Shoulder-length hairstyles are quite possibly the easiest to pull off and are the cut we turn to when the time calls for a mid-season refresh. They're truly the best of both worlds: They're not as daunting as short hairstyles and they don't require the styling upkeep of a longer length. They also work with any texture, from tight curls to fine pin-straight strands—and, despite what you might think, they actually offer up some serious styling opportunities.
Essentially, a mid-length 'do is the easiest suits-all style. You can play up your color if you're craving a change, and because regular trims are required to keep the hair grazing your shoulders, you won't have to suffer from split ends. Not convinced? Scroll through the gallery below for some celebrity-inspired shoulder haircuts that'll make you want to pay a visit to your stylist, stat. Plus, we've got you covered on styling tips from pro hairstylists Amy Abramite and Leigh Hardges of Maxine Salon.
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Ahead, check out some of the most stunning, celebrity-inspired examples of shoulder-length hairstyles to try next.
Mila's one-sided 'do is ultra-chic and quite frankly, swoon-worthy. The style works best on naturally straight, medium-density hair types and on a single-process tint to reinforce shine and color. "Apply hairspray above the hairline and use the blowdryer to blow air directly at the crest of the wave to lift and accentuate it," says Abramite. "The overall blow dry style should be a glamorous polished wave done with a large curling iron to create the S-patterned movement." We love the NuMe Classic Curling Wand Reverse ($100) because its unique shape allows for smaller curls at the bottom and bigger, softer curls at the bottom.
Oprah Winfrey's glossy blow-dry looks like the work of a strong round brush (Raincry's Magnesium Volumizing Brush Plus, $65, is particularly sturdy) and a gloss-inducing product like Paul Labrecque's Curly Finish High Gloss Spray On ($22). The teased crown on this style will add height and complement heart-shaped faces beautifully.
Blunt ends first made their red-carpet appearance in 2018, but Emilia Clarke's super-healthy platinum long bob is making us want to continue the trend. If you're considering going super blonde, make sure to stock up on the relevant anti-brasiness haircare products, like Color Wow's Toning & Styling Foam For Blonde Hair ($24).
If you have naturally loose wave pattern, this is the effortless style for you. Kate Mara adds texture to her shoulder-length strands with a slight bend and a glossy balayage. "These loose beach waves are best created naturally, so skip the blow dry and air-dry instead," says Abramite, who recommends applying a pump-packaged texture spray on wet hair to enhance separation. Finish off with a texture spray like R+CO's Cold-Pressed Watermelon Wave Spray ($29) for volume, thickness, and separation.
To ensure the style shows the natural separation of the hair, avoid combing through the hair once it air-dries.
Okay, we're all about this crown of curls and the fresh face that complements it. "Because Yara has a round face, the middle part helps to give balance and draw the eye upward to create length," notes Hardges. "The graduation in her haircut prevents her from having 'triangle hair' where all of the weight sits at the bottom." The goal with this style is to infuse maximum moisture into the curls to keep them defined and frizz-free. Hardges recommends the LOC method (that is, leave-in, oil, creme), or curl-shingling with the right product arsenal to create shiny, bouncy curls for days.
Love Kim Kardashian West's long, sleek, minimal hair as of late but don't want to deal with extensions? Olivia Culpo shows how you can create the same feel with a mid-length cut. The look is foolproof, and only requires a straight-back part down the middle of the hair with an all-over shine spray spritzed throughout. Use a frizz-eliminating hair straightener like T3's Lucea 1” Straightening and Styling Iron ($150), tuck both sides of hair behind the ears, and throw on your favorite statement-making earrings as a finishing touch.
Lucy Hale is known for her striking dark hair color, but these subtle waves and the slightly above-the-shoulder crop add a soft edge to the style. To create these subtle beachy waves, use a hair straightener to create soft bends at the mid-shaft of the strands, making sure to avoid the ends and keep them looking straight.
You can skip adding a part and let the hair naturally fall into place for this wet-curl look. To achieve, Abramite says to first detangle the hair with a wide tooth comb. Add a texture spray all over damp hair, then use an automatic heat-adjusted blow dryer like the Tineco Moda One ($300) to circulate the air around the head without touching or disturbing the curl. Only after hair is dry should you squeeze and scrunch locks with your fingers to break up the wave pattern and add some natural frizz for a shaggy effect.
Flip your head upside down when applying the texture spray to get more volume and support from underneath all layers. You can also tilt the head forward and from side to side while diffusing for maximum fullness at the roots.
