15 Braided Styles to Inspire Your Next Hairdo

Braids might be easy on the eyes, but they're not always the easiest hairstyle to create. Here, we've rounded up our favorite braided looks, and tapped an expert to create a guide that will teach you everything you need to know in order to recreate them!

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Hairstylist and editorial director of website Mane Addicts, Justine Marjan, has braided the hair of singer Kelly Rowland, model Lily Aldridge, and a certain famous family whose first names all start with the letter "K." Here, she shares the basics for creating and maintaining any braided style.   

Singer Janelle Monáe pairs a red lip with a long, intricately woven braid at the 2014 Met Gala in New York City. Photograph courtesy of Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Best-friend braids! Do it! Photograph courtesy of Stan Wayman/Getty Images
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Get her advice and be inspired by pop culture's best-ever braids, below. 

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Tip No. 1: Learn the Basic Styles 

Knowing how to put your hair into two pigtail braids is definitely a useful skill to have. But you should prioritize the mastery of a few other foundational styles as well. "Regular three-strand braids, cornrows, French braids, and fishtails all create an amazing arsenal and can be mixed and matched to create so many cool, fun variations," Marjan says. Once you learn how to perfect those styles, you can create more customized looks such as the milkmaid braid or a reverse-French ponytail. The possibilities are endless! 

British model Twiggy wears a thick, simple braid (which is most likely a wig) in 1966. Photograph courtesy of Popperfoto/Getty Images
Actress Cicely Tyson takes a creative approach to cornrows during a photoshoot circa 1973. Photograph courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tip No. 2: Always Prepare Your Hair for Action

Depending on whether you want casual, unkempt or polished braids, you'll want to prep hair with the appropriate products. "If you want clean, tight, and sleek braids I suggest prepping the hair with a primer, oil or serum, and a hairspray," Marjan says. "If you want more of a disheveled, messy finish, you will want to use the same products, but omit the oil," she adds. 

Pigtail braids are a key part of Joni Mitchell's signature folksy style. Photograph courtesy of Dick Barnatt/Getty Images
Singer Lene Lovich shows off her long plaits during a photoshoot in a hotel bathroom in Leeds, England, 1978. Photograph courtesy of David Corio/Redferns

If you're trying to mend damaged hair (or if you want to keep your strands protected from the sun), apply a leave-in conditioner before braiding for long-lasting hydration.

Sade Adu completes her look with a basic yet strikingly beautiful braid while singing live on stage for a LIVE AID benefit in 1985. Photograph courtesy of Phil Dent/Redferns

Tip No. 3: Choose Styles to Suit Your Length

Even the shortest bob haircuts can accommodate braids—you'll just want to choose the right styles and products for creating them. "On shorter hair, always use a firm-hold hair gel to control any short, spiky, or stray hairs that fall loose," Marjan recommends. "On longer hair, make sure you brush through the length of the hair as you braid to make sure the hair doesn't get tangled at the ends." If you have curly hair, try a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush. 

Actress Juliette Lewis showed up to the 64th Annual Academy Awards in 1992 wearing an Old Hollywood-inspired frock and jet-black cornrows. Photograph courtesy of Ron Galella/Getty Images

Product Suggestions

Firm-Hold Gel by Malin + Goetz, $22, groominglounge.com.

Tip No. 5: Avoid This Common Mistake

Many people weave loose braids to minimize tension on their scalp. But the tighter you start the braid, the better the results. "Make sure to use enough tension with braiding to pull the hair tight to the scalp for a more flattering finish," Marjan says. "If you want a messier outcome, you can pull it apart with your fingers when you're done." 

Blake Lively has worn some great braids, but nothing quite like this messy-yet-elegant plait at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards in L.A. in 2009. Photograph courtesy of Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
The milkmaid braid has come back in style in recent years. Here's actress Sienna Miller showing off the romantic style at a Golden Globes after party in 2007. Photograph courtesy of Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Actress and singer of Lolawolf, Zoë Kravitz, contributed to the resurgence of box braids. Here, she's wearing them at the 2015 Dior Cruise show on the French Riviera. Photograph courtesy of Dominique Charriau/Getty Images
From: Seventeen
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