13 Head Scarf Styles for Bad Hair Days and Beyond
Some days your hair feels gorgeous, clean and beautiful enough to star in a hair-care campaign. Other days, not so much. It’s dirty, frizzy or simply seems to have developed a new cowlick that you just can’t be bothered to deal with. Whether you’re trying to hide a bad hair day, hoping to protect your strands from wind or rain or you’re just bored and looking to try a new ’do, a headscarf can help.
The headscarf is hardly a new trend, but it is a fun way to shake up your use of the cold-weather accessory (though we suggest sticking to silk or other thin fabrics rather than wrapping a cozy wool number around your scalp). The benefit of this particular hair accessory is how versatile it can be: There are tons of different looks you can achieve with just one scarf, ranging from super-simple to intricately detailed. Whatever look you’re going for, we’ve gathered together the best tips and tricks for achieving the headscarf style you want.
How to choose a headscarf
The type of headscarf you choose will depend on your needs, of course, but there are several key factors in selecting a headscarf:
- Shape. There are two shapes you can choose from: square headscarves or rectangular headscarves. Square headscarves are the easiest to work with for the greatest variety of hairdos but make sure you’ve selected a scarf that’s big enough for your chosen style. If you want it to cover all or most of your head, it should be at least 28 by 28 inches. Rectangular head scarves—aka oblong or long scarves—are not quite as multipurpose as their perfectly square cousins, but they do offer other benefits. In particular, you’ll probably want to use a rectangular style if you like the look of excess fabric hanging down, or if you’re interested in doing a full headwrap or turban.
- Fabric. Depending on the style you’re going for, you also want a scarf made of fabric that’s going to stay on your head while still being stylish and washable. Fabrics such as cotton or lightweight wools are some of the best because they stay secure. Silk and satin fabrics are great for protecting your tresses as well, but while they’re aesthetically pleasing these bad boys tend to slip off, which can be a bit annoying.
How to prevent damage from wearing a headscarf
Though silk and satin scarves can be a pain to deal with when it comes to getting them to sit nice and secure on your head, the major upside is that they don’t actually cause a lot of wreckage to your hair. Non-silk scarves, on the other hand, tend to suck out the moisture out of your hair, leaving your tresses dry and fragile. If you don’t want to compromise your locs, you can simply braid your hair before accessorizing with a headscarf. You can also try to wear headscarves sparingly. A cute cotton scarf on your way to brunch every once in a while is not going to cause any major damage.
13 ways to tie a head scarf
1. The Pony Tie
One of the absolute easiest ways to incorporate a scarf into your look is by simply tying it around a ponytail. This works with pretty much any size or shape, so long as you can secure it in a knot. If you’re really worried about the silk fabric slipping down your pony, loop your scarf through a hair elastic before tying it to give some extra staying power.
Shop the style: Molans women’s head scarf ($15); Lauren Ralph Lauren women's juliet floral silk scarf ($88; $62)
2. The Twisted Headband
If you’re using a square scarf, start by folding it in half diagonally, then begin to roll or fold the scarf starting at the widest side and working your way toward the pointed corners. If you’re using a rectangular scarf, just start folding along the long side. Tie the loose ends under your hair at the nape of your neck and voilà! You can also knot the scarf at the middle after rolling it up to help it stay folded and add a bit more volume up top.
Shop the style: Versace psychedelic logo print scarf headband ($350); Soho Style women's anything goes versatile wire wrap headband ($19; $16)
3. The Bandanna
Hello, Lizzie McGuire called and she’s more than happy to share one of her signature styles with you, once again. If you’re really not feeling your hair or just want to cover up a third-day blowout that probably should’ve retired after being a two-day blowout, this is your easiest option. Simply fold a square scarf in half diagonally, then tie the two opposite ends under your hair and leave the third corner loose.
Shop the look: Anthropologie mod hair scarf ($18); Lauren Ralph Lauren women's Jaclyn floral silk diamond scarf ($62; $44)
4. The Bandanna Cap
Very similar to the above, but rather than give off an early 2000s or summer camp vibe, the bandanna cap feels much more ’70s and really only requires one small tweak in execution. Instead of knotting your scarf below your hair, tie it on top of your strands and over the loose corner as well. Then tuck the excess fabric under the knot to neaten things up.
5. The Babushka
Favored by Eastern European grandmothers and fashion-obsessed rappers alike, the babushka covers most of your head, is incredibly easy to do and stays in place even if you’re running around all day. Start by folding a square scarf in half diagonally, then take the two opposing ends and knot them under your chin. And that’s it. Seriously. Now go forth and tend to your grandchildren or record another album (or, you know, whatever your version of an average day looks like).
