Recently a friend and I were discussing the current 90s revival. I’m clearly enjoying it – but, she joked, I have been into the 90s for as long as she’s known me. For a moment I had a terrifying image in my head of those people in wide collars and bad polyester suits who never quite grew out of the 70s. I made her promise to intervene if it ever came to that.
I admit I’m taking full advantage of the styles I was neither old enough nor cool enough (ok, mostly the latter) to wear the first time around, but I think I’m still in safe territory. The key is to take inspiration and make it modern.
See, for example, this hairstyle. It is equally inspired by the hair twists well-known at any high school dance in the late 90s, often accompanied by miniature butterfly clips, and by Juliette Lewis’s Oscars appearance in 1992, accompanied by Brad Pitt. This updated version uses larger, looser sections of hair for a softer, more feminine style.
The twisting technique is quick and easy compared to traditional braiding, with the same effect. And while cornrows may not be a look for your every day wear, once you get the rhythm down, you can substitute twists in a variety of french braided styles (tada!). If you follow my Instagram at all, you know this has been my go-to summer hair trick. It’s a lifesaver for growing out bangs, and about 50% of the time it works out so that I have perfectly messy waves for day two.
Let’s get started!
[Photography by Dirk Diegel at Bradley & Diegel Salon with assistance from Maria Nieves and Greg Parker]
I like to work with my hair air-dried about 75%. (I wouldn’t typically recommend freshly washed hair for up styling, but these twists are simple and tight enough that it works.) To keep the look soft, I don’t use any styling product, but I do moisten my hands with water as I go. It makes it easier to grip the hair and keeps short ends like bangs and layers from looking overly spiky.
Start with hair parted about 1 inch off center. Continue the part down the back of your head, and secure all hair on that side out of the way with a clip or elastic. Make another part and secure hair on the opposite side, leaving just the center mohawk section of hair to work with.
Separate two strands from the front of this section, and begin twisting them around each other, picking up a little hair with each twist. You can hold the two sections in once hand while using the other to separate a piece and add it to the back – then twist and repeat. Keep your hands close to your scalp, but don’t worry about making it too perfect.
Continue twisting to the center back of your head. Secure with bobby pins, pinning up and into the twists and slightly across from either side until it feels set in place.
Now you can fine-tune the look. Pull slightly at the front to soften. Pull and tuck any uneven sections. A little water should fix any ends that are sticking out. If you loosen too much or have any major bumps and lumps, tuck hair into the twist and use bobby pins to secure and pin down.
Separate a similarly sized section to one side, securing the rest of your hair out of the way. Repeat the technique, twisting in an upward direction (taking hair from the lower part over and around) to the center back of your head. Secure with bobby pins.
Twist the remaining hair on that side, picking up from your hairline and continuing to the center back of your head. It’s ok to leave out a few wispy pieces around your hairline.
Repeat Steps 5 and 6 on the opposite side.
Pull remaining hair into a loose, messy bun. Since my ends lack the volume for a proper bun, I wrapped sections around my fingers and pinned at random. For a slightly neater look (like in the last post), tie hair into a ponytail with an elastic then wrap the length upward around fingers, forming a roll, and pin loosely into place. Tap and shake gently until any loose pieces have fallen (usually a quarter to half of the hair), then roll those downward around fingers and pin. Pull and fan hair, and secure with additional pins.
You’re done. Enjoy!
As I mentioned, perfect day two waves are possible but unreliable – if you count on them, they never come out quite right. I get the best results by removing all pins and elastics before bed but waiting until the next morning to shake out the twists. What doesn’t work on its own can usually be saved by taking a curling wand to a few strategic strands.
Special thanks to Dirk, Maria, and Gregor (of course) at Bradley & Diegel Salon for helping me shoot this!