hair inspiration

The Ultimate Guide to Bangs

The Ultimate Guide to Bangs


AUGUST 11, 2016

Bangs can instantly transform your face and make any haircut look cooler, declares hairstylist Harry Josh. That's great and all, but it doesn't change the fact that chopping off that much length in one snip is scary. If you've been dreaming of getting bangs, Josh offers this bit of consolation: "There’s some form of face-framing bang that will work on almost everyone." Whether you prefer to ease in with sideswept fringe à la Jean Shrimpton, or go for a bold and shaggy version like model Freja Beha Erichsen, our tips from top hairstylists reveal everything you need to know about finding, styling, and maintaining your best match. And if you have bangs and you're tired of them, we've also got advice on how to grow them out.

Flatter Your Face Shape

Like any accessory, bangs should enhance your features, not overwhelm them. For long and narrow faces, “blunt fringe that hits below the brows will make your face look fuller,” explains hairstylist Garren. If your face is round or square, try bangs just above the brows, he says. When it comes to heart-shaped faces, the decision is yours—short, long, or arched all suit you.

Mind the Maintenance

Schedule a professional bang trim every six weeks, Josh advises. 

The Beginner Bang: Sideswept

This is the style for women who want to ease into bangs, says hairstylist Chris McMillan. Easy to blend with the layers around your face, these low-maintenance bangs work on any hair length and grow out fairly fast. They’re also rather simple to style: If your hair is straight, spritz your bangs with water and blow-dry them as you pull down the hair with your fingers, suggests McMillan. If it’s wavy, use a small round-barrel brush, drying them in the opposite direction from the way they fall, he says. As your hair cools, smooth them to the correct side to keep them from falling flat.

The Dramatic Bang: Short and Tousled

Wearing very short bangs (translation: two to three inches) à la Amber Valletta in the ‘90s takes some guts, but the look is edgy. Warning: If you have very curly hair or won't be blow-drying daily, this length isn’t for you. When your bangs are too short to wrap around a brush, McMillan advises pulling them straight down with your fingers and blasting them with your blow-dryer. Once dry, comb them down or use a dab of pomade for a tousled Joan Jett–inspired texture.

The Traditional Bang: Long and Straight

The trick with blunt, geometric bangs is to make sure they’re never ruler-straight or too thick in the middle, says McMillan. Instead, they should fall about a half inch longer at the temples than in the middle for a slight, inverted U shape. As for the most flattering length, McMillan advises anything landing between the tops of the brows down to the tips of the lashes.

Use Caution on Curls

Curly bangs were born in the ‘80s, and there’s certainly been a resurgence of girls wanting to rock this style, says Josh. Think Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. “The key is to cut them dry, in their natural state,” says hairstylist Paul Hanlon. As for styling, “comb the bangs down and apply styling gel,” adds Garren. On days you want to wear them straight, use a mini-flatiron to smooth them out.

Forehead Adjustments

To minimize a small forehead, bangs should be as long as possible and start farther back on the head than normal. A large forehead can be hidden with bangs that are cut to be longer at the temples than they are at the middle, explains hairstylist John Sahag.

Growing Out Gracefully

When growing out your bangs, there will always be an awkward period that lasts at least four to six weeks, says Josh. The key is to get them to blend into the sides of your hair, which can be accomplished with periodic salon trims. “You’re not cutting the length, just thinning it out so the bangs are not so blocky as they grow out,” Josh says. Accessorizing with clips is another option: “Make a deep side part and insert a clip at the hairline, just above one eyebrow,” says hairstylist Serge Normant. "It’s a surprisingly sexy look.” Once the bangs are long enough to pull over your eyes, pull them straight back and anchor them at the crown with the help of a bobby pin.

The History of Flower Crowns and the Women Who Wore Them: From Frida Kahlo to Kate Moss

Few accessories have aroused such commentary, for and against, than the flower crown, so trendy of late among the neo-hippie festival crowd. Despite detractors, these decorative headpieces, whose history in mythology and art can be traced back to ancient civilizations, show no signs of fading from favor. Not only was actress Fan Bingbing a flower-crowned vision on the red carpet at Cannes this week, but, thanks to a new exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden, Fridamania (appreciation of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who often wore flowers in her hair) is raging.

It’s a look that has roots. In agrarian societies, tied to the land and the seasons, flower crowns had great symbolic meaning. Worn for practical and ceremonial reasons, they could illustrate status and accomplishment (Olympic olive wreaths). The language of flowers and herbs was well-known, with each carrying its own meaning (“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts,” says Ophelia in Hamlet.) Full of significance, floral headdresses were woven into the social and dress traditions of places as distant as Russia and Hawaii.

With increasing industrialization the flower crown became a romantic sign of the simple “country” life (longed for, in a stylized version, by Marie Antoinette) and increasingly appreciated for its decorative value. While brides continued the ceremonial traditions of flower-wearing, it was the earth-mother hippies who have most influenced the accessory’s current incarnation. Finding themselves partying rather than plowing, these flower children would truss their slept-in hair with wildflowers to signify their connection to nature.

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