There are a multitude of ways we can wear our hair when we want it up for special occasions, but it can be hard to think creatively about what to do when the time comes to get yourself ready. "Updo" doesn't have to translate to a boring twist or bun—there's so much you can do in terms of architecture, accessories… you name it. Whether you're getting ready for an event or just attending a casual gathering at a friend's house, we've compiled a list of inspo to save you from your next styling rut. Read on for tons of updo inspiration as well as a few tips to help you recreate these styles on your own.
All Pinned Up
This is a beautiful example of how even with shorter strands, some dry texture spray and a few dozen matte bobby pins can create the perfect updo. Use a small teasing brush to backcomb the front, sides, and back sections of the hair to create a cushion for easy pinning. Rub two fingers in gentle circles around the hairline wherever you want those loose bits to effortlessly fall out.
Curly hair is great for creating effortless updos because the texture and movement doesn't showcase the imperfections that make it look so, well, perfect. Thankfully, natural curls don't need a lot of primping or priming to look and feel their best. A small squeeze of product, like EVO's Liquid Rollers Curl Balm ($30), will have them springing into their perky selves in no time.
Pinned to Perfection
When it comes to coily hair, the shape is everything. Adding pins to create your desired shape takes only a matter of minutes, but adding a little accessory to peek through that beautiful texture will really bring your 'do to the next level.
For a standout ponytail, make sure you're giving it some shape. Brushing the hair up from the eye line, flipping out your ends, and adding a twist or bang bump around your hairline are all small details that make a basic ponytail a little more graphic and interesting.
Finding a gold, silver, rose gold, or classic black claw clip to replace the plastic ones from the drugstore (that you've likely broken and continue to use anyway) is going to elevate your three-second effort and turn it into a classic, effortless updo. Match your clip to the rest of your accessories for a full-on ensemble. Kitsch has plenty of on-trend, affordable options.
Natural hair in particular can benefit from a break from the heat. Choose a chic wrap with a fun pattern to dress up a neutral-toned or monochromatic outfit.
One of the most elegant ways to turn braids into an updo is braiding around the crown of your head. From there, you can keep it simple or add accessories, like flowers and pins, to take the look to the next level.
If you love an updo with a few different elements, try wearing a side part and braiding a small section of your hair at the root that can then be tied up with the rest of your ponytail. This is a really fun style to wear for summer occasions, and can match looks that are both casual and formal.
Wrap It Up
Hairspray isn't the only ticket to a hairstyle that won't budge. Try a combination of oil and gel to get a slicked back braid that's sure to keep your hair back tight, your roots down low, and your edges laid to perfection. Add a head scarf or mud cloth wrapped around your braid for added adornment.
When approaching straightened, smooth results on short, natural hair, be diligent and take your time, working in fine sections. Don't crank up the heat to your dryer's highest setting because you could burn the scalp when concentrating on the root areas and cause breakage. Instead, have finishing tools on hand like this tiny flat iron and a root tamer, and always apply a heat protectant.
Keep It Fresh
If your outfit is more of a standout piece or has loud details you want to accentuate, or perhaps you're doing a more adventurous makeup look, opt for keeping the hair fresh and minimal. We love the way this look ties together by way of its matching barrette.
A snatched ponytail with blunt ends may seem like a more casual look, but the details alone are a showstopper. You can rely on a fresh haircut for blunt ends, or you can always turn to extensions to provide way more control over your look without compromising your length. Crowning headpiece optional—this clean style will stand out either way.
Low and Textured
If you want to get a lot of body and movement in the hair for a low textured ponytail like the one seen here, turn to a small barrel 3/4" curling iron for your foundation. Once you've pulled it all back into a ponytail, rely on your teasing brush, dry texture spray, and hairspray to both brush out and back-brush a few pieces for added volume.
If you have heavy fringe, use it to your advantage. You can get away with pulling the rest of your hair back however is easiest and most comfortable and just focus on getting those bangs on point. It's your best accessory.
If you're sporting cornrows, endless opportunity awaits. Try pulling them back into a low bun for a chic moment you can dress up or down. It's a simple adjustment that brings your hair game up a few notches above the norm.
Wet and Wavy
Want to wear your natural wavy texture but worried about frizz? Use a strong hold mousse and diffuser (high heat, low air flow settings) to bring out the bounce. Gather some of that body back into a bun or twist but be sure to let some of those curls frame your face and show off that beautiful, natural movement.
Pins on Pins
Bobby pins aren't your only friends when it comes to inventive updos. Adding safety pins to your braids can also add a fun edge to your look.
While wavy micro braids are beautiful as is, you can also use that movement to your advantage with an updo. Try an effortless topknot that lets your braids cascade down at various levels and lengths for dimension—a great hair option for high necklines.
Low French Twist
French twists don't have to be rigid or overly "done". Starting off with a smooth, voluminous blowout can give your twist a soft, airy quality that others will lust over.
