Celebrities and real girls alike are obsessed with an iconic ‘90s style: box braids. The traditional African braids rose in popularity stateside nearly three decades ago, defining an era of iconic black television, movies, and music. Think Jada Pinkett (pre-Smith), Poetic Justice-era Janet Jackson, and Brandy as Moesha Mitchell. In 2019, box braids are the perfect solution to rocking a protective style while adding plenty of lengths — you know, just to have a little something to throw over your shoulder.
A simple search of “box braids” on YouTube will flood your screen with 603,00 videos of DIY tutorials and frizz-fighting maintenance, while whole Instagram accounts are dedicated to showcasing infinite variations of braids. Modern iterations decorated with beads, metallic thread, or colorful highlights will turn heads, and plain chunky braids still provide low-maintenance glamour. Tired of topknots and ponytails? Waist-length box braids are an elegant and versatile style with a culture-filled history. Now, see how your favorite celebs and peers are personalizing this look on Instagram.
Bleached Mohawk Braids
Box braids can work for multiple hair lengths. Jada Pinkett Smith shows us how it’s done with these bleach blonde box braids on her mohawk. To switch up the look, try wrapping them into a bun. You can even pull them into a larger braid if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
Tired of doing simple buns and ponytails and looking for a more unique updo? Look no further than actress Skai Jackson rocking the cutest braided bow with some of her braids left loose in the front. The burgundy strands of hair give this look an extra bit of flair.
No stranger to making a beauty statement whenever she hits a red carpet, Black Panther star Danai Gurira showed out at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar after-party rocking an otherworldly braided look. Her hair was cornrowed in the front, with box braids underneath. She showed up to the Oscars ceremony with braids that reached to her butt, but for the after-party, hairstylist Larry Sims cut her braids, leaving them undone at the bottom and secured with elastics. It’s the kind of hairstyle that would be right at home in Wakanda.
Yearning to play with a bit of color but don’t want to commit to one hue? Take a page from Insecure actress Yvonne Orji’s book, who got box braids with blonde and brown extensions, but kept her roots black so she can have a bit of fun without having to lighten her own hair. Intricately styled with a big side fishtail braid on one side and bangs swept across the other, this style has a beautiful gradient effect.
Youtube sensation and beauty buff Alissa Ashley look incredibly radiant with her box braids styled in a high pony up top and the left loose on the bottom. The deep brunette hue of the braids perfectly complements her skin tone.
Amandla Stenberg’s stomach may not have been in knots for a recent lunch with Hollywood Reporter, but her hair definitely was. Vernon François created this knotted updo on the actress’s rainbow box braids, giving us some serious festival hair inspo.
Tessa Thompson is the newest member of the #braidsgang. Hairstylist Lacy Redway installed these mile-long box braids on the actress. The loose wavy texture at the end gives this look that easy, carefree, the bohemian vibe we are totally digging for the summer.
Can Jada Pinkett-Smith do any wrong? The answer is no. As she beautifully illustrates, mohawks aren’t just for your stereotypical rocker. They look amazing on just about anyone.
Jumbo Fishtail Braid
YouTuber Jaelan Davis (aka faceovermatter) aptly demonstrates the versatility of box braids. She looks incredible here with her side-swept jumbo fishtail braid, a flattering hairdo when you want to change things up.
Leave it to wunderkind Amandla Stenberg to put her own twist on classic box braids. For a unique look, take a page from her book and pull out the ends of your box braids for a cool crimped effect. You can even opt for braiding hair in a bright or pastel hue if you’re feeling daring.
Box Braid Bob
Long, flowy braids are cute, but sometimes they can get a bit too heavy. Davina of The London Curls makes a case for the iconic face-framing box braid bob style. They’re incredibly easy to maintain, won’t weigh down your hair, and serve a really cute ’90s vibe at the same time.
Spunky Space Buns
Have a bit of fun with these quirky space buns à la Scary Spice from the internationally popular girl group, Spice Girls. Candance, otherwise known as Naturally Candance on the interwebs made the popular style her own by incorporating three buns instead of two and letting some of her hair down in the back.
These gorgeous milkmaid braids worn by comedian Jessica Williams are perfect for those nights out.
Whether you’re naturally blonde, have highlights, or jet-black hair, adding blonde extensions are a fun way to add a little flair to your box braids.
Take cues from Chanel Iman, who added pink, blue, and yellow hues to her box braids, giving them that summer festival-ready look we love. And the best part? There’s no bleaching or coloring required.
If you’re the type of person who likes a lot of colors, go for an all-over bright hue like Justine Syke’s violet locks.
Don’t forget your baby hairs. Ask your stylist to leave out your edges before beginning to braid, so that you can style them later. Then, grab some gel and a toothbrush and get your swoop on.
Box braids are a hairstyle that is all about simplicity. If you’re looking for a super easy style, try tossing your braids over-the-shoulder to one side for a carefree look.
Pile It Up
Talk about hair to the heavens — do like Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay and pile your braids up high, leaving some strands hanging loose. It makes for a regal half-up half-down look.
Cornrows on the Side
Sanaa Lathan’s cornrowed side part made for a stunning profile selfie. It’s a great way to mix-and-match braiding styles.
A Touch of Gold
Instagram model India Love adds shine by lacing a bit of metallic gold thread around her braids.