The messy bun is having a moment: here's how to perfect this classic style at home

There's more to this all-occasion messy bun than you might think. Learn why this look offers maximum impact with minimum effort

messy bun main image of renee zellweger on the red carpet
(Image credit: Future/Getty Images)

A messy bun sounds like a pretty self-explanatory hairstyle. You put your hair in a bun, and then you mess it up, right? Well, that's definitely one way to go about it, but the truth is there are messy buns, and then there is The Messy Bun. 

The former is just as it sounds, a low-key tied-up style that many of us lean on for non-hair washing days, housework, and hangovers. It can be as high or as low as you like, usually becomes progressively unruly as the day goes on, and can be fixed in place with anything you have on hand.

Then, there's the latter. The messy bun we're here to talk about today is an elegantly disheveled chignon that is to Meghan Markle what a blunt bob is to Anna Wintour. The Duchess essentially owns this style. 

Of course, it's not just transatlantic royals who love this versatile look. Messy buns are having a moment across the board, with nearly 500,000 Google searches every month. It's easy to see why this style has strong crossover appeal, and despite being a bit more carefully constructed than appearances suggest, that eponymous messiness is highly forgiving. You shouldn't have to sweat to create a super-smooth blow-dry with the best hair dryer either: There's no set shape to follow once you start pinning, and having a few hairs out of place is not just acceptable but actively encouraged. 

Being both glamorous and relaxed, the messy bun works in any context, from walking the dog to a work party to that all-too-important (or, all-too-early!) Zoom call. It'll never look 'too much,' but speaks of effort when required. It also suits most hair types, textures, and lengths—if you've got a bob hairstyle (opens in new tab) or longer, you're good to go!

Ready to take on the mighty messy bun? These are the expert styling tips, best hair styling products you need, plus the best messy bun inspiration on social media. 

How to create a classic messy bun

Meghan Markle messy bun

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"Ever since Meghan Markle first wore her messy bun, we’ve been inundated with women asking us to recreate her look in our salons,” says Mary Geoghegan, Style Director at KH Hair Group.

“What women love about it is that it’s low key and simple while beautifully framing the face where the shorter, wispy strands fall loose. It is an effortless look—that takes a little effort, of course—and it suits most women. What’s not to love?”

Step 1: Prep your texture.

“Recreate Meghan's signature look on the first and second days of your hair being washed—the third day might be pushing it a bit (Ed's note: Never fear, though, as you can still stretch things out with a good dry shampoo.). Start by prepping your hair with a thermal protection spray, then smooth and add curl with the best hair straighteners such as GHD Gold. Add shine and control with a product like Wella System Professional Soft Touch Cream.”

Step 2: Section off your hair.

“Take a diagonal section of hair from the crown of the head to the front of the ear, which you will be wearing in the bun, and clip this front section out the way for the time being. With the rest of the hair, smooth from the roots to ends using a bristle brush and create a low ponytail behind the ear with a hair tie."

Step 3: Create your bun.

"Twist the ponytail and coil around its base to create a bun. Use a few bobby pins to secure underneath.”

Step 4: Soften by pulling out some wispy tendrils.

“Take the front section of hair that was clipped away, pull out any soft pieces you want to leave around your face, then twist the hair away from the face towards the ponytail and continue the circular motion around the bun. Grip to secure.”

Step 5: Backcomb for volume, then finish.

“Use your fingers and a fish-tail comb to pinch and tease the crown and bun itself until you've reached the softness you’re happy with, then hairspray in place to complete the look.“ We like L'Oréal Elnett for its soft, brushable finish. 

Messy bun inspiration

There is a bun out there for every hair type, texture, and tone. Discover your perfect messy bun look, as served up by social media's famous faces, A-list hairstylists, and influencers. 

1. Elegant chignon

A post shared by George Northwood (@georgenorthwood) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

2. Curly bun

A post shared by R I H A N N A (@ririgalbadd) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

3. Ballet bun

A post shared by Zoë Irwin (@zoeirwinhair) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

4. Double buns

A post shared by Christina // Hair Romance (@hairromance) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

5. Slick side-swept bun 

A post shared by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (@priyankachopra) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

6. Twisted texture

A post shared by Charlotte Mensah (@charlottemensah) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

7. Pinned-in bun

A post shared by KayleyMelissa (@kayleymelissa) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

8. Low messy bun

A post shared by Hair Professional (@erroldouglashair) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

9. High curly bun

10. Staticky top knot 

A post shared by Sam McKnight Personal (@sammcknight1) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

11. Textured knot 

A post shared by George Northwood (@georgenorthwood) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

12. Twisted high bun

A post shared by Mara Roszak (@mararoszak) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

13. Curly bun with scarf

A post shared by Sarah Angius (@sarahangius) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

14. Side chignon

15. Half-up box braid bun

A post shared by Adir Abergel (@hairbyadir) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

16. Undone bun 

A post shared by Gemma Chan (@gemma_chan) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

17. Scrunchie bun

A post shared by FEKKAI (@fekkai) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

woman&home thanks Mary Geoghegan (opens in new tab) at KH Hair Group (opens in new tab) for her time and expertise.

Fiona McKim
Beauty Editor, womanandhome.com

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.