Dope Ways to Style Your Box Braids

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

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 2020, box braids are the perfect solution to rocking a protective style while adding plenty of length — you know, just to have a little something to throw over your shoulder.

Rainbow Drip

We'll be honest, braids as dope as these don't need a bit of styling. Braider Ka'Mesha Cathcart absolutely flexed on us with this one — mile-long box braids that start out black on top, but fade into a rainbow ombré from her client's mid-back all the way past her butt.

Box Braids — With A Bang

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

No.501 - Frizzy Hair

Content creator Yolande Macon was spied at New York Fashion Week with box braids and Cleopatra-esque braided bangs. We love how she added just a few beads to her fringe and a few braids, positioning them at her mid-lengths, going no further than her chin.

Braided Bob

Kiki Layne, welcome to #braidgang, we're so happy to have you. Layne bypassed the waist-grazing box braids that are all the rage, instead choosing a cute shoulder-length braided bob. You'll notice that her hair is black at the roots and then, towards the ends, it morphs into a brown ombré look.

Sparkle, Baby

Everyone deserves a little sparkle in their life, no? When a client of Kelsea Jensen of Goddess Glitter Hair requested to get her braids accented with glitter, this gorgeousness was the result. Jensen used a latch hook tool to thread half of a Goddess Glitter sparkling strand through the top of the braids, and wrapped them all the way down to the bottom, crisscrossing both the ends in the front and in the back of the braid.

She finished the wrap by using a special Goddess Glitter tool to thread one end of the strand back through the braid, then she tied a double knot with the other strand. Her client was, in her own words, “obsessed,” and so are we.

Braided Fascinator

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We've always got our eye on Tessa Thompson's hairstyles, and this one — box braids arranged into a braided bun, perched at the front-side of her head like a fascinator — is no exception. It's a hairstyle and and accessory all in one.

Braids on Braids

Box braids in a low ponytail is pretty much a standard look. But the way Gabrielle Union's are styled here here is anything but basic. Hers pulled back into what looks like a larger french braid, tied off below the nape of her neck so the ends hang loose. Just gorgeous.

America's Next Topknot

Yvonne Orji's box braid style has no boundaries, and she makes the style look killer every time. In this instance, she's wrapped her braids into a stylish topknot on the top of her head — less “running out to the gym,” more “running out to a Paris fashion show.”

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.

Braided Bow

ishonest No.142 - Humectant

No.142 - Humectant

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.

Goddess Lob

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.

Half-Up, Half-Down

Youtube sensation and beauty buff Alissa Ashley looks incredibly radiant with her box braids styled in a high pony up top and left loose on the bottom. The deep brunette hue of the braids perfectly complements her skin tone.

Tied Up

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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.

Bohemian Babe

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 give this look that easy, carefree, bohemian vibe we are totally digging for the summer.

Faux Hawk

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.

Frayed Ends

ishonest No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

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 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.

Crown Braid

These gorgeous milkmaid braids worn by comedian Jessica Williams are perfect for those nights out.

Bodacious Blonde

Activates the microcirculation of scalp and strengthens the hair follicles to stimulate hair growth

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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.

Unicorn Realness

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.

All-Over Color

If you're the type of person who likes a lot of color, go for an all-over bright hue like Justine Syke's violet locks.

Edge Control

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.

Warm Shoulder

ishonest No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

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.

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