If you are looking for a timeless hairstyle, there are many types of braids that fit the bill. With a little bit of know-how, you can create these classic looks with ease.
Think about it:
One of the most highly celebrated Greek artifacts is caryatids. Caryatids are columns in the shape of Greek maidens balancing baskets upon the head.
But instead of baskets, these colossal columns held up entire structures to protect visitors beneath.
The most famous caryatids are those standing in the ancient Greek temple of Erechtheion in Athens. These 2-meter high columns are spectacular viewed from afar and downright jaw-dropping up close.
Pretty astonishing monuments, right?
But what you may not notice are their unique hairstyles etched in stone:
A frozen snapshot of the height of hair fashion between 416 and 406 B.C.
The types of braids on the back of these caryatids are thick fishtail braids; a style still used today. They’ve also incorporated two three-strand braids in a crown style for an extra layer of elegance.
Other braids (much older than the fishtail) have also flawlessly passed the test of time. Clearly, braids have been a hair styling method for centuries.
However, they’ve evolved greatly since the fifth century BC!
Let's take a quick look:
Quick History of Braids
The origin of hair braiding can be traced back to African culture in 3500 B.C. and the kind of braids on a woman's head often signified what tribe she was from.
It also hinted to other aspects of their lives including marital status, wealth, power, and even religion.
Elders would braid the hair of the younger generation.
Over time, that younger generation would grow and do the same to their young. In this way, hair braiding is very closely tied to culture and tradition.
Today, there are all kinds of types of braids which have no bearing on anything other than personal style.
While each technique takes a little while to master, the skills you'll obtain are useful for the rest of your life.
Consider the versatility:
Going out for a night on the town? A messy crown adds an element of whimsy.
Attending a wedding reception in the evening? Combing a milkmaid braid with some hair accessories and you're good to go.
Woke up late for an early morning lecture? Quickly french braid your hair and get out the door!
Whatever the situation calls for, any braid is a great go-to solution.
Braids: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Although braids look beautiful and elegant, they aren't without their drawbacks.
Below are some advantages to braiding your hair as well as some not-so-pleasant possible side effects.
There's no denying that a well-done braid (no matter the type) looks well-put together and polished. Your entire ensemble looks more put together with your hair pulled back, ready to face the world head-on.
But there's more!
Not only do braids they look great, but they also come together very quickly...if you know what you're doing.
The amount of time necessary to put together an expert braid decreases the more you practice.
Before you know it, you'll quickly put together an updo with several types of braids worthy of the front cover of a magazine!
But the best aspect of any kind of braid is their sheer versatility. Any braid can be easily changed into an updo or beautified with sparkly accessories.
There are a few downsides to deciding on a braid for your daily hairstyle.
First and foremost, unless you're a seasoned hairstylist, it may take a while to perfect the twist. Depending on its complexity, it may take from one hour to a few days to land the look.
Secondly, if you don't secure the braid correctly, there is a chance will dishevel throughout the day. The more you move, the more your hair could become displaced, resulting in stray hairs.
Did you know?
The messy look is in style and totally doable with many types of braids! But it’s important to know how to do it properly. Here are some steps to create the perfect messy hairdo.
The only way to prevent braid dishevelment is to use hair styling products to keep your hair in place.
This includes mousse, hairspray, gels, or hair butter. Use in conjunction with hair ties and pins to ensure a tight, secure hold.
Anything that pulls our hair follicles tightly from the roots could cause significant hair damage. This includes splitting, hair weakness, and eventually follicle damage.
If you continue to pull your hair into extremely tight braids (especially near the scalp), you could even develop alopecia. This condition is characterized by one to multiple bald spots or a thinning hairline.
But not to fear, for there is a solution!
Like most things in life, everything is good in moderation. Braids are no different.
Don't braid your hair painfully tight near your scalp. Secondly, give your hair a break the day after you wear it in a tight hairdo to reduce hair stress.
Arm yourself with the necessary equipment, and you'll be well on your way to completing a gorgeous braided look.
Some styles require more supplies than others, but here is a short list of must-have items:
Before You Start
Prepping your hair before braiding is vital. This ensures your hair not only co-operates while braiding but also keeps its shape throughout the day (or evening).
