Work-Appropriate Braids

braids-for-workYes, yes, the braids trend has been around for-ever now… and I’ve been meaning to write a post forever!  It shows no sign of stopping, I think in large part because braided looks are easy and fun hair styles that can be adapted for fancy looks (weddings, galas) to every day looks (like work) — and because they’re just braids they’re pretty weather-proof as well.  I thought I’d round up a few of my favorite braid tutorials for you guys, and start the discussion — do you like to change up your hairstyle for work?  Do you think braids are professional enough to wear to work often?

For my $.02, I think some kinds of braids are a hard sell after you reach a certain age (e.g., milkmaid braids, the braided-halo look, etc), which means that in general those looks should probably stay away from the office.  Either you’re too old to wear them, or you’re emphasizing that you are young enough to wear them.  That said, my favorite grown-up way to do braids is to do a few braided strands as part of an otherwise normal look for you, whether it’s down, a bun, a ponytail, or a half-updo.  I’m putting Maria Menounos’s look front and center because a) I think she normally has a good professional hairstyle, and b) the YouTube video actually does a good job of showing you where to take bigger sections of hair and so forth.  I think she looks “new and now” (as they joke at the end of the video), but that she doesn’t lose any credibility points in doing so.  I can see this also being a nice update to a pulled-back look such as a messy bun or a low ponytail.  Here’s a similar take from Real Simple.  I actually always think of this as being a Lauren Conrad braid but could not for the life of me find a tutorial on her site, The Beauty Department — maybe it’s just too simple.


A lot of the fishtail braids I’ve seen look a little too “young girl who has too much time to play with her hair,” but this “side twist fishtail braid” looks nice and like an easy, relaxed way to do your hair. fishtail-braid-for-work

If you always wear your hair back in a bun, the double bun from Refinery 29 is a fresher take on it — I can also see this being great for “day I had no time to do my hair” hair.


Here’s another good tutorial from Refinery 29 on how to do a fishtail braid, which I think looks low key enough to do for work.  Here’s another take from Real Simple.

Easy peasy: wrap your regular ponytail with a braid.  (If you wear ponytails a lot, this is an overall great tutorial from Say Yes to Hoboken on 10 ways to dress up a ponytail.)


I think those are my favorite braids for the office — what are yours? How detailed do you get with braids for work?


  1. hoola hoopa :

    I don’t braid my hair for work, but I can see anything except double braids (ie, pigtails) working in most offices. The double bun definitely is in pigtail territory. Cute for weekend, but not professional.

    • Word. I’ve totally done the double bun — on the weekend. (Although at 35, I think I’m past my double bun days, even on the weekend.)

    • kerrycontrary :

      I know most won’t agree with me…but I don’t like to see anyone past the age of 22 with pigtails of any sort.

      • big dipper :

        I mostly agree with this. Except I do wear my hair in pigtails or double french braids when skiing for helmet fitting purposes. And I sometimes wear double french braids in the privacy of my apartment because it’s always been my go to, hair out of the face hair style. I have short layers near my face and they don’t stay pulled back if I do just one french braid.

      • I wear them to the gym and to yoga, because my hair is not quite long enough to do a ponytail, but it will stay in two stubby pigtails. Also if I am lying on the mat in yoga it’s nice not to have a big lump of hair on the back of my head.

        I would never do this for work or anywhere else, really.

    • When I was about 17 or so, we went through a stage where double buns were really popular. In a “I’m teen-aged and adorable no matter what so look at this new and different thing that I’m doing, aren’t I cute and unique” sort of way. So I would have a hard time seeing it for a professional look.

    • You all sound ridiculous. Hairstyles dont determine your professionalism. You can be decked out, blunt bob, tailored Armani pantsuit, natural flawless makeup, nice briefcase, the whole nine, and still be an unprofessional jacka!#.
      You all are putting way too much into a hairstyle. Sounds very superficial.

