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Hairstyle Dictionary: The Basics of Braiding

Hairstyle Dictionary: The Basics of Braiding

Posted by Team John Paul Mitchell Systems on Nov 10th 2015

We think it’s safe to say braids will never go out of style. While some may gain popularity during any given season or time, like most beauty and fashion trends, they come right back around. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to braids that outlines the basics and tips for perfecting each type of plait. While all are based off of similar principles, each of these braiding techniques creates a unique shape and style.


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Image via Gregory Pace/BEImages

A three strand braid is a classic style that has been worn for centuries. This basic braid is created with three equal sections of hair, in which the two outer sections are passed over the center section to create a weaved pattern. This simple style can be achieved on nearly any hair type, but beginners should note it’s often easier to braid second-day hair╌the grit of lived-in hair will keep make it easier to pass each section over the other cleanly.


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Image via  MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock

If you mastered the three strand braid years ago and are looking for something a bit more intricate, the four strand braid is a great option. To achieve this look pull all of your hair to one side and divide your tresses into four equal parts. Starting on the outer most side, weave the first section under the second section, over the third section and under the fourth section. Pull tight and repeat on the outermost section until all hair is braided. Remember: under, over, under, repeat. You’ll get the hang of it with some practice!


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Image via  Gregory Pace/BEImages

This gorgeous braid is unlike any other. It is created by dividing the hair into two equal sections, and then taking one strand from underneath one of the sections and passing it to the other. Taking from one section and then the other, repeat this process until the length of your hair is braided. The key to achieving a perfect fishtail braid is to make sure the size of the pieces of hair you grab from each section are consistently the same. Also, beginners note: tie your hair into a ponytail first and practice braiding the length of your hair with controlled sections.


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Images via Matt Baron/BEImages

The French braid is an iconic style and rather simple to master with some practice. To achieve the look, take a small section of hair at the top of your head and split it into three sections. Begin a normal three strand braid and each time you pass hair over the center strand, grab more hair from the side of your head and incorporate it into the section. Repeat on each side of the head, adding to each section as you braid, until you have no more hair to gather. At this point, braid the three sections as normal. You can tailor this plait by playing with where you start the sections╌try the low-back of your head for a lived-in look or begin your braid off to one side of your head and wrap down towards the other to create a fun detail.


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Image via  Matt Baron/BEImages

Good news! An inverted braid is created with the same technique as a French braid, but instead of passing the hair over the center part, you pass it underneath. This makes the braid raised from the head for looks like crown braids.

These plaits are useful for countless occasions; dress up a French braid, wear a loose three strand braid for a lived-in look or give your sleek ponytail a creative detail with a fishtail braid.