Kerry Washington proves that a high-shine, sleek bob with a full fringe looks super sophisticated. Amp up the sheen pre-straightening with a heat protectant that doubles as a shine serum—we're big fans of the Pura D'Or Argan Oil Heat Shield Protectant Spray ($10).
Waves can often be one of two things—retro or beachy. Jessica Alba has mastered a wave that is neither of those; it just looks super groomed. The secret? A large-barrel iron on mid-length hair to recreate her effortless look. To really go the extra mile, add a chestnut hue for warmth and dimension.
A clever (and free) way to change your look is to alter your parting. Here, Margot Robbie has disguised hers altogether with a panel of hair pulled back. A heavy-duty blow dryer is the only tool you'll need to master the look—just make sure to flip upward and inward once you get to the ends.
Sure, the wet look isn't an everyday style, but for a special occasion, it can set you apart from the crowd. Freida Pinto pairs her wet-look texture with a deep side part and a pulled-back brush-through. Try the VO5 Wet Look Styling Gel ($13) for instant slickness and hold.
Viola Davis' look features face-framing texture that can be easily created by twist-setting curly to coily hair. "Twists allow you to keep texture while elongating the curl, and they help with creating a consistent curl pattern, where oftentimes there are multiple curl patterns found in the head," says Hardges. "Starting at the nape of the neck with damp hair, saturate hair with a curl creme, working in small sections, and two-strand twist the hair. I recommend having a spray bottle of water to wet the hair as you are working, as the hair will most likely get dry in the process." Once done, she says to sit under a hooded dryer to dry completely, or diffuse partially and air-dry. Unravel the twists using a moisturizing oil for added shine.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's subtle balayage and easy waves make for one glamorous hairstyle. Especially good for those looking to add width to a long face shape, this style features a barely-there bend near the cheekbones. The result? Lift and volume in all the right places.
Tracee Ellis Ross
Here Tracee Ellis Ross shows that bouncy, picked-out curls works just as well on shoulder-length hair. Just pop a few of Nunzio Saviano's Anti-Frizz Sheets ($18) in your purse for frizz-free locks on the go.
Elizabeth Olsen is proof that you don't need to spend too much time on a shoulder-length hairstyle for it to look perfect. Simply sweep the hair to one side and choose a few random pieces to curl. Finish off with a wave spray like Drybar's Seashore Spritzer Salt-Free Wave Spray ($26) to complement your hair's natural texture.
Ballerina buns used to be the if-all-else-fails hairdo, but Anne Hathaway's perfect bun says otherwise. To ensure it stays put throughout the night, start with a secure, tight ponytail. Then, twist the ponytail hair continuously, wrap it around the base of the ponytail, and secure it in place. Spray on a light layer of shine spray as a finishing touch—we love Cococare's Coconut Oil Hair Shine ($8) for its ability to keep flyaways at bay.
We're all about Janet Jackson's A-line bob. Here, she swapped its typical heavy blunt lines for a more delicate, feathery finish that's accompanied by a slightly overgrown fringe. Because the ends of this haircut appears to be razored (a technique of cutting that can be damaging for curly to oily hair), Hardges recommends this look for straight to curly hair textures. "Any face shape can wear this A-line bob, but the heavy fringe in front can be the game-changer for many, including those with heart, oblong, or square face shapes," she says, advising to keep product use minimal so as not to weigh down this airy style.
This well-maintained shoulder-length meant that Jennifer Lawrence could take her hair to a super-icy white-blonde color. All it takes is some upkeep with the Garnier Nutrisse Color Reviver 5 Minute Nourishing Color Mask ($7) for fresh, cool color all the time.
The '90s called—they said crimped 'dos look fabulous on shoulder-length hair. Best part? You don't need a crimping iron to get the job done. Just wash your hair at night, air-dry it until damp, braid three to four sections of hair, then sleep on them. Come morning you'll have gorgeous beach-y waves à la Madonna.
If one side of your head lacks full, voluminous luster, Gina Torres' heavy side part does the trick at concealing it. Abramite says to apply a smoothing oil from roots to ends after parting the hair. Then, using a natural-bristle round brush, blow dry the hair up and over to one side of the head for smooth volume and a swept effect. Continue blow drying the ends, adding as much or as little curls as the occasion calls for.
