French braids are a classic style and can work for both formal and informal occasions. How long has it been since you wore your hair in a French plait? If it was when you were a little girl, you’re overdue on rocking one of the many updates the classic hairstyle has gotten.
No matter your hair thickness or texture, this braid is one style you can count on to make you look gorgeous, whether it’s for work, that fancy event coming up, or just while you’re hanging out at home.
Read on for a step-by-step tutorial, styling ideas, and answers to frequently asked questions about French braids!
What Are French Braids?
French braids elevate simple braids into a complex style. French braids differ from plain plaits as you add hair to each section as you braid, creating a cascading look that starts from the top of the head and flows downwards.
The term French braid was first used in 1871 in the short story “Our New Congressman” by March Westland. There are two variations of the French braiding, the Dutch braid and fishtail braids. A Dutch braid is just the French braid that’s been inverted whereas fishtail braids use two strands of hair, rather than three.
How To Do French Braids
French braids can appear tricky, but once you get the hang of them, you will braid them from memory. This tutorial is for one long French braid because it is the easiest to learn.
Separate a section of your hair at the top of your crown, almost as if you were making a half-ponytail. Once you have separated it neatly from the rest of your hair, section into three strands: A, B, and C.
Now, begin a standard braid. Move A over B, so it is now in the middle. Then, move C over A so that C is in the middle. Your strands should look like B, C, and A from left to right.
In this step, you will deviate from a regular braid. In a regular braid, you would move B to the middle (C, B, A). Before you do, add in another strand of hair from the left side of your head to join B.
Once B has more hair, move it to the middle.
The rest of the process is straightforward. After adding hair to B and moving it to the middle, add another strand to A, and then move section A to the middle of the braid (C, A, B). Your braid should start to feel thicker!
Continue the pattern: add a strand of hair from the side of your head to each section before braiding it over. As you progress, you might find that you have to reach for the hair underneath your braid to add more hair to your sections, which is perfectly fine.
Once you run out of hair to add to your sections, complete the look by braiding your hair normally. When you finish, you have a long, single French braid running down your back.
Check out the how-to tutorial video below!
Tips for French Braids
French braids, like any hairstyle, can take some time to perfect. People with different hair textures will find that different tips work best for them.
Regardless of your hair length, texture, or styling preferences, below are some helpful tips for integrating French braids into your repertoire of hairstyle looks.
- Some people find success by practicing French plaits on a friend first to get the hang of it. Ask a friend who has a similar hair texture if you can practice French braids on them!
- Because you will be adding hair to your braid sections, the last thing you want is a tangled mess. If you have straight hair, consider brushing your hair beforehand. If you have curly or kinky textures, try conditioning and moisturizing your hair first.
- Avoid a French braid that strangles your hair by having the strands too tight. Opt for a looser braid, especially at the beginning when you’re adding hair to your sections.
- Is your hair not long enough for one long French braid? Separate your hair into two halves and make two (or three or four!) smaller French braids.
French Braided Updo
1. Messy Look
A chic updo like this is easy to achieve at home. The hair is curled up and pinned loosely at the back for a messy look and topped off with a hair jewel while the side-swept front is braided too. The blonde balayage takes this look to another level.
Space buns look fun and are effortless to achieve. The back is intertwined into upside down French braids while the remaining hair is braided and twisted around into two buns at the top. Pull out some strands at the front and the style is done.
3. Braid Crown with Full Up ‘Do
Once you have created a crown of braids, you can pull the rest of your hair up into a stylish up’do. Secure it in position with hairpins and grips for a flawless look.
Using clear sections of hair from the front of your head in your braids helps to create a stepped look. Pull your hair up into a lightly curled chignon for the perfect wedding style.
If you have thin hair or your hair is less than medium length, a short French braid will work. This one is formed by brushing all the hair forward and braiding right at the hairline.