  2. (former) Clueless Summer :

    I LOVE braids. So much. I wear them a lot on the weekends, in my personal time etc., especially a loose side braid or fishtail, bangs braided, etc. I honestly don’t think many of the braided styles work for a business professional office though. I would say the braid wrapped around the pony tail, or a braided bun (one bun) would work…but as a lawyer, I would not wear any of the other above styles, or any other braided styles, as much as I love them. I have seen some of the very stylish staff wear a fishtail braid or braided details, but have never ever seen a lawyer at my firm or another similarly conservative firm wear one. It makes me sad, but it’s just one of those things I save for the weekends.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Agreed. I really like the look of the braid around the pony tail. I may have to try that one. Otherwise, the hairstyles look beautiful, but maybe not for a super-professional look in a conservative office. I personally would stay away from these hairstyles because I think they would make me look young (which I already have an issue with) but could see someone pulling them off in a more casual or trendy office.

      • Anonymous :

        I love it too; I think I’d have to have about three times as much hair as I do to pull it off though. Even just wrapping unbraided hair around my ponytail makes my ponytail pretty thin.

    • Veronique :

      I love the braided headband hairstyles and would it to my (not so conservative, in-house) office if I knew how to it. I love it on straight hair ( and curly (would look more like this on me

    • I agree. I don’t know if most of these would work at a conservative office. Maybe the wrapped ponytail and a single bun made of a braid (as you mentioned). The others I would save for the weekend.

      For a more casual office, you could probably get away with the Maria Menounos style. Fishtails read really casual/beachy to me, but others might disagree.

    • Agreed. I can’t imagine anyone doing any of those where I work. I do a regular pulled back (maybe 80s-ish) braid every so often, which I think is fine.

  3. Anne Shirley :

    I rock a plain and simple French Braid from time to time. It may have an 80s vibe, but I still think it’s professional enough for a normal day in the office.

    • wintergreen126 :

      I periodically do this, too. It’s fast, easy, and neat. Otherwise, I’ve come to associate braids with some kind of physical activity–I danced for a long time, and a braid (a regular one, a ponytail fishtail, whatever), was the best way to keep my hair out of the way and the curls restrained. (Buns bounced too much and involved pins, which I hated.) So most times, if my hair is braided, it means I’m off for a run or something.

      • big dipper :

        I rock a plain french braid (usually with a headband to secure my shorter pieces) like once a week. I honestly did not realize this looks 80s. It makes me look a bit young, but whatever. My hair is not bun friendly so the braid is my go-to.

        I do associate it with sports too though! Particularly dance. And field hockey! Always wore a french braid (or two) to field hockey games in high school.

        • wintergreen126 :

          I’m pretty sure my hair was braided for every field hockey game! I’ll probably always think of braids as the athletic go-to. It’s how you know hair is not getting in your face.

    • Agreed- particularly on afternoons where I run and shower during lunch- it takes care of the wet hair problem quite nicely.

    • ClaudisKishi :

      Ditto, in fact I’m braided right now. It’s just quick and my hair is way too heavy for a bun.

      Also I really love that last wrapped ponytail because I was just looking for quick ideas for an event this week that Ill have to get ready for at work. Getting fancy in a work restroom with only a hairbrush is a pita.

  4. Joyce Carpati is 80 years old, wears braids every day, and makes them look classy. I think that if they’re well-kept, and the rest of your clothes are well-kept, it can be fine.

    Her photo and bio on–year-old-goddess-style/

    • I love this & I’ll make another pitch for Team On-Trend. I think there’s a lot of ways to do a neat up-do with braids that look professional, styled & current. I often think this blog goes too far in the direction of discouraging things that are on-trend, and thus current. I think having a current look can help project an image of being up-to-date in general and current in your field. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss things like braids.

      • Agreed. I cannot imagine, like literally cannot imagine, a workplace where a braided style like Maria Menounos’s (either as shown or pulls back into a ponytail or braid) is not appropriate. Maybe not every lady in the office wears it, but just because no one else is, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong to. 5” Lucite heels with rhinestones, okay, no. But adding a braid to a ponytail? Please.

      • Totally agree here.

    • She is darling and so chic! I wonder where one buys “tiny gold stars” for one’s hair?

      • Yes, me too! She is now my new role model for what I want to look like when I am 80.

    • amelia bedelia :

      it is a “know your occupation” thing. I have never ever seen a white woman lawyer (I have, however, seen long braids on african-american women lawyers) wear braids in any setting whatsoever.
      until I am 65 and a major player, I don’t want to be the groundbreaker on this.
      I don’t think an 80 year old woman doing it well would be my inspriration on breaking the rule as a 35 year old . . .