6. The Grace Kelly
Also known as the Babushka 2.0, this is a style beloved by Old Hollywood starlets, particularly when they were driving through the South of France in chic convertibles. So yes, it’s also an excellent option for combating wind, rain or humidity. It requires a bit of a larger scarf than the babushka and just one additional step. Rather than simply tying the ends of your scarf under your chin, wrap them around your neck and over the back corner of your scarf before fastening into a knot.
7. The Updated Rosie the Riveter
We love how this reverse bandanna looks with a topknot, high pony or tight curls. If you’re working with a square scarf, fold it in half diagonally, then fold the bottom third up and the top third down to form a long trapezoid. Then, place the center of the scarf at the back of your head, wrap up and around and tie at the top of your forehead. If you’re using a rectangular scarf, use your best judgement before folding it lengthwise. It might be wide enough as is or with just one fold. It might also leave you with some extra fabric at the ends to tie a fun bow, tuck under or even leave hanging loose, if you prefer.
Watch this video from Cece’s Closet to see exactly how it’s done.
8. The Scarf Braid
There are multiple ways to incorporate a scarf into a braid and the easiest is simply to pull your hair back into a ponytail, tie one end to the elastic and then use it as one third of your braid, tying the other end off with a second elastic or by wrapping and knotting the scarf itself. But you can also weave your accessory through a more complicated ’do, like a French or fishtail braid.
To begin, fold your scarf in half (this is one of those times when an oblong version might work best). Pull together a section of hair as you would normally, however, before you divide it into three parts, pin the folded scarf under the section of hair. Treat each of the two sides of the scarf as a section of hair and continue to braid, adding hair to each section as you go. End with an elastic and loop the rest of the scarf around the bottom of the braid.
Want some additional help? Check out this YouTube tutorial by Cute Girl Hairstyles to see exactly how it’s done.
9. The Low Bun
Both a square or long scarf will work here, but a long scarf will give you more fabric to wrap around your bun, so if you have a lot of hair or want a voluminous bun, we suggest using a rectangular style. Start by folding the top quarter of the scarf down before placing it on top of your head. Make sure the two ends are equal in length, then secure them in a knot at the base of your neck, just like you would for a bandanna look. Cross each loose end up and around the bun and tie once more underneath the bun. Tuck in any loose ends or extra hanging fabric and there you have it.
Check out this video from Chinutay A. to see how it’s done. Note: She uses both a head scarf liner and oversize scrunchie to protect her hair and add extra volume. Skip to the two-minute mark to see just the scarf tutorial.
10. The Rosette Turban
You’re going to want an oblong scarf to achieve this look. Start by placing the center of the scarf at the back of your head and pulling the two ends up and around to your forehead. Tie the two ends into a double knot, ensuring that the entire back of your head is covered by the scarf. Twist one end of the scarf before wrapping it around the double knot and tucking the loose end under. Repeat with the second side. If you want extra volume, gather your hair into a bun at the top of your head and use that as the base around which you wrap the two twisted ends of your scarf.
Watch this video from Modelesque Nic, starting at the four-minute mark, to see how it’s done (then watch the rest for more ideas on how to get a full-coverage look).
11. The sky-high wrap
For the naturalistas who keep their hair in box braids or locs, this style will be perfect for those in-between days when you’re not quite ready to go to the salon, but your protective style isn’t looking so fresh anymore (we’ve all been there). Start by tying your hair into a loose top bun, grab your wrap and line it with the back of your head. Next, simply start wrapping around your bun, making sure your hair is stable inside. Tuck any lose ends within the folds and you’re all set. Those who keep their tresses short don’t have to miss out on this fabulous style; you can create a makeshift bun inside your wrap as YouTuber Akilah did here.
12. The front bun
Take us back to 2014, when all the natural hair ladies were absolutely taken by this head scarf style. (And with good reason.) Those of us who aren’t dexterous enough to pull off the more intricate wrap styles can definitely tackle this front bun style and still look stylish. And you can make it as small or as big as you’d like. Here’s a super quick, super simple tutorial.
13. The messy bun
Sometimes your chic ‘fit calls for an updo, but you don’t have the time (or skill) to execute any of the aforementioned styles. Why stress when you can opt for a messy bun? All you have to do is grab a cool scarf and use it to tie your hair. No need to be super precise either, because the goal is to look effortless anyways. If you need that extra pop to your ensemble, pick a patterned or bold-colored scarf.