6. Upside Down French Braid
Instead of the ends of your French braid being at the neck, this is where they’ll start. Secure the ends of the braids at the crown and wind them into this cute ballerina bun.
7. Gorgeous Wedding Hair
For gorgeous wedding hair, incorporate a thick statement braid on one side of your head. Pull the rest of your hair up into a beautifully curled chignon bun.
8. Birdcage Chignon
To create this look you will have to section your hair off into lots of individual sections which you can pull round into waterfall braids. The sections which come out of the waterfall can then be pulled round and tucked under in a birdcage effect.
9. Two Tone
If the underside of your hair is a different shade to the top, then you can create a fantastic two-tone French braid hairstyle like the one above. The contrasting colors look absolutely amazing.
10. Bow Bun
Top your French braid style with an amazing bow of hair which is reminiscent of the 40’s pin-up style. If you don’t want to make a hair bow, use a statement fabric bow instead.
11. High Crown
Section off some hair towards the front of your hair. Use this hair to create a high crown braid which sits atop your head. You can wear the rest of your hair up or down.
12. Middle Parted French Braids
Instead of French braiding hair all the way to ends, stop at the neckline and wrap them together using a jeweled hair claw.
A braid does not need to flow down the back of your head. For a really chic style, pull your braid up into a gorgeous chignon at the back and leave a few strands down to frame your face at the front.
14. Half Crown with Bun
Work in a braid around just one side of your head. Allow it to follow the natural curve of your skull. Pull the rest of your hair up into a tight chignon bun at the back.
15. Thin Braid
Create the appearance of a pixie bob with a manicured braided updo. Tuck stray hairs away under the chunky braid to ensure that you do not have a hair out of place.
French Braided Ponytail
16. Multiple Braids
Here is a unique and stylish French braided ponytail hairstyle for women who like to stand out from others. The top has a jumbo loose braid while each side has two smaller braids all of which are secured at the back in a ponytail. Finish off by adding hair rings.
17. Upside Down Look
This high ponytail can’t get any higher! Bend forwards to brush out the hair and plait the back into a neat French braid reaching the crown of the head. Secure the remaining strands in a hair tie and let it sway all day long.
18. Braided Top
Young girls can flaunt French braids by opting for this look. The top is weaved into two braids with a middle parting while the remaining strands are left loose. Add some glitter or cute hair clips to set off the hairstyle.
19. Two In One
Keep your hair away from the face the entire day by braiding both the sides all the way to the end with a middle part. Leave the braids loose or secure them with another hair tie into a low braided ponytail. This look is easy to maintain.
20. Unique Ponytail
Instead of combining a ponytail with side braids create a unique hairstyle by tying the locks in a high ponytail and entwining the loose strands in a French braid reaching the end. This look will surely keep all the eyes on you.
What is better than one French braid? Two French braids! Here is a look that looks equally cute on young girls and women. Tame the hair the whole day by styling it into dual braids with a middle part.
22. Half-Up Style
Show off a straight-cut lob with style by weaving the top part into a braid for a bohemian appeal. The braid is tied at the back into a half-up ponytail. Wrap a chunk of hair around the hair tie to copy this style exactly.
23. Braided Knot
If you are a fan of pulling your hair back into a high ponytail, you can actually enhance the look by using a braided section of your hair to “secure” the pony. Use an elastic hair tie to hold your ponytail firmly in place, but then wrap the braid over to cover the hair tie.
24. French Braided Side Ponytail
Create a fun twist on the French braid by making it into a sideways hairstyle. This braid starts at the temple on one side of the head and winds around the head ending at the ear. Secure with a pretty flowered clip.
25. Voluminous French Braid
Stop your braid just above the nape of your neck. Use a hair band and a knot of hair to pull the remaining pony away from your back. Run your fingers through the pony a few times to create extra volume.
Half Up French Braids
26. Princess Appeal
Look like an elegant princess by styling half of your brunette hair in a French braid and adding loose waves to the remaining strands hanging loose at the back. Top off the look by adding a floral hair jewel that is suitable for both formal and informal events.