      • Wow. I work in Biglaw in Boston (business casual) and on any given day 2-3 women on my floor have braids. My hair’s braided (simple, one braid ending in a ponytail holder) today.

        • I am a lawyer too & think it’s just fine (obviously). Granted, I’m in-house but I wouldn’t bat an eye if an OC wore braids & I’d actually give “current/on-trend” points in my head if they did.

  5. Naijamodel :

    Interesting… I’m wearing a full head of individual braids at the moment. Microbraid extensions with loosely curled ends. It’s a way for me to protect my fragile curly hair in the winter. I’ve received a few compliments, but I think people are used to seeing black women with braids.

    I would not wear any of the styles Kat posted to work, although the fishtail braid looks the nicest to me. The only way I would wear cornrows (braids done flat on the scalp) to work is if they were going into a low bun…and it’s a pretty dated look now IMO.

    • Yeah, this comment made me realize that Kat’s post ignored the small braids that many black women (and men!) wear, which often look perfectly professional. I’ve never seen non-black women do it, but I’m guessing it would be similarly appropriate if you had thick/coarse hair.

      • I have thick and coarse hair (Caucasian woman) and while I love putting my hair into small braids, I do not think it looks professional. I only wear it like that for very casual occasions.

  6. Chia Pudding :

    PTTJ (pardon the thread jack): Thanks to the awesome ‘r e t t e that posted about the chia seed pudding. I made some last night, and its awesome. Brought the container to work with me for snacks today. I figure even if I eat the entire thing, its less than 100 calories. Amazing!

    • It was anonypotamus. I’ve been eating chia pudding for breakfast for a week based on her rec.

      How do you prepare yours?

      I do 1/8c chia; 1/2c 2% cows milk; then add honey and sliced almonds in the morning. I tried dried fruit too but didn’t like it as much. Mine is about 240 calories.

      • Chia Pudding :

        I made mine with 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, 2/3 cup chia seeds, a bit of vanilla, and about a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. Once it set up, I mixed 2 packets of stevia into it. I’m glad you asked before I ate the whole container, I had no idea chia seeds were such calorie-dense little buggers. My 80 cals of almond milk doesn’t hold a candle to the 650 calories worth of chia seeds in there! Haha, in that case, its about 130 calories per half cup. But its so good!

    • I didn’t see that, but I want to try some now! What does it taste like?

      • anonypotamus :

        I find that it takes on the flavor of whatever you soak it in (like vanilla almond milk) but on its own is sort of nutty? It has the consistency of a tapioca-ish pudding? This actually reminds me that I need to buy more chia seeds because I ran out and have been deprived of my favorite morning meal :) I’m glad you guys are enjoying it!

  7. I have NEVER worn braid’s but I alway’s wanted to look like Boe Derrick in the old movie, 10, b/c my dad alway’s says she had NOTHING on me, but I have to watch out for my tuchus.

  8. Anonymous :

    Does anyone know how to achieve the kind of sleek hair you see in the last picture ?
    I have long, straight hair to begin with, but it never looks neat and products make it dull and gross.

    • A Nonny Moose :

      I’m guessing you’ve tried a flat iron, but that’s the only way I can get mine like that.

      • Anonymous :

        Yes, the flat iron is my best friend and it does helps a lot, but the slightly frizzy top layer and the flyaways are still here.

  9. I love braids, and think that they can be professional if done well. I wear a look inspired by this one to work all the time (remove spaces):

    h t t p:// e/gallery_full_image/Johanssen-slide.jpg

    It’s VERY easy – section out a chunk of your hair one one side of your part (I part on one side, always pull this chunk from the larger side of the part and go about halfway to my ear), clip it up. Separate your remaining hair into two sections. French braid each section around the side of your head, starting from the front, and secure each one with an elastic. Twist the ends together in the back and pin them to make it look like one continuous braid. Go back to the first section, and braid it. Drape it and shape it with pins to your liking and pin the tail inside the other braids. You can add a lot of volume with teasing to make it a night look, or have it be pretty simple for daytime. It takes about 5 minutes but looks a lot more intricate.

