Hair Pros Swear By This — & You Should Too

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This story was originally published on September 26, 2015.

Admit it: Your dependency on hair elastics started long ago, when you first gravitated toward the looped version with pink plastic balls, and has lasted until, well, now. If there's not one in your hair, look down and there's probably one on your wrist. Even if you have a shorter hairstyle now, there was probably a time in your hair history when you always seemed to need a hair tie of some kind, and despite owning at least two dozen, could never find one. (Do you think they end up in the same place as orphaned socks?)

Though long-standing, our relationship with elastics is a fickle one. How many times have you not had enough slack to properly secure a ponytail? Or felt that painful SNAP when you tried to loop it around one more time? We could go on and on about the struggles, but instead, we want to introduce you to an alternative: the bungee elastic.

Over the past few seasons backstage during Fashion Week, we've seen top hairstylists wield what looks like a hair tie in a pirate costume. But fear not, the hooks are your friends. The bungee is your dream tool if you're looking to achieve a sleek style that won't budge. And it's a lot easier to use than it looks — its only downside, as far as we can tell, is that it can't really live on your wrist.

To learn more about the hair bungee, we turned to Yann Varin, a celebrity hairstylist and owner of Varin Salon in NYC. Varin has been using bungees for over 20 years — since he started doing hair as a teenager in France — and still swears by them today.

Ahead, Varin gives us a bungee lesson and guides us through three gorgeous looks that you can easily replicate yourself.
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Photographed by Ally Lindsay.
Bungees have a hook on each end, but contrary to what you might gather at first glance, they are not meant to be hooked together, but onto your hair (more on how to do that later). The hooking system allows for you to completely control the tension of the hair and make your style as tight (or loose) as you want.

“The bungee is a tool that offers many more options than a regular elastic,” says Varin. “The main benefit is you can have more tension. With an elastic, you’re limited to the rotations you're able to do, but with a bungee you can wrap it exactly how [many times] you need it.”

It's also better for your hair — tying it with a traditional elastic can cause breakage, but with a bungee, there's less chance of damage.

Though all these looks were created on dry, straight hair, the bungee works on wet hair and most hair types — it's especially helpful for those with thick or coarse strands. The only time Varin opts for an elastic instead of a bungee is when someone has superfine strands. "You can use the bungee wet, dry, curly, frizzy, teased..." he says. "It will hold and with a few tricks, you can create something hip and cool."
Photographed by Ally Lindsay.
Le Ponytail
Though it's simple, there is something decidedly chic about a super-sleek ponytail. Sure, it's easy to throw our hair into the style we’ve been sporting since our kiddie years, but when it comes to getting a smooth and bump-free look, it's a whole different story. This is where the bungee comes in.

The ponytail is the bungee hairstyle par excellencemastering it is essentially the same as mastering the bungee. It’s a gateway look: Once you learn the technique, it will guide you in whatever bungee style you choose next.

Trust us, it's easy: First, rub some pomade in your hand and onto your hair to smooth any flyaways. Brush your hair into a pony at your height of choice using a medium-size boar-bristle brush to help smooth and pull back the hair. Grab the base of the ponytail with your non-dominant hand and take the bungee in the other. Hook one clasp underneath the ponytail on the hair, as close to the scalp as possible you can either go over the pony (pictured) or under, whatever is more comfortable for you. Begin to wrap the band around the base. Continue as many times as you want, until you reach your desired tension. When it is tight enough, hook the second clasp onto your hair; under the pony if you don't want the bungee to be visible. Add a little bit more pomade, et voilà! The perfect ponytail.

ICB dress; Miansai Modern Flat Earring, Sterling Silver, $95.
Photographed by Ally Lindsay.
Petit Pont
Varin named this look Petit Pont (meaning "little bridge") after a bridge that crosses the River Seine in Paris, because "it looks like a little bridge with water." Thanks in part to the recent rise of the man bun, the half-up style has seen an unexpected resurgence — becoming the choice weekend look of It Girls and off-duty models. Varin elevates the style, making three half-ponies that meet on the side with the help of a little bungee magic.

To get the look, prep the hair with L'Oréal Professionnel True Grip Powder to give it some grit and texture, and prevent it from separating and shifting too much. Use a comb to part the hair from ear to ear over the top of the head, and backcomb it a bit to give it even more texture and thickness. Make a pony with this top section in the center, and attach the bungee underneath the ponytail on the hair, as close to the scalp as possible. Next, part and section off the hair from ear to ear, passing by the occipital bone on the back of the skull. Backcomb this section as well, and then tie it together with another bungee (leaving out the top section and section below). Backcomb the bottom section, and then bring the remaining hair you've left out into a third pony on the side of the nape of your neck. Secure with a bungee (pictured).

Now, things get a little more complicated — but stay with us. Go back to the middle bungee and release one of the hooks. Take the hair from the top pony, add it to the middle bungee, and re-hook. Then, unclasp a hook on the bottom bungee and do the same with the middle section. And there you have it: a style inspired by water, but so much more interesting than your typical beach waves.
Photographed by Ally Lindsay.
Le Sentier
Varin named this twisted bun after a Parisian neighborhood, “because the streets of that area in Paris are so intertwined.” Plenty of things rev up the Francophile in us, but this is certainly the first hairstyle that has us daydreaming of a jaunt to the City of Lights.

Bungees come in all different shades — traditionally, you’d use one that is the same color as your hair so it blends in. But we think using a contrasting hue — especially with a style that requires a handful of bungees, like this one — makes the look extra fresh and keeps it from skewing toward dowdy. It's on-trend, too: We saw contrasting accessories (bobby pins, hair ties, bungees) all over the runways for spring 2016.

To get this look, you'll need at least four or five bungees (you can use even more if you want to up the webbing effect). Start by using the technique above to pull your hair into a ponytail, and secure with a bungee. Take a second bungee, hook one end of it to the base of the ponytail, and let it go for a second. Take a small section of hair, like you see above — the amount of sections depends on how many twists you want in your bun; you’ll need one bungee per section — and begin to twist it. Keep twisting until the end, and then turn and twist the hair into a figure-eight shape. Take the bungee you left dangling, and wrap it around the twist until you get enough tension. Then, secure the other hook on the hair underneath the ponytail. Take another small section, twist, and repeat until you’ve done all the hair in the pony. Finish the look with your favorite hairspray.

Adeam dress; Campbell earrings.

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