Move over, side braid. It’s time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summer’s perfect hairstyle)

Kelli Garner top knot

Not to brag, but I’ve been wearing the side braid since AT LEAST 2007—long before Alexander Wang made it cool—and we’ve had a really good run.

But I think it’s time to move on. And right now, I’m falling for the top knot. Not only is it wickedly practical for summer, but it will make you look 237 percent prettier, younger and more ballerina-like. For serious.

Oh! And did I mention it’s also easy enough to DIY? You don’t even need any mad braiding skillz…

But before I give you the how-to, let’s have a looksie at some examples.

The top knot on the runway

The top knot was all over the spring runways (Lanvin, YSL, Marc Jacobs) but my favourite interpretation was at Bottega Veneta, where it had that slightly frizzy texture I’ve been going on about, as well as a sleek headband. (Also note the perfect fuchsia lipstick.)

Bottega Venetta Beauty spring fashion 2010 top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

And the top knot is NOT going away for fall either. Here it is, with a cool twisty interpretation at Fendi:

Fendi top knot fall 2010 Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

Celebs who work the top knot

Now, in case you might be thinking that this only works on supermodels, here’s Sienna Miller’s elegant version. I love the loose tendrils at the back, but with the front cleanly scraped back. (Big, dangly earrings are also a plus.)

Sienna Miller top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

Kate Bosworth went for a ballerina feel with not a strand out of place. This one’s a bit trickier for us mere mortals to pull off, kids. (And your skin and makeup better be flawless.)

Kate Bosworth top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

Sorry for the extreme close-up here, but this is how Nicole Richie plays it—a bit boho with the bangs.

Nicole Richie top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

And finally, Keri Russell’s version is just perfection. See how it works even on curly hair?

Keri Russell top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

BUT! It is possible to do this wrong. Here’s a top knot FAIL on Whitney Port. (Charles Baker Strahan, I hope this isn’t your work.) The bun itself is too flat, too wide, too weird…

Whitney Port top knot Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)

How to do a top knot

bobby pins 300x272 Move over, side braid. Its time to embrace the top knot (a.k.a. summers perfect hairstyle)Okay, first of all remember that the objective is height (which is why poor Whit’s version failed). You don’t need volume, so feel free to give those prodz a time out.

(Oh, and I should also mention that you do need to have long hair for this style, obvs. Because the bun sits so high on your head, it won’t work if you have to pin the back pieces halfway up. The goal is for this to look EFFORTLESS. Which it is, really.)

Step 1: Put your hair into a high ponytail at the top of your head and secure with a clear elastic. How tight or loose you make it is up to you—that’s what’s great about this look, it works both ways. Note: If you want your hair to be super-smooth, spray your brush with a bit of hairspray before you use it to comb back your hair—this will get rid of frizz. If you’re going for a looser style, you can probably work the frizz.

Step 2: If you want a more casual style (like Sienna’s or Keri’s), pull some wispy pieces out at the sides, top or back.

Step 3: Wrap your ponytail around the elastic and secure it in place with bobby pins. Remember: to secure the bobby pins properly, you need to criss-cross them.

[EXTRA STEP FOR KEENERS: If you want a bigger, more voluminous knot, spray your ponytail with a heat-protective texturizer and then curl and tease it before wrapping into a bun shape and pinning.]

Step 4: Once everything’s pinned in place, spray liberally with hairspray to set.

Step 5: Look adorable.

What do YOU think of the top knot? Have you tried it? Want to?

PS – I forgot to tell you the name of the lady in the pic at the top, who in fact inspired this entire post. Her name is Kelli Garner and no, I have no idea who she is either.


Wednesday, August 4/2010 at 12:04 pm

Looks great on Kate, Keri and Nicole! On Olivia? Not so much.


Wednesday, August 4/2010 at 12:05 pm

Oops, meant Whitney. I get all those Hills/GossipGirls/City bitches all mixed up.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 1:44 pm

Oh me too. Glad you agree re: Whitney’s top knot fail. I will be really sad if CBS was responsible.


Wednesday, August 4/2010 at 12:39 pm

I have been rocking the top knot since last winter when I saw it on Cameron Diaz on a red carpet somewhere. As a curly girl, I LOVE it. It’s really fast and easy to do and looks very polished. And it has a pretty, gamine quality that allows me to get away with telling people that I’m still in my 20s. Call it anti-aging hair!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 1:45 pm

YES! The top knot looks SO GOOD on you! Shows off your pretty mug :-)


Wednesday, August 4/2010 at 9:37 pm

I love how the top knot looks, but have only worn it out of the house once – I’m not entirely convinced that my head can pull it off.

