How To: A Modern Take on the Classic Bun

No donut or sock required


If you want an easy way to make your wedding outfit look modern, I’ve got some advice for you: Put a bun on it. I mean:

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Right? Right.

The basic bun is a long-haired #lazygirl’s best friend. But most of the ones you see on Pinterest either require a ton of hair, or, uh, a sock. So when APW’s stylist friend Rubi Jones came out with her Art of Hair book last month, and it had a basic bun that doesn’t require a sock, we asked very nicely if she’d let us share it with you (hint: she said yes.) There are more than just tutorials in The Art of Hair, though. For $11, it’s actually a great book if you just want to get comfortable with the basics of styling your own hair (like what does each tool do, why do you use certain products for certain hairstyles, how do you blow-dry your hair without ending up looking like Albert Einstein? That kind of thing). Here’s what you’ll need for Rubi’s modern take on the classic bun:

Bun Steps

Basic Bun Steps:

1. Smooth your hair with a flat mixed-bristle brush, then gather a ponytail high on top of your head.

2. Secure the ponytail in place by hooking one end of an elastic bungee to your hair, wrapping the elastic around the ponytail and hooking the other end around the elastic. Blast with hairspray. Pro tip: Rubi says you can do away with elastics forever. Once you get used to them, elastic bungees are easier to use, less likely to mess up your hair while you’re working on it, and you never have to worry them being tight enough. (If you want to see how the bungee works in action, check out this video right here.)

3. Allow the hair from your ponytail to evenly fall away from the center of ponytail base so there’s a little divot in the middle. Then, using your flat boar-bristle brush, work your way around the ponytail, lifting it in sections and backcombing to give it volume. (Just make sure you’re backcombing the underside of what will become your bun, so the top stays smooth.)

4. Working in sections, carefully wrap the ends of your hair around the ponytail base, making sure all your sections go in the same direction. The end result should look like a wrapped donut when viewed from the top. If there are loose ends, tuck them under the bun itself. Do this very gently so the bun stays smooth and maintains the volume you just created with your backcombing.

5. Next, imagine your bun has four corners, and secure it in place with one large hairpin in each of the corner spots. Pro tip: When securing with hairpins, place your hairpin perpendicular to your hair and hook it underneath. Then wiggle the pin up and down as you slide it in—almost like you’re sewing.

If you’re thinking of DIYing your hair (or if your wedding party wants to up their DIY hair game), Rubi’s book is available on Amazon for just $11. You can check it out right here.

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  • Kayjayoh

    I have to admit, most things after step 2 aren’t very clear to me. :(

    • Lauren from NH

      Step 3 is teasing, so combing toward your scalp with a bristly brush to create stiffness and volume. (Arm workout!)
      Step 4 is taking all the teased sections and wrapping them in a twisted fashion around your central ponytail.
      Step 5 is anchoring the newly created bun basically with as many pins as you need. There is a sneaky way of hiding them in your updo by hooking a strand of hair and then sinking the pin in towards the center, it can be a little tricky though, use whatever method works.

      Is is wrong that I want other people in my life to get married so I can use my newly acquired wedding skills??

      • Kayjayoh

        Having seen the video, this makes sense. Without the video, I still…wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it.

        [put on sunglasses]
        [cues up the Who]

        • It took the video for me too. I think, because I rarely read hair tutorials!

          • Kayjayoh

            The existence of YouTube tutorials has changed my life when it comes to hair. My brain has never been able to follow picture and description (Seventeen magazine always made me sad).

        • Lauren from NH

          Oh now I’ve seen the video, the bungee is blowing my mind a little…

          • Kayjayoh

            It reminds my of the Roman hair tutorials from Janet Stephens, where she started stitching the hair with wool thread. Even for ponytails. It makes so much sense. Much less looping and pulling.

          • lady brett

            that’s pretty amazing. i’ve just started using the ones that we got for our daughter that work like that but have big colorful baubles on the ends – they are so much less snarly than hair bands. i didn’t know they made ones that don’t make you look like a toddler! =)

          • Meg Keene

            Rubi has used bungees in my hair before, so I now have them, but having not actually researched them, they’re still a mystery to me. Maybe AFTER maternity leave I’ll figure out the wizardry. I do love a good hair tease though.

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      • Katani Katuni
  • justme

    As with any hair tutorial I follow this until it gets to the securing part at which I think “4 hairpins for a bun?? you must be joking.” I think 4 hairpins might be able to hold 1/5th of my hair in a bun. I wish I has the light, stickier hair of the women who do youtube hair tutorials. I am getting my hair done for the wedding but have never had an updo hold more than a couple hours, and I am very nervous. I think I am going to cut my hair before the wedding just so that there is less to hold up :-/

    • Ohhh! Actually, I have thick, past shoulder length curly hair… and I use those longer hairpins? I did this bun with 5!

      • Eenie

        I have never had hairpins work for me! Is there a secret? The updo I had professionally done used maybe 20 hairpins and they all fell out within 30 minutes.

        • Is your hair coarse or fine? That makes a *massive* difference!

          • Eenie


        • Sarah E

          I haven’t tried the methods this tutorial uses, but with thick hair that forces bobby pins out like its a job, I try to use something to anchor most of my hair that’s not a bobby pin. Either a hairband to make a ponytail or a more substantial barrette (usually decorative so I don’t have to worry about covering it, but a basic one would be easier to cover) and create whatever base I need with my hair gathered together. Then I just need the bobby pins to pin the topmost layers or curls/hide the base hair or whatever.

      • I use spin pins to hold my hair in a bun for ballet. Two is pretty good; four will hold for sure with no problems.