Taraji P. Henson
Two words: round brush. To give the hair a boost like Taraji P. Henson, use a large round brush like Olivia Garden's Ceramic + Ion Thermal Hairbrush ($23). Fluff up with some mousse pre-styling and finish off with a precise side part.
We love the texture in this hairstyle—not just from the tonging but the highlights, too. The glossy texture of the hair throughout the lengths gives it a modern '70s feel. Plus, it sits just below shoulder-length, so if you're particularly nervous about cutting your hair, start with this slightly longer mid-length.
No one does blunt bobs like Solange, who pairs hers with raven-colored strands. Her cut, which holds all of the weight toward the ends, is accompanied by mermaid waves, which Hardges says can be achieved by blow drying hair straight with a light gel, then braiding hair in as even sections as possible. "Using a flat iron set at 375 to 425 degrees (depending on the thickness of each braid), start at the top of the braid and press the iron down the braid, curling under at the ends," she explains. "After allowing the braids to cool completely, unravel them and brush the hair in downward strokes using a paddle brush."
We're all about Queen Bey's two-toned look, which features darker strands underneath the hair for a fun surprise. "By using different products on the top and the bottom, there will be a smooth texture and a coarser texture where volume and expansion is needed," says Abramite. We recommend using a dry texturizing spray on the bottom of the hair to add thickness, separation, and expansion. (It's a 10's Blow Dry Texture Spray, $25, is a prime pick).
These sun-kissed beachy waves on Laila Ali make every hour golden hour. Hardges recommends this style for wavy to coily hair textures. "These waves can be made with either a curling wand or iron, but I feel that irons are easier to manipulate for at-home styles," she says. "To achieve, begin curling by holding the iron parallel to the floor, with the clip of the iron facing down. Then, feed the hair into the iron while turning the iron toward the face." Once the hair is released, pull the section to stretch it into a wave while it's still hot. Finger-rake the curls once it cools completely and finish with a light pomade to smooth any rough ends and create pieceyness—Hardges recommends Aveda's Control Paste ($30) for this.
Gwenyth Paltrow's asymmetrical bob is giving us some major hair envy. Abramite says to ask your stylist for a one-length blunt bob haircut with an angle forward. "The front length should skim the collarbone," she says. "Blow-dry the hair straight and flat iron afterwards, making sure to slightly curve the ends to bend in towards the face."
When it comes to Naomi's flirty lob, it's all about nailing the model on-duty vibes. The style is simple but has a lot going on, between the blunt bangs, flipped-out ends, and lines framing the face. "This espresso brown hair color would be easily achieved on those with a 'dusty brown,' color which is usually without dimension," notes Hardges.
Medium hair lengths can never go wrong with a simple, classic style like the one Jennifer Hudson is donning here. Hardges is all about the rich curtain of maple and butterscotch peeking through the dark hair, and points out that those warm hues require minimal lifting, resulting in less damage. "When getting the hair colored, maintaining the hair’s integrity should be the top priority," she says, adding that extensions could be a great way to experiment and play around with adding length without committing.
The only thing better than a good blowout is one that's full of volume and relaxed curls at the ends. To get the look, Abramite says to distribute a lightweight mousse from roots to ends to create volume. Then, using a medium-sized round brush, blow dry the hair upward at the roots and wrap the ends around the brush to achieve curls at the ends. Finish with a medium-hold hairspray and voilà—you're one step closer to looking like Rosario Dawson.
As Eva Mendes proves, you can never go wrong with a voluminous blow out, no matter the hair length. With a round layered cut and wispy layers at the jawline, the look is soft and opens up the face, highlighting the cheekbones and eyes. "This style will work great on wavy to straight hair types, but wavy hair will get the most volume and hold," says Hardges. "To recreate this look, work a light blow dry lotion through the ends of damp hair. Then, using a boar-bristled brush, blow out strands working in sections, and place a large velcro roller in each section once it has dried." Remove the rollers once the hair has had time to cool then finish off with a flexible-hold hair spray like Verb's Ghost Hairspray ($18).
If you're growing out your bob, go for a multi-textured look versus a pin-straight 'do like Gabrielle Union. "This look works best on thick textures with a natural wave to support the blowout and hot iron work," notes Abramite. "Ask your stylist for a lob haircut with a slight angle forward with texturized, notched edges—the length should dust the collarbone and the face-framing layers should start around the chin."