Firstly, ensure your hair is clean. This means shampooing, conditioning, and drying your hair (air drying. Then, brush out your hair to eliminate any knots or tangles.
The last step depends on your hair type.
You may find your hair is easier to work with when you introduce some haircare products as mentioned in the list above. This could include hair mousse, gel, or butter.
However, you may skip the product altogether and begin styling your hair as usual.
Introducing the Types of Braids
Now, on to the main event!
Here are seven of our favorite types of braids and how to complete them.
1. Simple three-strand braid
A three-strand braid is the foundation of all twists. It also happens to be the easiest to master.
In addition, it is important to note that you'll need to learn this kind of braid first to graduate into more difficult styles.
Here's how to do it:
Before you start, remember to prep your hair first. Once you've prepped, figure out where you'd like to place the braid (side braid, down the back of your head, etc.).
It may be worthwhile to first use something else (such as ribbon or lais) to braid before trying it on yourself.
Take a section of hair and divide it into three even parts.
Take the right-most strand and bring it to the left between the other two strands. Now bring the left-most strand, bring it to the right, and place it between the remaining two strands.
Continue this pattern until complete.
Remember to start the braid as close to your scalp as possible. Braid tightly together. Finish the braid by tying an elastic hair band to the end.
When the braid is complete, hold the end with your left hand. Use your right hand to gently tug at the braid's sides to make it larger. This gives the appearance of a thicker braid without adding extensions!
2. Four-strand braid
A four-stranded braid is a variation of the traditional three-strand braid. While it may seem challenging, the process is very similar.
If done properly, it resembles a never-ending chain link!
Here's how to create this look:
For simplicity's sake, let's number the strands one, two, three, and four (starting from left to right).
First, take section number four over three. Then, take that same section (four) and place it under two. So it now looks like one, four, two, and three.
Now, we'll take strand number one and weave it beneath number four. Then (not unlike above), plait number four and place it over one and two.
It follows an "over, under, over, under" pattern but with different sections of hair.
Before you know it, you'll be done!
Remember that you can incorporate this technique with any other style.
For instance, part your hair to the side and use four strands to braid the thicker side. Or bring your hair over your shoulder and plait only the ends for a carefree messy look.
The possibilities are endless!
3. Milkmaid braid
The milkmaid braid is less a technical type of twist and more of a kind of hairstyle. These types of braids can be made using three-stranded braids or four-stranded braids.
Creating this look is easier than you might think:
After you prep your hair, you may choose to curl or tease your hair to add some volume.
After doing so, part your hair evenly down the middle. Secure one end with a clip so you can work on the other without accidentally grabbing the wrong section.
Braid one side of your hair and tie it off with an elastic band. Do the same thing with the other. Make sure to gently tug at the braid's sides to make it appear thicker.
Bring one braid over the top of your head and secure it with bobby pins. Once secure, bring the other braid over your head as well and secure with pins.
Tuck the ends of the braid underneath the other braid for a polished look.
4. French braid
A french braid is the next level up from a three-stranded braid.
Instead of using just the three strands you started with, it gradually incorporates more and more strands to eventually use up all of your hair.
It's a lot easier than it sounds, we promise!
Let's name the three first strands one, two, and three (from left to right).
Take strand number three, bring it to the left and over number two. Then take strand number one and bring it over number three.
We know what you're thinking: this sounds like a regular braid, right?
Here's the twist:
Before taking the same strand and bringing it over again, use this trick.
Slide your pinky from the top of your ear to the middle of your hair. Incorporate this stray hair into the strand before you cross it over to the other side.
Do the same with the strand on the opposite side.
Continue this pattern until you have no more hair to plait et voila: your hair is officially french braided.
Once you nail this hairstyle, french braiding your hair could be your go-to hairdo for school, office, or any other everyday setting.
Hair masks are an excellent way to promote healthy hair growth. They are chock-full of oils, butter, and other hydrating ingredients your hair needs to grow strong, healthy locks.
5. Dutch braid
The dutch braid is one of most favorite types of braids for its powerful visual in comparison to the french braid.
A dutch braid follows the same guidelines as french braid...except its completely the opposite!
Instead of tucking the strands over the other strands, you bring them under. The result is a bulkier braid which looks much more distinct than a french braid.
