Summer calls for hairstyles that are chic, fuss-free, and long-lasting because once those long summer weekends finally hit, the last thing we want to be doing is dealing with finicky styles. Especially when the temperatures are soaring and we have a full day of plans ahead of us. (Have you ever tried to fix a complicated updo in the rearview mirror of a car while parked outside of your favorite brunch spot? It’s not fun.) That’s why braids are our go-to.
You see, no matter what your hair type or texture, we firmly believe that there’s a braided hairstyle out there with your name on it. It might just be that you haven’t found just the right style yet, which is why some hair inspiration (hair-spiration?) is long overdue. Keep scrolling to see 15 braided hairstyles—ranging from easy to advanced—that we think are perfect for breaking out in summer 2021. Happy braiding, everyone.
Let’s start with the most classic cut-and-dry braid out there: the simple three-strand plait. It’s chic, timeless, and easy to replicate, even for the most novice of hair braiders. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a little oomph. Take inspiration from the Alberta Ferretti runway, where models wore their super-textured and beachy hair in one long braid. Use a texture spray like Verb’s Volume Dry Texture Spray ($18) to replicate their breezy look.
Take that traditional three-plait braid and move it off-center, so it drapes over one shoulder. Side braids are easy to style and can be mussed for a messy and effortless vibe or smoothed down like the one on this model for a sleek look. Either way, we like the idea of adding a plain black headband, which adds a little French persuasion to the look.
Remember how we said a side braid could easily be mussed up for extra texture and volume? Take inspiration from this ’60s side braid by adding a volumizing product at the roots of your hair before braiding it down. (Personally, we like using Sachajuan’s Volume Cream $35). Finish off the look with bold kohl-rimmed eyes and a nude lip, and you’ll have a new summer beauty uniform.
Here’s another classic: the traditional French braid. This style scoops up hair from the scalp as the braid grows instead of just utilizing the free-falling strands. You can work all of your hair in or only braid a certain part for a fun accent, like Alicia Keys here.
Next on our summer braid inspiration list is this dual French braid look, oftentimes referred to as “boxer braids.” These are actually Dutch braided, meaning instead of wrapping each section of hair over the others, it’s wrapped under. This makes the braid appear to pop, defining the overall shape. (Don’t worry: We have a tutorial for Dutch braids too.)
If the classic French braid feels a tad “been there, and done that” to you, then try a French braid ponytail hybrid, as demonstrated on the La Perla runway. It’s a simple twist on the traditional that gives a fresh effect. Instead of braiding the lengths of your hair all the way down, stop at the nape of your neck and tie off with a hair tie. That’s it. Bonus points if you replicate the wet look (don’t worry, we have instructions from a pro). It gives a super-chic “I just came from the beach” vibe.
Instead of a single plait, try separating your hair into four equal parts and braiding each one down, separately. It requires little to no effort and results in this edgy cool-girl look. Leave the ends to puff out freely for contrast. Adding a rose petal red lip won’t hurt either.
One of our favorite looks is this: relaxed hair with tiny braids hidden throughout the lengths. Again, it’s a style that even the most novice of braiders can easily accomplish. Just choose where you want your braid to sit (ensuring they start in the bottom half of your hair) and braid down. Tie off with a clear elastic and voilà. You have easy, fuss-free summer hair.
The fishtail braid is a bit trickier than a traditional plait, earning it the bump up to “intermediate.” Luckily, we have an easy-to-follow tutorial for all of your fishtailing needs. We love how undone Ciara’s is here—it doesn’t have to be a slicked-back, all-in type of style.
Take your new fishtail skill and apply it to this half-up, half-down hairstyle. Again, it’s not too difficult if you know how to fishtail. And honestly, even if you don’t know how to fishtail, try replicating the look with a traditional braid. Either way, it will look breezy and summertime-chic. Just be sure to replicate that shine by using a smoothing serum like Tresemme’s Keratin Smooth Shine Serum ($5).
Braided pigtail styles vary widely, which is why we’re qualifying them as “intermediate.” If you think they’re just for summer pool days, think again—dress them up for a night out or the red carpet, as Halle Bailey has here.
There’s nothing quite like a crown braid to inspire us to kick up our hair game. Luckily, they’re fairly easy to replicate on your own. Start with traditional braided pigtails and then wrap each one around the base of your hairline, securing with bobby pins as you go.
Next, we have the braided bun. No matter if you wear it high on your head like a top knot or low at the nape of your neck, it’s a chic twist on a classic chignon. It’s fairly easy to do, too, if only you have a steady hand and some hairpins nearby. Start with a normal braid, and then wrap it around its base, securing with hairpins as you go. We like to add an anti-humidity hair product to our strands before creating this style to keep it looking smooth and shiny.
This corset braid is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s definitely advanced, though, especially if you’ve just mastered the traditional French braid. Watch this video to see a step-by-step demonstration. Oh, and don’t forget to keep with the wet-look trend. We don’t think it’s going anywhere in summer 2021.
Next, we have this inverted waterfall crown braid. We like how it’s positioned perfectly along the hairline, with breezy pieces staying free to frame the face at the front. We also appreciate how it looks sporty and modern, thanks to the low pony at the back. It’s chic and cool and far from an “I just came from a renaissance fair” look.