A chignon has never looked more chic.

By Melanie Rud
January 28, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images

If you're anything like us, the word 'updo' often conjures images of complicated, ornate styles that require copious amounts of bobby pins and hairspray. But there's a notably simpler updo that's been around for centuries, and is currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity. 

Yep, we're talking about the oh-so-elegant, oh-so-chic chignon. The origins of this simple yet sophisticated style can be traced back to ancient Greece; it was also popular during the Victorian era, and again during World War II. These days, it's a staple look on the red carpet, but is also a style that can easily be recreated at home, and is amazingly versatile. "It's a classic style that's constantly evolving and modernizing," says Leonardo Manetti, master stylist at Rob Peetoom Salon Williamsburg.

Chignon comes from the French term "chignon de cou," which translates to nape of the neck, says Manetti. Traditionally, that's where a chignon sits; it's a low bun or knot positioned at the bottom or nape of the neck. (That being said, Manetti says you can definitely take creative license with the placement, more on that in a moment.)

Part of the beauty of the chignon is that it works on all hair types and textures, says Elizabeth Hickman, hairstylist and VaultBeauty member. As long as your hair is at least collarbone length (you need enough length to be able to pull it back), you can rock a chignon. Similarly, a chignon can either be super sleek and glam, perfect for a night out, or undone and messy, perfect for everyday, notes Manetti. And on that note, let's not forget that it's a great way to keep your hair out of your face—think of it as the perfect alternative to a basic ponytail.

Best of all, creating a chignon is surprisingly easy and simple. Ideally, it works best on hair that isn't freshly washed, says Manetti, making this a great second-day style. If your hair is super clean, consider spritzing it with a dry shampoo or dry texture spray to add a little grip and hold, he adds.

First, use the comb to part your hair down the middle, smooth it behind your ears, and gather it at the nape of your neck. If your hair is on the finer or shorter side, start by pulling it all into one ponytail. You can place it at the nape of your neck, but Manetti says it's also worth experimenting with placement to keep the look updated and fresh; try it at the center of your head or even up higher, as you would with a topknot. 

Next, grab the ponytail and twist it around in a counter-clockwise circle: "Picture making a doughnut around the base of the pony," suggests Manetti. Coil it tightly for a more sleek look, or keep it looser if you're going for a more undone effect. Continue to twist your hair into a bun shape using your index finger to hold it in place. Roll that around the elastic, the base of the pony, then secure each side of the bun with a few bobby pins. Last, gently pull and loosen the edges of the bun to get your desired shape.

Have thicker and/or longer hair? Hickman likes a two-ponytail technique. Section your hair at the ears, pinning the top half out of the way for the moment. "Create a low pony at the nape of your neck with the bottom half, then take the upper half and create a ponytail right above it," she says. Twist and wrap the top ponytail over the bottom one and pin in place. Then twist the bottom ponytail around that coil and secure with a few more pins.