel ($10), and loosely rolling and pinning the front middle section into a pompadour.
Double Bang Braid
Whether it's for a daytime outing or a nighttime affair, these braided bangs are simple enough for even the braid-challenged. Niani says to create one large, center section at the top of your hair. Then, part that section in the middle to create two center sections. "Create one flat twist on each section, leaving the ends loose, and secure the twist with an elastic band, hair pin, or hair clip," says Niani. Spritz in some of Maria Nila's Ocean Spray ($30) for a lived-in look.
Give the standard half-up hairstyle a cool upgrade with this half-up braided topknot. Not only is Kristen Stewart's spellbinding topknot braided but so too are the strands sitting on either side of her pulled-back part. For the perfect dose of roughed-up texture, we recommend a quick hit of texturizing spray à la Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray ($49).
Shaved Sides With Top Braid
Bold has never looked better. This edgy 'do is trend-worthy but shockingly easy to achieve. According to Niani, Jill Scott's two-strand twists can be achieved with or without extensions on textured hair. Here's a step-by-step: "First, shave the sides of your hair or cut the sides very short, then take two small strands of hair and twist them around each other. Repeat all over the hair. Then loosely gather all the twists and tuck and pin into place to achieve a pompadour look."
Fishtail braids are a no-fuss style for short hair that can fake length. Emma Stone's beautiful fishtail braid updo has that perfectly undone vibe that looks great for both a formal occasion (wedding vibes, for sure!) or a casual day at the office.
New to fishtailing? Secure your hair loosely into a side ponytail before braiding. When finished braiding, pull the hair tie (that's now sitting at the top of your braid) over your fishtail and off. This gives more control and lets you create the fishtail as tight or as loose as you want it without having to worry about the hair falling apart.
Short Braided Side Ponytail
There is just something so chic about a short, side ponytail. To get actress Yara Shahidi's look, brush your ponytail straight up using a smoothing brush like the Wet Brush Custom Care Smoothing Brush ($15) and secure with a ponytail holder.
Exposed bobby pins have been all the rage among celebs and supermodels alike, and here they play a huge part in making sure Nicole Richie's minimalistic braided bun stays that way. Get the look by making two braids at the side of the head, as messy or tight as you want them. Collect the ends of the braid with the rest of your hair and pull into a low bun.