Ponytail Alternatives for the Hottest. Summer. Ever.


Sock trick

Mamas, I have a love/hate relationship with my hair.  It’s long, thick and dark, so come summer, it’s basically like wearing a raccoon-fur hat in 100+ degree heat, but when I cut it, I always regret it.  And, love ponytails as I do, I have a once-per-week policy on those—I’ve been in ponytail ruts before, and they do tend to give me a bit of a headache by the end of the day.  (Or is that from wrangling three boys ages four and under?) 

So.  Considering I’m always on the hunt for ponytail alternatives to get the Davey Crocket hat off my neck during the dog days, and Weather.com is reporting July 2012 was the hottest month on record, EVER, surpassing even the Dust Bowl in 1936 (don't you feel better now that you know it wasn't just you?), I’ve rounded up a few delish, cool and easy styles for your perusal.   


Swiss miss

Swiss Miss – It’s Easier Than it Looks
I ran in to Sierra, this adorable non-mom, at a summer festival two weekends ago, and I LOVED her ‘do.  I’d already nursed the bub and had a couple of beers, so I had to ask, “Is that as hard as it looks?”  No, she reported.  To get Sierra’s more coiffed look, use gel or mouse and comb through your hair.  Middle part the hair, make regular (not French) braids on either side of your head and secure them with elastics.  Resist the urge to tuck any stray strands until you’re done fixing the braids on top of your head—whatever you poke through on this side will show more on the flip side.  Bobby pin the braids on top of your head, then tuck and pin the ends and stray strands. 

Molly swiss miss final

I did this hairstyle in about 2 minutes the first time (shown here), with second-day hair.  I like the look and feel of the looser style, which would also benefit from a bit of sea salt spray before braiding. 

If you’re feeling more ambitious, try the braided crown at A Beautiful Mess.


Messy knot

Messy Chignon Cheat – It’s Just a Knot (or three)
I kept wondering why I couldn’t get the perfectly beachy/messy chignon look that’s been everywhere for ages—I mean, how difficult can a deliberately messy hairstyle be, right?  Then I discovered, through a link I can no longer find (please write in if it’s your technique!) the easiest way I’ve ever found for getting that perfectly messy look.  The technique is so simple it’s silly.  Start by fastening your hair in a low ponytail.  Split it into two ponies, and, rather than looping or twisting it, tie an actual knot with the two strands, as many times as you can (I can tie three knots).  Secure with a second hair elastic (I like to avoid pins wherever possible), and run right out the door.  Easy peasy.       


Shana 3 buns

Three Little Buns – A New Twist on Things
I love this look on S. She was inspired by the three buns post on A Cup of Jo, but instead of creating a looser horizontal version, S. rocks her baby buns vertically.  It's like a French twist, but more current and a heck of a lot easier, perfect for second (or third) day hair, and soooo cool in summer. . .  Simply give hair a light mist of hair spray, comb it out, section into three parts and twist each portion into individual buns, pinning as you go.  Scrunch your fingers through your hair to loosen the style a bit and pull down a few strands.


Sock trick

The Sock Trick – No More Olive Oil
With all this thick, long hair, my low buns tend to veer dangerously into Olive Oil (of Popeye fame) territory.  The sock trick, as I’m calling it, is cheap, simple, elegant and easy—not an easy combination.  The first step is to make a bun form out of an old (clean) sock.  After cutting off the toe of one of Hub’s mismatched work socks, I pulled the sock all the way up my leg and rolled it back down my leg to make a donut-shaped bun form.  I used a dark brown sock to match my hair.  The beauty here is that, using this one simple sock, you can create a number of gorgeous, super-easy looks that literally take minutes.  In this picture, I experimented with a low bun, after watching this fab YouTube tutorial.  I’ve been skipping the pins and just fastening a second hair band around the outside of the bun to keep it in place.

I’m also loving this messy side bun and the messy top knot at James White Hair.


Side braid

The Side Braid – An Oldy but a Goody
After an almost 30-year hiatus, I’ve revisited the side braid at least once or twice a week all summer long.  It’s not fussy, it works best with dirty hair, and it gets the raccoon hat off my neck (yay!).  Spray it a bit if you need to, gather hair into a loose side ponytail and braid normally, pulling down as you go to make sure it doesn't flip out too much to the side. 