    • Lauren from NH

      One hint my hair dresser told me while advising me on DIYing my wedding do was to not have freshly washed hair. A little oil or dirtiness is your friend in helping it hold.

    • kate

      Also, my hairdresser friend hairspray-ed the pins before putting them in my big bridesmaid updo… she said that keeps them in place way better! It worked for me :)

    • emilyg25

      My bun fell out at my wedding but not till later. I have a lot of very fine, slick hair. It was fine though!

    • Eenie

      I have a crap ton of hair. Every hairdresser ever: “Oh wow, you have A LOT of hair!” I’ve found that thinning my hair by a hairdresser I trust (five plus consistently good to great haircuts) helps a lot. Don’t just let anyone thin your hair as it can look really really bad if done wrong and takes a long time to grow out.

      That being said, I had an updo that held my super long (bra strap length hair) super thick hair by a professional. They use all the right products to get the best look and hold (were these other updos done by yourself or friends?). She used about 100 bobby pins/hair pins, but it did not fall out. Tell them you want it extra secure and if possible, choose a hairstyle that will be more secure.

      • Eenie

        Oh I should note that for the updo that stayed – she basically took half my hair and just pinned it to my head on the under layers. From the back of my neck halfway up my head, pin, work back down towards neck, pin, work back up etc. She then pinned the curls to this hair. I just had so much, there wasn’t really a point to pin the curls underneath that would just be covered.

      • Jessica

        Solidarity on the tons of hair factor–even hairdressers I’ve used for years are constantly surprised at how much hair I have. I hate thinning shears though, because they make my hair grow out weird.

        • Eenie

          Yup. I’m in that phase right now. I’m just living through it.

          • Emily C

            I recently learned the difference between thinning and layers which made such a big difference to my hair – I also have a ton of unruly hair, and found (after a series of unfortunate hair cuts) that layering on the top of my hair looks really, really bad, but thinning the underneath, especially towards the back of my head, goes a long way towards making my hair less insane. I also get nervous about the thinning shears, I’d rather have a hair dresser who can just use regular scissors to the same effect…

      • Sarah E

        Yeah, thinning my hair (by a great, trusted hairdresser) makes my hair way more manageable day-to-day. For updos, though, it can create a lot of wispy pieces that are hard to wrangle smoothly. I just braided the crap out of my hair (like, three or four french braids in different directions) and covered what I needed to with flowers or sparkly bobby pin.

        Actually, sparkly bobby pins really helped because I knew my hair would try to push them out, but if there’s a rhinestone on the end, they’re visible on purpose.

    • Nina

      I use hair screws! They work pretty well in my full head of slippery asian hair. Also, I use herbal essence’s “long term relationship” conditioner, leave a little bit in, and style my hair while it’s still wet. It slowly dries in place and stays put.

    • Sarah E

      I have a ton of thick hair, and I usually opt for including some kind of french braid in any updo. It keeps my hair back more tightly, and end with a smaller batch of hair to actually secure. What may surprise/challenge your stylist is how many smaller braids your hair can handle. For example, I was really frustrated trying to get the back of my head to work right for the style I was doing (front half was french-braided back on each side), when I finally realized what I needed was ANOTHER braid going horizontal along the nape of my neck because I have so much hair. Made the rest infinitely easier, and still looked like a purposeful romantic hairdo.

      • Sarah E

        Also, if you have a ton of hair, you might have enough to try something like this:

        I had a lot of success doing a pull-through braid for my wedding ‘do. It’s basically a fake braid that’s secured with elastics the whole way across, which allow for a better hold. Again, since I have should length thick hair, I found it easier to braid the front half and along the nape of my neck to capture all the pieces that would be too short if pulled to the back of my head. I used this video tutorial for the back of my head though:

        • kate

          WOW, that was so cool to watch!

        • Eenie

          That pull through braid is amazing! I’m trying it this weekend!

      • Sarah E

        Ooh, and as I look at the sight, the “How To: Braid + Bun” APW tutorial that comes up under “staff picks” at the end of the post would probably work well for longer, thicker hair, as the french braid would use up a bunch of hair and give you less to work with for the bun.

    • Meg Keene

      I *think* it works. I have a shit ton of hair, and Rubi has done this style on me, when I was speaking once, and I think it was just four hairpins. If, I guess, you know what you’re doing, it’s magic…. Not that I know how to do the magic yet, but.

    • Katani Katuni
  • ChrisWood

    it looks very light and elegant. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Emily C

    Those photos are beautiful! I wish this post were around 5 years ago when I got married… and my mother’s hairdresser who my mom insisted I used for the wedding could have seen it. When I told her I wanted a bun, she said “oh, because you want to look like an old woman on your wedding day??” and proceeded to show me a series of other styles that didn’t look nearly as good as a bun.

  • macrain

    I LOVE a good bun. What I do is similar to this, but I avoid teasing by using “bun maker” off amazon. I don’t like a tradish sock bun because it looks too donut-y, so I pull my pony tail thru the bun maker, distribute my hair evenly around it, and wrap it around the bun maker, pinning as I go. The bun maker really helps to make a nice, substantial bun. I still want to try this, tho! I think it looks a bit more breezy and effortless.

  • macrain

    Also- I’m feeling inspired to get some hairpins. I usually just use bobby pins and only recently realized there was a difference!

  • Vanessa

    Are there any tutorials/tips in the book specifically for fine/thin-haired gals? I have nowhere near enough hair for something that requires a hair bungee…

  • Helen

    Hafta say though, those donuts you can get worked a treat for me. I was in the tropics, and the ol’ DIY bun was amazingly light, easy and secure.

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