But, it was EVERYWHERE when I was in Japan last summer.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 1:46 pm

I hear you – I don’t think I could pull off the tightly scraped-back versions. Loose and a bit messy with lots of wispy bits is much more wearable though… really, it’s like a ponytail except there’s no tail. :-)


Just wondering
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 6:13 pm

Can you do a top knot with just half your hair (if it’s too short to all go in)?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 7:03 pm

If your hair’s not long enough I’d steer clear of this style. It’s really supposed to look effortless, so having to pin the too-short pieces sort of defeats the purpose.
My recommendation: A side braid or side bun instead:


Just wondering
Thursday, August 5/2010 at 9:29 pm

Thanks for the advice! I kinda thought as much…


Monday, August 9/2010 at 4:07 pm

Love the top knot! Not only because, as you mentioned, it makes me feel like a ballerina (one after rehearsel, with slightly messy hair) but its super easy and summer appropriate. I still rock a good side braid every once in a while though…..


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, August 10/2010 at 11:21 am

I think most women, if they ever took ballet lessons as a kid, harbour secret fantasies of being a ballerina. Or is it just me? I know that if I had the talent, I would have loved to be a dancer… but I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through the hair. :-)


Tuesday, August 10/2010 at 4:37 pm

I am so glad you said it about Whitney— such a miss, right?

Honestly that Keri Russell top knot is the bun of my dreams haha! She wears her hair like that often, if I’m not mistaken and i’ve always loved the look on her. I have curly hair and i swear it never looks that good styled that way…maybe cause hers looks semi flat ironed or something….she’s gorgeous too which is also why the look is so covetable on her ;)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, August 11/2010 at 7:29 pm

I love Keri’s the best too! Interesting that it hasn’t worked for your curly hair… I looked more closely at Keri’s and you’re right, it looks like they may have blown it dry straight first. (And yet, they must have kept SOME wave as her bun has so much volume… and she has those gorgeous wavy tendrils around the face.)

So okay…maybe it’s not THAT effortless. :-)


Friday, August 13/2010 at 9:14 am

I’ve been wearing my hair like this since the beginning of this summer, out of sheer necessity, really. We’ve been getting heatwaves on and off, and my hair is elbow-length (and that’s when it’s wavy, so goodness knows how long it’d be if I had the time and patience to blowdry/straighten it!) It’s a really quick and easy style to do when you’re in a hurry for work, even if it’s still a bit damp from the shower.

Only thing is, because my hair is so long, it’s pretty heavy and the roots dry poker-straight as a result. Seemingly, no matter what I do, my bun looks a lot like Kate Bosworth’s, except I’m not nearly as slender, so the scraped-back look makes my head look abnormally small and ..well, bald.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, August 18/2010 at 2:45 pm

What about putting some products in your hair to beef it up a bit and give the roots some texture? That might help with the too-straight-looking parts. You could try one of those beach spray texturizers (eg Bumble + Bumble or Kevin Murphy’s)… maybe go for a looser updo as well. Do you have any shorter pieces you could pull out of the bun to soften it up? If not maybe you could get some long-ish bangs like Nicole Ritchie and just wear them parted in the middle. I LOVE the long bangs – they soften up your whole face.

Another product I am MAD for right now is the Schwarzkopf Dust It mattifying powder. It’s for dry hair but WOW does it ever give you sexy texture.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head!


Tuesday, April 19/2011 at 10:07 am

Kelli Garner was on the ABC TV “My Generation” this past fall – it got canceled after a few episodes.


Thursday, November 10/2011 at 3:38 am

Best no-fail haristyle there is. Well, except on poor Whitney Port.


Saturday, December 24/2011 at 4:36 pm

Great instructions! Check this out: the pictures really help:


Sunday, January 1/2012 at 2:34 pm

I’m growing my hair out and I’ve been looking for things to do with it once it’s the correct length and this by far is the best style I’ve found yet and I Especialy like kate’s top knot.


Saturday, January 7/2012 at 7:39 am

thanks so much. this is the only top knot/high bun how to that has actually been simple and easy to understand. i added a few bobby pins (kirby grips in the uk) with flowers attached to them and it just gives it a bit more of a feminine touch.

x x x



Amanda Frances
Thursday, January 19/2012 at 2:43 pm

Check out this nifty trick to make the bun so much more full! It’s so easy!


Tuesday, April 10/2012 at 3:06 pm

I took ballet for many years, so the topknot just seems so natural to me!


Thursday, April 26/2012 at 9:32 pm

I’ve been trying to get this hair for ages! the problem’s that my hair is is real puffy but extremely thin. When I don’t tie my hair up, they look somewhat similar to a lion’s mane. If I scoop up my hair into a ponytail though, the ponytail is extremely thin and has no volume. Should I use some spray to achieve a desired volume?


Tuesday, May 1/2012 at 12:52 pm

i have been doing this since my hair since it was long enough to tie in a knot (which is when i was about 8). don’t know why it’s suddenly “fashionable” (doesn’t everybody do this?), but i’m not complaining! now i don’t have to reserve my bun for my sweatpants. but i will try making it puffier on top so it looks like i actually tried…


Karen Vella
Monday, May 7/2012 at 4:11 pm

Hey the first girl is an actress from Pan – Am and she also in Man of the House and Going the Distance. Love top knots by the way!!!


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