Ponytail trick

A Perfect Pony – A Quick Trick for a Perfect Ponytail
If I’m going to do a ponytail, I like to do it right, and it always seems hit or miss.  What I meant to be a quick fix to get out the door fast turns into two, maybe three tries at getting the placement right.  Not so once I found the right placement of my ponytail by watching this helpful clip that shows how to artfully place a plain old ponytail.

I know I don't have to tell you to stay cool, Mamas!

– M.


  1. Thank you for posting this! Im a mom to a 6 month old and have fallen into the low ponytail rut whenever i dont have time to wash and blowdry my lackluster post preggers hair so im looking forward to trying these. Thanks for the inspiration to try something new!

  2. Oh man do I ever miss my long hair! I long for it everyday. I chopped off 22 inches in what I think was probably a momentarily lapse of sanity. It’s growing now, but it’s not MY hair. I can’t wait for top knots and messy low buns. Gosh, pity party for one with ugly short hair!

  3. LOVE this post! And might I add that you look fabulous even in this heat?!?!?
    Question- with the Messy Chignon Cheat- how do you fasten with the second hair elastic? I have been trying it to no avail- although my two kiddos have been laughing their little behinders off as the elastic slips out of my hands and flies through the air.
    Thanks for such a detailed post! xo

  4. i’m a big fan of Goody’s “bun spin” & “spin pins”. have you ever tried these? i have thick shoulder length curly hair & w/ 2 kids my options are limited. but those 2 little gadgets help me look a little more polished. they’re especially great for someone like me, who is not at all talented in the hair dept.

  5. Thanks, Mamas!
    Stefanie, I cut my hair one for Locks of Love and HATED, HATED it for months, but people still tell me how cute it was, and that was like 10 years ago, so I’m sure you look amazing, it’s just an adjustment.
    Beth, it’s hard to describe because I basically just wad up the hair then slap the elastic on, but here goes (!): I tie the knots, tuck the end under a bit, cup it in a ball with one hand, then slip the elastic over once or twice. The tutorial I found (but then lost) uses bobby pins, so if your hair isn’t as heavy as mine, that actually might be easier. I saw rubberized bobby pins recommended on Cup of Jo, but the link was broken. I’m going to give those a try if I can find them next time I’m at Target.
    Rachel, my interest is TOTALLY piqued. The bun spin is now also on my Target hair accessory list! Thank you. Here’s a link, Mamas:

  6. Good morning, thank you for an exceedingly enjoyable blog post, I really don’t as a rule add comments but appreciated your post and so felt I would personally say thanks alot : ) >Maisie

  7. This is a terrific blog–I’ll definitely be using some of these styles as I head back to teaching this fall! Thanks.

  8. Great ideas! My other trick is to spice up a plain old ponytail with an interesting part-even a side part makes it a little more interesting, and a zigzag part or something quirky like that can be fun too. Anyway I feel like it makes my ponytail look intentional at least and not like I forgot to do my hair 🙂

  9. My go-to this summer has been kind of like a twist on the messy chignon. I start with a high ponytail, secured with hairband, then do a braid, and then twist around itself to make the chignon/bun. Then I secure that with another hairband, pushing it as close to the hair as possible so it is not as noticeable. Although it is a similar color to my hair.
    I love that since I have hair a little past my shoulders, with subtle layers, as soon as I start twisting the braid little wisps of hair start coming undone, creating a semi-messy look. I then tug a little here and there to add a bit more “mess”, and presto. It keeps me fresh and stays put throughout the day, yet easy to re-do if need be.

  10. I’ve been meaning to weigh in – my buns were created with the spin pins that Rachel mentioned! Goody claims that two pins will hold back all of your hair in one big bun (HA HA)…but my bun takes SIX. However, the three little mini buns do hold together with two each.

  11. My hair is currently the longest its ever been in my whole life (down to my mid-back) so I am so thankful for your little round-up here! We haven’t had a really hot summer here on the CA coast, but with this much hair (yes, a raccoon hat sums it up!), I stay pretty warm anyway! I will definitely try some of these!
    One of my go-to styles is the sock bun. However, I think I need to make my sock a little smaller because when I wear it I feel a little too glam for work or just out-and-about.

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