Twists on Twists
If your everyday go-to is a low bun, this is a fun option to stay in your comfort zone but do something unique for that special occasion. Bring your hair down into a low ponytail, then take one- to two-inch sections of your ponytail and twist them in the same direction, and begin to twist two of them around each other to create mini rope braids. Tie your rope braids together using a clear elastic, bring them all together into a single twist, then pin to the base of the head.
Use dry texture spray if your sections are slippery and need extra hold. This will give you more grip and control.
To help provide controlled structure to the shape of your bun, use a hair net for added support. Pin it to the base of your ponytail, drape it over your ends, and position your shape accordingly using hair pins to gently lock strands into the desired placement.
The accents highlighted in your updo can communicate a lot about your look. While a black bow is more formal, a gingham bow reads more casual. So choose your pieces wisely, and remember to think outside the box when it comes to placement to give it a little something extra.
A clean, snatched braid is attractive enough on its own, but adding major grooves to your edges and a micro braid at the base of your style? You're sure to have the masses swooning over this elaborate 'do.
Chignons are a classic updo that translate well for any special occasion. There are plenty of ways to create a chignon. One tip we love about this one on Thandiwe Newton: Don't let your parting go back any further than the ears.
If you have extremely thick hair that literally weighs down any effort you make to put your hair up, this updo is a great option for you. Divide the hair into three horizontal sections and pull it back into three textured, messy buns. Gently pull on any areas that look or feel too tight.
Some of us are most comfortable wearing the simplest of updos, not looking too "done," but as if we casually, thoughtlessly, threw it back into a low bun or ponytail ourselves. Adding a chunky headband or statement accessory that matches your outfit will support a minimal effort towards comfort and still have you looking totally put together.
High Braided Ponytail
Updos, like any hairstyle or cut, should accentuate your features. If your cheekbones are one of your favorite features, pull those strands straight back into a high, snatched ponytail that follows the eye line or brow line directly up and back.
Let's not forget about this classic hairstyle from our youths. Pigtails are a simple updo that can keep things playful and fun.
Another great example of combining chic with comfort is this low ponytail woven with gold thread. For a clean wrap around your strands and precise thread cuts, you might want to employ the help of a friend.
Sculpting braids into a finger wave configuration is an innovative reminder of how much our strands can do with a little imagination.
For maximum control and precision when it comes to sculpting your buns and chignons, first collect your ponytails into hair nets that match your hair color for an invisible sheath that will assist you in crafting your desired shape before pinning into place. Hair nets are especially great for long hair with lots of layers that have a tendency to pop out rather than lay down smooth.
Statement pieces and elaborate hairpins or combs are great accessories to glam up braided styles because their teeth have something secure to grip into.
Ditch the space buns for this super chic, sophisticated set of low buns. The clean center part smoothed over the ears and simply wrapped up makes for an ultra modern, minimalist style.
High Top Braids
When it comes to these high top braids, it's all in the details. Using high quality hair pins to help lock your strands into their desired placement, like this gorgeous display of cascading braids, will make a world of difference to your 'do by eliminating all those touch-ups later in the evening.
Faux Bangs and Bun
Working with Tracee Ellis Ross's natural texture, stylist Nai'vasha created a high bun on the actress while leaving out the ends to create faux bangs.
Braided Center Part
Instead of your basic center parting, use a center section to create a braid of your choice. You can go small or wide with your section and do anything from a fishtail braid to a rope braid or a basic three-strand. Whatever way you choose, it's sure to make a statement.
Sometimes the best hair pieces are right under your nose. No need to splurge on fancy accessories—just stash that satin ribbon from last year's birthday present.
By using a flat brush to blow dry your natural texture, you're going to get a lot of volume that you can use to your advantage. We're loving these structured, cloud-like rolls on Lupita Nyong'o.
Braided Faux Hawk
If you can't decide between intricate braiding and sky-high volume, a braided faux hawk lets you accomplish both in one. Paired with graphic winged liner, you'll be making a sharp statement.
Thick, Braided Bun
If you've always dreamed of having a full head of thick hair for updos like this high, braided bun (the grass is always greener, I promise you), here are the hair hacks you need to invest in: donut hair buns and synthetic braiding hair. Secure your natural hair into a tight ponytail, insert the ponytail through your donut bun, and pin into it by draping your hair over the top of the donut (to hide its visibility). Then take your synthetic hair braid and wrap it around your bun using hair pins to secure desired placement.
Never apply heat to your synthetic hair, or it will burn and melt.
You almost wouldn't know there's a full-on braid in the back of this style. This 'do is a great option for older women with longer hair who want to keep things up, elevated, and sophisticated without resorting to a basic blowout or chignon.
If you want natural-looking volume that isn't overly teased or distinctly separate from the rest of your style, try an updo that brings that hair back without a parting. Gently comb your fingers through the hair while misting a little hairspray to delicately break things up and look more "lived in."