The process is the same:
Like french braids, you'll need to slowly incorporate more and more hair until you have no hair left to braid.
However, instead of the rightmost strand (for instance) going on top of the middle strand, it will go beneath it.
Apply the same theory to the left strand: incorporate hair, and bring it beneath the middle.
Those who are used to french braiding may find this difficult. It is, after all, altering the entire braiding formula.
But you'll be pleasantly surprised at the more defined, thicker-looking braid a dutch braid produces in comparison to a french.
6. Fishtail braid
Fishtail braids have been making a splash (pun intended) in many high-profile events, including the Oscars. Funny enough, it looks a lot harder than it is.
But here's the catch:
It takes a long time.
But we'll explain that in further detail in a moment...
First off: a simple fishtail braid.
Tie your hair in a ponytail and brush your hair out. Divide your ponytail into two sections: left and right.
The key to a perfect fishtail braid is to use small sections of hair.
Take a strand from the outside right side of your right section of hair. Bring that over and join it to the inside of your left part of your hair.
Then, do the same thing with the left side. Take a small section of the leftmost side of the section on your left hand. Bring it over and join it to the inside of the right section of hair.
In England, fishtail braids were called Grecian braids in the 19th century!
Unlike french or dutch braids, you are not incorporating more hair as you go along. However, because you're using such small sections of hair, it becomes rather time-consuming.
7. Waterfall braid
A waterfall braid is a type of modified french braid. While you’re still incorporating hair while you plait, you’ll also drop one strand of hair at each step.
This hairstyle works well for a night on the town or an evening event with friends.
Start by taking three equal strands of hair on the right side of your temple. We’ll name these strands one, two, and three (left to right). Take the first strand and bring it on top of strand number two.
Then, take strand number three over number one, then under number two. You ’ll begin to see the familiar under and over pattern most braids have.
But here’s the kicker:
Strand two then goes beneath strand one and gets dropped entirely.
To make another strand, grab a piece near your scalp: this one is now number four. Number four goes over number three and under number one. And then the entire process starts again.
The trick is to drop one strand of hair and let it “fall” before picking up another strand. This way, you’ll always have three strands to work with.
How to Wear Your Braid
Now that you’ve learned several different types of braids, on to the fun part:
How to wear them!
Remember that combining multiple styles of braids makes for a much more complex and eye-pleasing finished product.
As a headband
Using a braid as a headband keeps hair out of your face without sacrificing style.
But unlike the milkmaid braid, you won’t have to use all your hair: just the hair on the front half of your hair.
French braids, Dutch braids, or traditional three- and four-stranded braids work well as headbands.
As a halo
If you want to use all your hair, opt for a halo (or crown) braid.
As the name suggests, the finished result mimics a beautiful crown gently sitting on your head.
Dutch braids usually work best for this, as they are much more defined and tend to look thicker than french braids.
If you’re going for a more casual look, you can’t go wrong with a pair of braided pigtails. They are a quick and easy hairstyle that never truly goes out of style.
If you’re running out to get something from the store, three-stranded pigtails will serve you just fine.
For a more defined look, opt instead for dutch braid pigtails.
As part of an updo
While crown braids are the easiest way to create a braided updo, it is certainly not the only way.
One of the most popular wedding hairstyles, for example, incorporates a messy dutch braid with a low bun.
Secondly, using several types of braids into one hairstyle makes for a more captivating overall look.
If you need inspiration, look no further than the caryatids mentioned above, which have a combination of fishtail and two three-stranded braids.
Lastly, creating an eye-catching design is all in the details.
Once you’ve completed the hard plating part, go wild on accessories!
Style according to the braided person’s age, personal preference, and occasion.
Which Braid Is the Best?
If you’re stuck wondering which braid you should choose, it all boils down to a few simple considerations.
First, the more sophisticated the event, the more effort should go towards ensuring your hair is in tip-top shape.
Some brides, for instance, use multiple braid styles combined with other hairstyles to achieve their perfect updo.
But they also add other elements such as accessories, a veil, or sometimes even hair glitter!
At the end of the day, stick to your guns and do what you know best. If you want to learn a new style, practice weeks in advance, so you’re ready for the big day!
Do you have a favorite type of braid that didn't make our list? Tell us about it in the comments!