    • Anonymous :

      that look is not professional though- it looks like Heidi. Not that it looks bad- and in plenty of offices its fine, but when we are talking about professional braids are not it

  10. I like these looks – for the weekend not the office. Any ideas/sources for hairstyles for fine hair? Braids do not look good when they are really thin. I got one of those hair donut things for buns but haven’t quite mastered what to do with the ends, my just past the shoulder length is not quite long enough to tuck in the middle.

    • Cornellian :

      Cup of Jo (whose double bun picture is posted above) appears to have quite thin hair. I think it actually works better for some styles… I have TONS of fine straight hair and although I can pull of the Ukrainian Prime Minister/Swedish schoolgirl braid all the way around my head, it looks ridiculous because each braid is like 1.5 inches in diameter and protruding from my head. Looks MUCH cuter on her finer hair.

  11. New poster, regular lurker. I have embarssing question for the hive today

    Something funky is going on w/ my suit jackets. After I wear one for a bit, I get these strange, white armpit circles. It looks like either salt from sweat and/or my deoderant is coming through my jacket and staining the outside. It goes away with water, but then may re-appear. Having my jackets dry cleaned helps for a while, but then it shows up again. Does anyone know how I can stop this from happening?! TIA!!

    • Its probably from your deodarant. Are you wearing sleeveless shirt under your jackets? If so, wearing sleeves will probably solve the problem.

    • It sounds like you’re describing deodorant stains. I’ve heard that deodorant with high aluminum content (high acidity) is more likely to cause the white stains, so try to switch to one with lower aluminum. Also wait a moment after putting on your deodorant before putting on your clothes.

    • anonypotamus :

      Someone suggested that putting pantyliners in the armpits of blazers can help prolong the time in between dry cleanings, esp for when you wear them with sleeveless blouses. I will admit that I haven’t tried it, and that it does sound a tad bizarre, but also maybe genius? I have no idea if that sort of thing would be visible/uncomfortable/etc. but might be worth a shot?

  12. This is obviously a know your office kind of thing, but, like others above, I wouldn’t do any of the featured hairstyles to work. Honestly, the only women I’ve seen try anything like the sidebraid with loose hair in my office were 1L interns, and they usually got the “it’s not appropriate” point pretty quickly. I think it would be different in a more creative field, but for a lawyer in a traditionally conservative workplace, I just wouldn’t go there. I do wear a simple french braid or regular braid from time to time, and I think it’s fine. If I could manage it, I would love to do a neat french braid bun, but it’s beyond my skill set. But, for those more able, I think this is awesome:

    • Actually, the double bun is fine in my book, if a little too messy, and the braid around ponytail isn’t bad. I just can’t get past the side braid/loose hair or side braid period, for work.

  13. A weird, male, middle aged partner I sometimes work with just passed me in the hall and said “hey, kiddo.” WTF? I’m 31 and up for partner next year.

  14. A middle aged, male partner I sometimes work with just passed me in the hall and said “hey, kiddo.” WTF? I’m 32 and up for partner next year.

    • phillygirlruns :

      argh. that kind of thing drives me insane. last year i was taking a deposition in aid of execution, and the deponent (who owes my client – an enormous bank – several million dollars) greeted me by saying, and i quote, “hey kid! you’re lookin’ GREAT!”


    • I usually respond by saying something like “back at ya old man”

    • Anonymous :

      Oh. Get over it. Whining makes you sound like a kid.

    • Anonymous :

      This exact thing was the topic of a thread some months ago, you might google it for more responses. I sometimes used to do the smart-alecky “hey old man” response when I was younger but I mostly just let it go when dealing with clients, more senior colleagues, etc. The same was not true, however, when dealing with opposing counsel. (I was once in a depositon when the older jerk I was going up against told the deponent that “this young lady” would have some questions for him. I responded to the effect that I was not all that young or all that ladylike and that he should think of me only as the plaintiff’s counsel.)

      I have always looked younger than I am but I am now 53 and not young by any definition, really. However, I still have a few clients (blue-collar types) who are a bit older than me and who will call me kiddo or “young lady.” I’ve just gotten used to it.

    • Brunette Elle Woods :

      During my first real estate closing the opposing attorney called me kid or kiddo. He only looked 5 years older than me, early 30’s. I would have said something snarky since it was inappropriate until he called his older (50’s or 60’s) client the same thing. Some people just don’t see how it is inappropriate and call every one some version of kid.