27. Braided Flower Updo
This unique half-up French braid look is for those women who like to keep it stylish and classy. The side-locks are braided and twisted around at the back to create a cute flower. Pull the entwined strands loose to create prominent loops and secure the updo with hairpins.
28. Half Side Braids
Another way to combine a half-up hair look with French braids is by knitting the strands along both sides all the way to the ends to contrast with the remaining loose hair. Go for a middle or side parting depending on your choice.
29. French Headband Braid
If you like the headband look, create it without the use of an actual headband. Start a French braid at one temple and cross it over to the other side. Pull it loose for soft vibes and leave the rest of your hair wavy.
30. Front French Braid
Keep hair off your face with a side French braid that works even with side bangs. Part hair at the side, then start the braid and continue it down the opposite side ending at about ear level. Pull it the end back and secure it with a clip.
31. Top Waterfall
Waterfall braids normally start right on the top of your head, but you can try this twist where the “waterfall” takes hair from your fringe and sits atop your head instead. Make the waterfall asymmetrical for an even more unusual look.
32. Messy Half Up, Half Down
This is an amazingly funky hairstyle if you are looking for a mixture of up and down styles. Braid the front sections near to your forehead and then use curling tongs to create a beautiful loose curl in the back sections.
33. Loose braid with loose curls
To create loose tousled curls underneath a braid, you can use a curling iron and then run your fingers through your hair to help to separate it out into smaller segments.
34. French Twist
A twist on a French braid is created by pulling one section of hair out of the braid so that it looks like a twist. It looks beautiful as a half updo with the bottom half left straight or slightly wavy.
35. Braided Heart
Create two opposing braids starting from either side of your parting and use hair from your fringe to give the braids a solid structure. Pull these back around and then join together at the bottom to create a distinctive heart shape.
Waterfall French Braids
36. Ballerina Bun
Dance around like a ballerina by flaunting a chic hairstyle like this. The front hair is sectioned into three parts and knitted with the strands of one braid interconnected with the other one. Style the remaining hair in a top bun and top it off with a flower.
37. Braided Flower
Use the same technique that creates a French braid to make this waterfall braid twist. The loops are pulled loose to thicken and widen the braid, and the end is secured with a pretty braided flower.
38. Diagonal Waterfall Braid
Waterfall braids are a simple yet striking choice. For a quirky take on this beautiful style, run your waterfall braids on a diagonal instead of on a level.
39. Waterfall Braids and Curls
This is a great prom or summer wedding hairstyle because it shows off the gorgeous curls without risking being too casual. It can be teamed up with flower accessories for amazing boho chic.
40. Connected Waterfall French Braids
Why have just one waterfall French braid when you can have two? Start with a small section of hair near the top of the head, connecting the waterfalls to another braid just below.
French Braids for Black Women
41. Pretty Pigtails
Black women can rock these unique and stylish French braided pigtails with confidence. The front is knitted into micro braids to contrast with the remaining hair at the back that is braided into two pigtails. Top off with a feather headband for a funky appeal.
42. Curly Mess
Natural curls look beautiful when worn in a carefree manner. The side-swept front is braided tightly to keep the hair away from the face while the remaining strands are secured at the back with a claw clip. This look is low-maintenance and stays in place all day long.
43. Chunky Rope Twist
For a big, bold statement style, plait your hair into chunky French rope braids. This is a great way to keep your hair looking smart for the workplace.
44. Braided Bun and Crown
Wrap a thick braid over your forehead to create the impression of a braided crown. Pull equally thick French plaits up into a classic bun style at the rear of your head.
45. Natural Hair
Nappy natural hair looks amazing when it has been teased back into a classical single French braid for black women. Wear with a simple headband for everyday elegance.
Crown French Braids
46. Spiral French Braid
A crown braid turns any woman into an ethereal goddess. Recreate this unique look by braiding the strands and circling around the head several times creating a spiral French braid look. Use some hairspray to keep the style in place all day long.