Ciara's luscious balayage reminds us of butter in the best way possible. Hardges says that to achieve this color, a natural brown to light brown hair color would be the optimal starting point. A few balayage sessions may be needed to create such a fluid and seamless ombre, but as the singer proves, it's oh so worth it.
Curtain bangs are our guilty pleasure for those in-between salon sessions where our bangs don't seem to want to cooperate. Go for a double process to achieve the lightest shade of blonde, and ask your stylist for a bob cut with notched ends. "The style should be a relaxed loose wave with natural-looking ends and curtain bangs that open up the face from a center part," says Abramite.
We have some serious hair envy for Halle Berry's sexy bedhead look. "This textured undone style works because she has a strong haircut," notes Hardges. "The wispy fringe and face-framing do well on most face shapes, just a few adjustments to the parting and fringe may be necessary." To DIY, run over a hair mousse on damp strands and diffuse at the scalp to create lift. "Using your blowdryer at high heat and low airspeed, finger tousle to dry hair completely. Then use a curling iron to define waves and texture at the hair’s ends," says Hardges.
Maybe it's the fact that one eye is covered, but there's something mysteriously chic about Cassie's look, and we're here for it. To achieve, Hardges recommends starting with damp hair and finger-twisting sections using a light curl or styling cream. "Once the hair is completely dry, separate in sections using a light paste that will create a matte texture, emulating dreadlocks," she says. We love Ouai's Matte Pomade ($24) for this step.
Alicia Keys stuns in this ethereal, princess-esque braid, which works fabulously on thick density hair that has a natural wave to it. It looks more difficult to achieve than it actually is—just take it from Abramite. "This is a simple two-stand braid, but looks much more complicated to onlookers," she explains. "Try a herringbone braid for extra detail in the plait. You can rub a towel over the braid to rough up the look, or pull out some strands for a distressed finish."
Forget to get your roots done? Us too. Make like Vanessa Hudgens and throw on a wide-brimmed boho hat. Abramite is a fan of cushion brushes for a look like this, as it has natural, tightly-packaged bristles that distributes the hair's natural oils all throughout the look. The result? Shine on shine.
Just when you thought you couldn't mix two polar opposite hair textures (re: slicked down at the top and feathery everywhere else), Zoë Kravitz donned this simple look. The trick to creating the illusion of a sleeker root? Leaving the ends free of hairspray to encourage natural movement. "Spray medium-hold hair spray close to the scalp so it goes on slightly damp at the top and by the sides," says Abramite. "Then, using a fine-tooth comb, smooth down the flyaways and tuck the hair behind the ears for hold and to keep it close to the head."
Hanging on to hair that lacks volume? Zoe Saldana is proof that you can disguise it with a good side part and flirty curls. Abramite recommends using an anti-frizz straightening balm to fight humidity and keep the blowout smooth. Try Alterna Haircare's Caviar Anti-Aging Smoothing Anti-Frizz Air-Dry Balm ($32) for all-day frizz protection.
There are no rules when it comes to hairstyles, but Hardges says that Janet Mock's full-textured style is super flattering on those with curly to coily hair types and a round face shape. To achieve the graduated lob, start by gently blowing out locks (don't forget the heat protectant). "Set the hair in Bantu knots using a flexible-hold styling creme, then allow to set and dry completely," says Hardges. "Unravel using an oil with high shine and style with fingers."
When we think of red carpet-worthy hairdos, we think of this look and Regina King—it's sleek yet and opens up the face. Hardges told us that this look is best achieved on curly to coily tresses using a blow dryer with a comb attachment—this will straighten curls but not so much to where the texture is removed. Use a paste to smooth and pull the hair back behind the ears, then secure with bobby pins.
When pinning the hair in place, Hardges recommends crisscrossing the bobby pins on each side to ensure an anchored hold.
Don't let the intricate braids on Issa Rae's 'do fool you—while Hardges recommends visiting a braid stylist to achieve the look, you can still master it at home with some practice. "The beautiful coils were elongated using a twist-set method then allowed to dry and unravel," she explains. "For maintaining this regal style, an essential oil will keep the scalp at the top half moisturized while offering brilliant shine and softness on the bottom half." We dig Hask's Tea Tree & Rosemary 5 In 1 Leave In Conditioner ($8), which works to detangle, soothe, condition, protect, and add shine.
