4 Ways To Rework Your Mid-Length Cut

Can we talk about how much we love shoulder-grazing hair for a minute? Long bobs have everything going for them — they’re stylish, youthful, and the cut flatters just about everyone. But, what happens when you don’t want to let your hair just hang there? It can be tricky to switch up your style, especially if you’re craving a dressier look. “It’s hard to find ideas for fun styles to wear at night that work with my shoulder-length hair,” says Anna Gray, our model for this tutorial. Not anymore, Anna. Not anymore.
We reached out to hairstylist Bradley Irion for a crash course in making the most of mid-length hair, a cut that’s ignored all too often in the glossies and runways. As you’re about to see, he delivered — majorly. And, trust us, even if you don’t have him on speed-dial, you’ll still be able to pull off these looks at home. Now, that’s something to smile about. Modeled by Anna Gray; Hair Styling by Bradley Irion; Makeup by Andrew Colvin; Styled by Jen Steele.
Advertisement
1 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Braided Updo
We like to think of this as 360-degree hair — it looks good from any angle. Elizabeth and James Sadie Top.
2 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Make a deep side part, then clip the hair below the part into a knot. Make a cornrow at the front of your hair, above the part. Stop about two inches from the end, then tie with a mini elastic.
Advertisement
3 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Make another cornrow braid on the other side. Tug at the braids with your fingers to loosen them up.
4 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Make two low ponytails in the back of your hair. Pull some pieces of hair out on the sides and dab them with a tiny bit of styling wax. One good option: René Furterer Modeling Paste. Then, fishtail braid each ponytail (don’t worry about perfection) and secure the ends with elastics. Again, stick with tiny bands for a neater appearance.
5 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Pull one fishtail braid over to the side so that it’s above the other fishtail. Pin it down.
6 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Do the same thing with the second braid, but position it under the first one. Pin the fishtail braids to create a bun shape. Wrap the first cornrow braids around the bun and lock 'em in with more pins.
7 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Finish your handiwork with hairspray.
Advertisement
8 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
The look was perfect for Gray, who was heading to a dinner party after the photo shoot. “I like that this is a grown-up style for a special event," she says. "I look like I put some effort into my hair, but it was so easy to do."
9 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Supersized Bob
Who says retro hair can only be worn with a strapless gown? With a medium-length cut, a Veronica Lake inspired ‘do looks casual and sexy at the same time. No wonder Gray was instantly sold on this style. “My hair usually lays close to my head — it was cool to have this much body,” she says. April, May Sugar Top; Amy O. necklace.
10 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
First step: Make a deep side part, then section off the front right area of hair.
11 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Loosely pin the rest of your hair back, so that you can start curling one section at a time.
12 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Curl the front section of hair with a one-inch barrel curling iron. Rotate the rod forward when you’re working on the hair in the front and on the sides. Wind the rod backward when you’re dealing with the hair behind your ears.
Advertisement
13 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
After you release each curl, wind it into a pin curl (in the same direction you curled them) to help the shape stay put. Keep going until your whole head is done.
14 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
One by one, remove the pin curls and loosen the curls with a blow dryer and a natural bristle brush. “Sometimes people set their hair and brush it out, and that’s it. But, if you blowdry the hair, you get a look that’s more lived-in,” says Irion. For a really undone effect, flip your head upside down while you’re blowdrying and brushing.
15 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Continue blowdrying through the rest of your curls. Once you’ve smoothed them out, tease your roots with a fine-toothed comb. “It’ll give you extra fluff and hold throughout the day. Don’t rat it out totally — just do a little bit,” says Irion.
16 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
To get that flirty swoosh, blowdry the front section of your hair down onto your forehead and sweep it across your forehead. Clip the piece right behind your ear and hit it with a shot of lightweight hairspray — Bradley is a fan of Oribe Superfine Hair Spray. “Leave the clip in while you do your makeup. After it sets, take out the clip and use a bobby pin to discreetly keep in place,” says Irion.
17 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Set your style with a blast of hairspray.
Advertisement
18 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
If this isn’t perfection, we don’t know what is.
19 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Simple Crisscross
The smooth bump in the front of this ‘do is a pretty contrast to the swingy, playful texture in the back. Topshop top; Robin Mollicone necklace.
20 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
To play up your natural waves, spritz your hair with a surf spray, then rough-dry it. If you want more definition, you can wrap small sections of hair around a curling iron, but leave out the ends. Rotate directions as you go — you don’t want it to look too uniform. Brush or finger-comb when you’re done to break up the curls.

Separate a horseshoe-shaped section of hair from the front to the crown and clip it out of the way. Make two more horseshoes on the sides, on either side of your ears, and clip those, too.
21 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
“Take the hair that’s still hanging down in the back and backcomb it really tight," says Irion. This creates a place to anchor pins. Mist the teased sections with hairspray to lock in the texture.
22 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Undo the crown section and tease the roots for volume. Gently smooth it back with a natural boar bristle brush and pin down before adding hairspray. Release the right section of hair, and lightly tease it.
Advertisement
23 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Smooth the right section of hair over to the other side, securing the end with two pins to make an “x” shape.
24 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Make sure to position the pins so that they’re hidden within the crown's teased section. Spritz with hairspray.
25 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Do the same thing with the other side, but place it underneath the piece of hair that you just pinned. You want to pull it through, then anchor it with pins using the same “x” shape you created before. Think of it like a basket weave.
26 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
This is how it should look in the back: a criss-crossed version of a half-up, half-down 'do. The pins are expertly hidden away from sight by being tucked under the hair folds. “If you want, you can pull out little wisps of hair around your face," says Irion. "Give your hair a shake test to make sure it will last and add more pins if you need them. Then hairspray the crap out of it."
27 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
With the volume on top and the slight bounce of curl on the bottom, Gray says it's the "easiest" hairstyle: "It looks cool and complicated, but it’s not."
Advertisement
28 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Messy Bun
Real talk: We can never get tired of a well-done bun — especially when it has the lived-in messy vibe but still looking totally chic. Gray says, “I like that this style got my hair up out of my face, but it’s not too clean and perfect." Elizabeth and James Leigh Blouse.
29 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
First, spritz your hair with a volumizing spray such as Bumble and bumble Thickening Spray. Then, rough-dry with your hands. Pull all of your hair up to crown of your head with your fingers. Brush only the sides to keep the undone texture on the top. Then, tie your hair into a ponytail with an elastic band — or cut a thin, stretchy headband and use that.
30 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Fold your hair over and tie again to create a half-pulled out pony.
31 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Then, twist the ends that are sticking out around the base of the elastic to create a bun shape. “Play with the ends and just keep messing them up until you get the look you want,” says Irion. Pin the ends into place, then you're all done!
32 of 33
Photographed by Winnie Au.
“Just because you have medium-length hair, doesn’t mean you can’t wear it up," says Irion. "You can always pin loose edges back up or leave them out. It’s fine if you have pieces hanging out.”
33 of 33
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!
Advertisement