  15. Sorry for the threadjack, but I need some advice. I am currently in a two year fellowship position that ends in the late summer. I have made great contacts from the position and have loved the experience, but I am starting to get nervous about finding a new position once my term ends. One contact that I work with often/ have grown to know well is now the managing partner of a boutique law firm that I would LOVE to work at. I want to speak to the attorney about possible positions, but I don’t know how to go about it a) without being too pushy and b) without my current boss finding out/ thinking I am trying to jump ship early. Thank you ahead of time for any advice you can give me, I know the clock is ticking and that I need to start applying!

    • It’s almost April. That’s not “early” to be looking for your next position.

  16. Hello, I’m looking for suggestions for guest bedding. I have a guest room with a queen bed (IKEA PS Sofabed), but occasionally have the need for an extra bed if 2 people visit who are not sharing a bed, or a couple and their kid, etc.
    When this happens (rare), I use an airbed for the extra person, but am looking for a better solution. I will have 2 persons coming for a visit for a week (2 adults, mother and son), who of course will not share a bed. The airbed is not great for a week’s stay and I would like to buy something that is both more comfortable, and can be easily put away (rollable, disposable, or foldable). Is a trundle bed a solution, and would I have to figure out whether it fits under my IKEA PS first? I’d ideally like to avoid spending much as this situation is rare, but at the same time want to give these visitors a few good nights’ sleep! Thanks for any ideas.

    • Cornellian :

      I might get a thin japanese-style mattress and put it on a flat trundle bed frame that would fit under the PS.

      Another approach would be to find something to put OVER the airbed, like an eggfoam crate or some sort of mattress pad to make it feel a bit more stable.

    • I’ve had friends who just had a separate mattress (which fits under the regular bed) that we pulled out, put sheets on, and it was fine (just mattress on floor). While it might not be impressive, it is comfortable and potentially cheaper than other options.

    • How high-quality is the air mattress? You can get ones that are almost the height/size of a regular bed, self inflate, all that good stuff that are more comfortable. Sleeping on a trundle doesn’t seem like it would give much privacy.

    • Get a really nice air bed. They’re actually pretty comfortable. I slept on one for a month once and it wasn’t terrible. Sleeping on one for a week if you are young/healthy and a guest in someone’s house is totally fine.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, I think the problem is that the 2 air mattresses that I’ve built up over the years are not the newer high/tall ones, need to be pumped daily as they slowly lose air, and are generally not comfortable in the early hours because they’ve lost air during the night.
      If I were to buy a brand new air mattress it would cost at least a couple of hundred bucks, and I’m wondering whether I can buy something more comfortable/better looking (like a trundle bed) for the price. I know also that some people just don’t like the feel of air mattresses.

    • I slept on an air mattress for a month and a half, and while I was ready to toss it out the window by the end, it wasn’t that bad for the first few weeks. It’ll be fine for a few days.

  17. phillygirlruns :

    i think this sums up my concerns perfectly: “Either you’re too old to wear them, or you’re emphasizing that you are young enough to wear them.” i frequently throw my hair back in a braid if i’m sitting in my office and want it out of my face, since it’s less likely to leave a dent the way a ponytail elastic will, but i almost always pull it out before going to meet with anyone.

  18. I’m suddenly in the between-stage of either growing out my hair or cutting it, and for the hair in the front, I’ve been “semi-French” braiding it to one of the sides, down to the ear. It works for be because a) my hair seriously looks crazy without it at the moment and b) I don’t work in a conservative office by any means.

  19. What are thoughts on individual braids such as that shown below for being (un)professional?

    • I think it’s professional only if you’re of African descent. What’s classic for people of certain backgrounds may be a trend for others.

  20. All you have to do to elevate a braid (French or English) to professional status is fold it up against your head, and pin it in place with a nice clip such as a Ficcare. It looks like a complicated bun, but only takes 10 seconds longer than a plain braid. It also hides the tassel, making it more professional.

    Here’s an example:

    A braided Chinese bun is an easy way to make braided pigtails look professional for the office. You can easily remove the hairstick to comfortably commute or work out after work.


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