Trends

The new status symbol? Getting your 'do unto Instabraid

Aug. 1, 2014 at 12:04 PM ET

From French to fishtail, there's a braid style for everyone and every occasion.

Blame the cuteness of Cindy Brady, the glamour of Cleopatra or the coolness of Katniss. Braids are one of those hairstyles that ride the ebb and flow of the beauty trend wave, but with so many women opting for plaited tresses these days, it would seem they are here to stay.

“I'm actually shocked that it's still a huge trend, but it makes us all very happy!” says Nikki Lee, co-owner of Nine Zero One Salon in West Hollywood, Calif., which opened Braid Bar three years ago. “Getting a braid is the ultimate way to instantly feel like a goddess. There are so many different styles you can do with braids. Just when you thought you've seen every braid, someone comes up with something new.”

Video: Want to battle the heat – in style? Learn a simple yet fancy updo from New York’s John Barrett Braid Bar, with the help of reporter and blogger Jamie Stelter.

No one knows that better than Sophie Rose and Shir Ben-Zikry, the 18-year-old best friends behind Instabraid, the hugely popular Instagram account. With more than 1 million followers, the feed showcases an enormous variety of braids and its partner website, Instabraid.com, features tutorials to teach braiding techniques.


Rose, who plans to study business at the University of Pennsylvania after spending a year in Israel (where Ben-Zikry currently resides), says the duo started the account in 2012, when they were in the 10th grade, after Ben-Zikry braided Rose’s hair during a school trip.

“This was when Instagram was just starting to get popular,” Rose says. “One girl in our school had one — she was the coolest girl in school — so Shir and I were like, ‘Why don’t we try to make an account, and see what happens? We’ll post this braid photo and see how it goes.’”

Instabraid was an insta-success, so the teens from Boca Raton, Florida, quickly decided to take their account seriously, posting daily.

“We were lucky with the timing, because Instabraid really grew with Instagram,” Rose says. “We were the first braiding account and one of the first hair accounts, so that was the biggest component, I think, that lead to success.”

Today, the account features three to four braid photos each day, submitted via email or posted as regrams of photos tagged #Instabraid, along with sponsored images.

Famous followers have included actresses Emmy Rossum, Paris Hilton, and influential style bloggers, as well.

Getting your braid featured on the account has become a serious goal for many fans, including Jamie Stelter, a traffic anchor for NY1 News in New York and food blogger for thetvdinner.com, who deemed the feat her “summer goal.”

Video: New York’s John Barrett Braid Bar demonstrates a romantic summer hairdo that will likely inspire you to run through fields searching for unicorns.

“Like any girl, I love braiding my hair in the summer,” she says. “I think it’s the easiest, low-maintenance way to do your hair without using any products or heated tools. And it looks really cute — much cuter than just pulling your wet hair back into ponytail or bun.”

Stelter says she discovered Instabraid a few months ago and fell in love with it because of the endless hairstyle inspiration it offers.

“They find the best the braids on the Internet, and they show all different hair colors and lengths,” she says. “It’s fun. I mean, who doesn’t love a good braid?”

With the help of a friend with serious braiding skills, Stelter finally caught the eye of her hair heroes.

“And the next morning, I woke up to my husband, who had picked up my phone because I was sleeping, who was like, “Oh, my gosh, you made Instabraid!’”

Rose says they receive several email submissions daily, spend an average of eight to 10 hours a week on the account and have made $16,000 through sponsored posts. On Aug. 1, they will launch a new line of hair elastics, Instabraid by Emi Jay, through the website Emi Jay, also run by teenagers.

“I think braiding has remained such a popular trend because it is a quick and easy effortless style, which looks very natural and feminine,” says Kayley Pak, a stylist and braider at the John Barrett Salon in New York, which offers the braid bar Barrett’s Braids. “Braids make women feel youthful and fun.”

“I think braiding has remained such a popular trend because it is a quick and easy effortless style, which looks very natural and feminine,” says Kayley Pak, a stylist and braider at the John Barrett Salon in New York, which offers the braid bar Barrett’s Braids. “Braids make women feel youthful and fun.”

Pak says the milkmaid, low-crown and waterfall are the most requested braids at the salon, where prices start at $50. Lee’s Braid Bar features a menu with eight looks to choose from (all have been done on celeb clients), with styles starting at $35.

The salon’s most requested braid?

“It’s what we call ‘Half Way To LA’,” Lee says. “It's a half-up braid with messy beach waves. We did it on Selena Gomez one day and it was a hit, so we added it to our menu.”

Rose says the biggest appeal of the braid is that even the simplest styles look complicated, and like you spent tons of time on your hair, when it was really easy.


“People are bored of the same simple hair down and hanging in your face look,” she says. “It’s a new twist and people are always interested in new and different styles.”

Lesley Kennedy writes the style blog thestrawberrypop.com. Follow her on Instagram @thestrawberrypop, Twitter and Google+.

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