47. Half-Up Crown
Ladies who like to keep their hair on the loose can go for this look. Half of the hair is entwined all around the head into a chunky braid while the remaining is curled and brushed to create loose waves. Tug out some strands to accentuate the face.
48. Pushed Back
Although a crown braid usually runs along the hairline push it back farther up creating a bun-like hairstyle. Start braiding the strands and circle around the crown of the head. Pull the strands loose for a graceful appeal.
49. Swiss Crown
This Swiss Crown is a traditional hairstyle in many alpine regions, however, that does not mean that it has to stay in the mountains. A Swiss Crown is a suitable choice for red carpet events or other formal occasions.
50. Loose Crown
A loose braid crown can offer a very soft and feminine look to the wearer. It also helps to make thin hair look more voluminous. If you are looking for a sweet style for a wedding or formal event, then this might be the right choice for you.
Fishtail French Braids
51. Platinum Braids
Flaunt your shiny platinum blonde locks by entwining both sides in loose fishtail French braids with a middle part. Secure the strands at the ends and let the braids dangle at the back or front. This loose and easy hair look is effortless to achieve and low-maintenance.
52. Low Bun
For a special occasion go for a simple low bun. Start by knitting fine strands together at the back to create a subtle braided pattern that merges into the bun. Pull out some strands loose at the front to frame the face elegantly.
53. Braided Front
Why complicate a hairstyle when a simple look like this is enough to brighten up your face? Add loose waves to your blonde locks and braid the side-parted front before pinning it at the back. You can braid both sides for an everyday look too.
Black women who are not afraid to express their bold personalities can opt for this wild hairstyle. The sides are buzzed down neatly to contrast with the box braided top that is further weaved into a jumbo French braid. This look will surely turn around many heads.
55. Braid on Braids
Steal the show by taking your braids a step further. Divide the hair into three sections with a zigzagging middle parting and style each section into fine fishtail braids which are then weaved together to create one jumbo braid. This style looks super cute on little girls.
56. Get Creative
Here is yet another fishtail French braids hairstyle for women who are searching for a jaw-dropping hair look. Separate a side section of the head and braid both the sections with the top C-shaped one spiraling around the other creating a style that is impossible to ignore.
57. Fishtail French Braided Updo
A jumbo fishtail braid that uses all of the hair instead of half is great for fancy occasions like weddings and dance recitals. The top of the head is decorated with a pretty clip that secures hair. It will be easier to braid the hair if it’s straight first.
Use the same technique that you would use for a classic fishtail, but create this braid at the side. It is a gorgeous choice for any special occasion or wedding.
Loose French Braids
59. Blonde Highlights
The messier it gets, the better it looks! The best way to flaunt those blonde highlights peeking through the darker strands is by styling them in a loose French braid. Braid the side-parted front too and curl up the stray strands for a scruffy appeal.
60. Ruffled and Romantic
Long tresses can be styled into a loose jumbo braid for a messy yet romantic appeal. The front is twisted to merge into the ruffled strands at the back. Entwine a chunky section into a fishtail braid before braiding all the hair for a distinctive look.
61. French Braid for Wedding
Your big day deserves a stunning hairstyle. Go for this mix of French braid and fishtail braid for a detailed way to display your long locks.
62. Single Side Braid
A single braid at one side of your hair creates an eleven look which is straight out of Lord of the Rings. It is a soft and beautiful choice which would look perfect for a wedding or garden party.
63. Stepped Braid
Create a stepped look by bringing in loose sections of hair from all the way down your head. Knot your hair half way down and fan it out to create a gorgeous semi-casual look.
64. Casual Side Braid
This side braid is perfect for a fun, casual style. Loosely create a side plait hairstyle towards the back of your head. Do not fix it too tightly or it will ruin the casual look that you are aiming for.