Calling all diamond-shaped faces: this soft layered cut is perfect for your mid-length strands. Not only do the full layers at the jawline create width against a narrow chin, but the stark parting is equally as flattering. Achieve the look at home by using a one and a half-inch curling iron to create billowy curls. "Holding the iron parallel to the wall with the clip facing inward, curl the hair back and away from the face," explains Hardges. "Continue to work around the head in vertical sections, then allow the curls to cool completely before styling with the hands and finishing with a light-hold hairspray."
Here's a bob that's as versatile as it is balancing. Depending on the length of your hair, you can create a deeper part to give off the illusion of width and balance for longer face shapes. For a round face shape, Hardges recommends placing the part in the middle. "Hair just barely grazing the shoulders helps to elongate the neck and carries the eye to the collarbone, which is very alluring," she says. "Request that your stylist 'flick' the ends of your hair (versus flipping)."
Tina Turner isn't just the queen of rock 'n roll, she clearly knows how to rock her hair color too. "As we age, lighter colors are more uplifting for the face, however, for naturally dark hair, blonde may not always be a safe option," notes Hardges. "Here, the colorist strategically placed thin, blonde highlights close to the face where it was most needed, and left the rest of the hair in a darker range of color." Plus, the intense volume at the crown and sides help to frame the face.
Demi's wavy shoulder-length strands can be achieved by letting hair air-dry as it sits in a messy bun. For added volume, dust some volumizing hair powder around the base of the head (underneath the top layer) and tease ever-so-lightly. Smooth the un-teased hair on top and you're left with ultra-natural loose waves.
It's time to bring out that stash of hair clips you've been collecting since middle school. Perfect for lazy days where the last thing you want to do is spend time styling your mane, this super easy look only requires a quick run-through of your flat iron, a tuck behind the ears, and a fun hair clip. Pro tip: "To reinforce the barrette, a dab of false eyelash adhesive will work to secure it in place," says Abramite. When it comes time to take it out, a rub-through of oil or conditioner will break down the adhesive for easy removal.
Love the wet look but don't want to go full-force? Dip your toes with a damp 'do like Hailey Bieber. Starting on wet hair, apply a volumizing mousse to reinforce the natural wave pattern of the hair. Then, apply a texture spray for separation, fullness, and movement. "When scrunching the hair, twirl sections around your fingers and then squeeze them into palm to create more movement and wavy texture," recommends Abramite.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Old Hollywood glam hairdo's are our weak spot, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas' vintage waves and barrel curls are part of the reason why. Stock up on a shine-inducing hair mask like L'Occitane's Lustrous Hair Mask ($14) to smooth out the deep side part.
Laura Harrier's cascading waves is pretty straight-forward—after spritzing in some heat protectant, wrap varying sections of hair around a one-inch curling wand. No need to create perfect sections, but be sure to curl strands from mid-shaft all the way to the ends for a super-model look.
Selena Gomez has thick hair, and the fullness lends itself well to this medium length. Consider balayage highlights for a look like this—it lets the dark roots melt into the subtle, lighter tones and leaves the brightest color on the ends. "To make your angle seem more dramatic, tuck your hair behind the ear," advises Abramite. "It gives the illusion of an asymmetrical haircut with one side becoming the focal point because it appears to be longer."
Perfect barrel curls get an upgrade with a side part and a pull-back. Using a curling iron, slice out vertical sections and curl the hair toward the face. Abramite says to twirl and wrap the curls lightly around your finger towards the face to separate them and accentuate each individual strand. Finish off with a medium-hold hair spray for control and a soft, touchable finish.
We're digging this un-done bed-head look—it's so red-carpet yet so easy to achieve. Plus, it's perfect for third-day hair (or beyond). To mimic Sandra Bullock's crisp parting and flyaway-free locks, spray the root area down with a refreshing and volumizing dry shampoo like Aveeno's Fresh Green Blends Dry Shampoo ($8). Then finish off with a texturing spray for a worn-in look on the rest of the hair.
Have overgrown bangs? Make like Jamie Chung and gently curl them for a relaxed switch-up to your typical ponytail. You can also tousle in a lightweight mousse for extra volume and density at the roots. And to kick the look up a notch (and add a playful twist), throw on a no-slip silk scrunch like Slip's Scrunchies ($39).
Jessica Chastain is serving up some megawatt shine with this perfectly-waved look. To get her glossy ginger locks, run a hair oil through damp hair and use a flat iron to straighten the hair, making sure to flip out once you reach the ends. Pop a velcro roller on the bangs to get that vintage look, tuck the opposite side behind the ear, and finish off with a light hold hairspray.