65. Braided Fringe
Weave a single, thin braid into your fringe to help to keep your hair out of your eyes. This braided hairstyle will create a boho chic look when it is teamed up with loose curls or loose waves.
66. Rolling Side Braid
These rolling side braids are a perfect choice for glamming up a casual hairstyle. It is really quick to pull your hair up into this boho style, so it is a great look when you are heading out with your friends.
67. Highlighted Sections
A few contrasting highlighted sections can also look brilliant in a braided style. When small sections are highlighted, you can really see how your hair darts around from side to side within the plait.
68. Messy Style
Your hair can still look totally stylish even if you have a few stray hairs. In fact, the scruffy look can be really desirable in a casual “just threw this together” hairstyle.
Other French Braids
69. Long French Braids
These two French braids are perfect for women with long hair. Keep your hair out of your face by creating a side part and starting these braids at the temples, braiding through to ends. Drape them both over one shoulder for a classy look.
70. Double French Braids
A dramatic hairstyle to rock features two French braids on each side of the head. They’re combined to make the hair look thicker and look especially beautiful with a contrasting hair color, like this muted purple.
71. French Braided Dreads
If you’re a woman with dreadlocks, you can still fashion your hair in a gorgeous French braid. This look is traditional, but instead of securing the ends with an elastic, a couple of locks are wound around the ends.
72. French Braid for Thick Hair
For thick hair, a luscious French braid like this can tame your locks in a gorgeous way. Form a couple traditional braids around the head first, leaving some hair loose, then combine them all in the French braid.
73. Classic Single French Plait
This hairstyle was popular for decades with noblewomen in various different countries. It is a beautiful look for any special occasion.
Make your plait look even more eye-catching with your interpretation of this wonderful latticework. Knot your hair at the nape of your neck and let the rest of it hang down freely.
75. Off-center Plait
Creating a single braid is a classic look, but it can be updated a little by plaiting slightly off-centre. The plait will then fall gently over one shoulder rather than falling straight down your back.
76. Messy Plait
Classic French braids don’t always have to be perfectly manicured. A messy plait can be pulled together quite quickly and looks a little bit more casual than a carefully created braid.
77. Thick and Thin
Try this twist on a classic French braid. Start your main braid close to the nape of your neck and leave most of the top of your hair smooth. Feed a few thin plaits or twists into your style to create a unique look.
78. Beach Hair
If you have copper tones in your hair, then a classic French Braid is an excellent choice for your beach hairstyle this summer. The added bonus is that it will leave your hair with a beautiful wave once you remove the plaits.
79. Thin French Braid
If you only have thin hair, then you may worry about your single braid tapering away to nothingness. However, a French braid can still look stylish even with thin hair.
Take braiding to a whole new level by pulling lots of different thicknesses of braid together into one ponytail. This look gives your hair a gorgeous texture.
81. Coppery Tones
Put coppery highlights into your hair to give your hair a metallic shine when it catches the sun. This look is enhanced by wearing lots of reds and browns.
82. Bow Braids
This incredible high fashion hairstyle incorporates “bows” of hair into the braids. It is a really bold choice when teamed up with a single side braid.
83. Diminishing Braid
This braid starts off being big and bold near to the top of the head but diminished in size towards the end of the style. It is a great choice for people with thinner hair who still want a braided style.
84. Sleek and Shiny
Perfectly straight hair looks amazing in a braid. A sleek and smooth style can help to show off the healthy shine of your hair.
85. Subtle Braid
Keep things simple and casual with a subtle down hairstyle. Loosely braid in an asymmetrical fringe and then run your fingers through the rest of your hair to create volume.
86. High French Braid
Pull your hair upwards and backwards to create a high French braid style. This style is wonderfully elegant and is the perfect choice for formal parties.
87. Distinct Sections to Create Steps
Use chunky, distinct sections of hair to give your style a stepped look. This means that all of your hair plays an important part in your style.
88. The Top
You can choose to braid only the top section of your hair. This style is great for shorter people who want to have something to show off on the top of their head.
This spiny braid is a little bit punky without being too extreme for the office. It is a great choice for those who want to stand out in a crowd.
90. Mixed Braid
This braid mixes two different styles into one by integrating a classic single French braid with a funky fishtail style. You might need someone else to help you to pull off a braid as neat as this one.
91. Mermaid Braid
This style uses complex latticework across the back of the hair, which then fans out into an open “mermaid” style. The hairstyle is made even more striking by the ombre bluey-green hair coloring in the lower section.
Frequently Asked Questions
Check out the answers to some of your most frequently asked questions about French braids below!
Where did French braids come from?
Despite their name, French braids do not have a French origin. The oldest image containing those braids is from 6,000-year-old rock art on the Tassili n’Ajjer mountain range in Algeria. Some ancient Greek art also features these braids.
It is not surprising that they are so universal and pop up frequently throughout history. They are an excellent way of neatly accounting for all of the hair on your head, getting it out of the way when you are doing strenuous activity, and helping to frame your face.
The only reason Americans tend to call this style “French” is likely because of an association with French fashion trends. A short story published in 1871 mentioned a French braid hairstyle.
Is having two French braids cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation happens when a dominant group exploits or disrespects a practice or custom from a marginalized community. The experience can occur whether the dominant group intends to exploit the marginalized group or not.
Because French braiding are common in so many cultures and customs, wearing French braids is not cultural appropriation. Though some cultures may wear the hairstyle more frequently, these braids are universal.
Can you sleep with French braids?
It is important to protect your hair while you sleep so that the friction from tossing and turning does not damage your hair. Try wearing your hair in French-style braids. Because the braids are loose, sleeping with thesebraids will not hurt or be uncomfortable.
Are French braids a protective hairstyle?
A protective hairstyle is a way of doing your hair in a way that protects it from breakage, damage, and tangles. While many people of color use protective hairstyles to protect their hair texture, all hair is susceptible to damage.
So long as you tuck in your ends and your hair is secure, French braiding isthey an excellent, basic protective hairstyle. For more delicate or curly hair, consider multiple braids to make sure all of your hair is equally protected.
Can French braids cause hair loss?
While it is unlikely that it will cause any immediate hair loss, any hairstyle that is too tight or worn too frequently can put stress on your hair and scalp. Make sure you opt for variety in your hairstyle and give your hair a break every once in a while.
Are French braids unprofessional?
Professionalism is a subjective etiquette that varies depending on the individual, the workplace, the industry, and the culture.
There is a growing movement of people in the United States who question accusations of unprofessionalism rooted in hairstyles (a Congressional act aims to protect employees from undue discrimination based on their hair).
French braids are no more or less professional than a blow-out, a high-pony, or an afro. However, making an informed decision about what hairstyle you choose for work will depend on the expectations of your job.
If your workplace has strict rules about hairstyles and attire, you will need to adhere to them.
Will French braids make your hair curly?
If you have straight hair and are seeking a wavy, beachy look, try sleeping in them! Though the effect depends entirely on your hair structure, some people find that sleeping in French braids gives their hair naturally-looking curls.
Are French braids and boxer braids similar?
When people refer to Boxer braids, they are usually talking about braided styles that female boxers popularized. However, like French ones, boxer braids have been around for centuries.
Also known as Dutch braids, Boxer braids are close to French braids with one key difference. Whereas French braiding pulls hair into sections to braid them over each other (A over B; C over B), boxer braids pull in new hair to braid the sections under each other (A under B; C under B).
Boxer braids are inverted French braids. Both styles likely have the same origin.
French plaits are a classic hairstyle that not only looks good but also protects your hair! You can wear these braids to prevent hair damage while you sleep, or pair them with an elegant outfit for a night out on the town.
However you choose to do your braid when you wear it, you become one of a long line of French braid-enthusiasts from many different cultures around the world.