Oh, University. Hallowed halls and ivory towers: the place for shoving knowledge into your head and usually neglecting the hair on top of it.
I truly don’t understand TV shows where people in university or college consistently have perfect mid-length, artfully wavy, usually middle-parted hair. Do you really expect me to believe Britta could be that much of a loose unit, and still spend 45 minutes every morning with a curling iron???
Between lectures, tutes, pracs, dodging stu-pol shitheads and bouncing between every place you can consume coffee on campus (or, as we call it, ‘studying’), there’s a lot to do. Uni is full-on enough without adding a blow-dry session to your morning.
While of course we’re reading our Naomi Wolf and dismantling ideas about worthiness stemming from beauty, sometimes you have to at least look vaguely presentable: a no-fuss hairstyle can help you feel less self-conscious and more at ease while you dismantle the patriarchy.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some realistic uni hair inspo, for every type of day you’re going to have in your sublime academic career.
Sleek and smooth: when you haven’t washed your hair in too long and it’s greasy
Sometimes you’re too busy to do a full hair wash. It’s an event, it goes in the schedule, some of us have to factor in air dry-time as well which is a whole other thing—especially if you’re not doing an overnight style. [link to over-night styling article here]
Our advice here is to lean into natural oiliness and combat what’s turning into self-neglect into some low-effort self-maintenance. Throw a hydrating and strengthening mask or oil into your hair, we like the 3 More Inches Pre-wash Treatment, then comb in a parting, scrape your hair back into a low bun and go about your business. Neat hair for the day, nourished hair once you wash out the mask.
Scraped back n a plait: when you haven’t washed your hair and need everything off your face
Very similar to the above, but an option for those of us with longer, wavy or curly hair who are getting real frustrated at whatever it’s deciding to do or not do. How many coconut oil masks do you need for hair to chill tf out?
For this look, follow the same steps as above but after secure your hair in a ponytail at the base of your neck. Then, loosely plait the rest of your hair—messy is fine, the contrast between sleek and relaxed is what makes this look quite fun. Juxtaposition, we love it.
Bangs and a few face-framing layers: when you haven’t washed your hair and you have a fringe
Let’s say you have bangs and an intrinsic desire to cover your forehead. If your hair is too greasy to wear completely down, hit your fringe and crown of your head with some dry shampoo, pull out a few layers around your face and pull the rest back into a ponytail. Whatever you have on hand works, but one of our favourites is the Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder Très Invisible Dry Shampoo—a little goes a long way.
If you have the time and want to feel a little fresher even if you know you’re about to spend the next 24 hours in the library, you can also wash just your fringe a little mini-shampoo over the sink.
Textural high pony: when you haven’t washed your hair and it’s thirsty
If you’re someone whose hair also gets more unmanageable when you haven’t washed it—often the case for curly or finer, dry hair—use that natural texture for a high ponytail.
Was it not angel Dolly Parton who said the higher the hair the closer to god? A modest amount of backcombing will add some height (Ari styles) but is entirely optional.
A slick half-updo and waves: when you haven’t washed your hair and it’s big n curly
Let’s say you want to let some of your natural hair texture run free (only your roots are a little oily so it’s fiiiine right?). Our advice? Work with proportions here. Smooth the top half of your hair back into place, something like a Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer works really well for this, and secure tightly. Let the rest of your hair do as it pleases for big Imaan vibes, or run a little of the primer through your curls to add definition and moisture.
Wet-ish look: when you have time to wash your hair but not time to dry it
This suggestion is a little more of a look, but if you have some hair wax (we like this easy to work with wax from Hanz De Fuko) and five minutes, comb it through your hair with your fingers while your hair is still slightly damp from your shower.
“You’ll want to use enough wax to completely drench your hair and then scrunch strands lightly to create waves,” celebrity hairstylist Marc Mena explains. You can also do this with a mask or oil you know won’t be too heavy in the hair. Precision is not at all key here, but try not to break your hair up too much, a little “piecey-ness” is good.
The headband: when you CBF to tie your hair up, but want it out of your face
Aside from the intense Blair Waldorf flashbacks, chucking on a headband is a very easy way to accomplish a number of things.
They keep your hair out of your face—v important if you’re trying to study/give a presentation, add interest to your hair, can tame sections around your face if they’re bent or sitting weirdly, and can pull an outfit together when that was low-effort too. We like this low-key denim style from Weekday, but do what your heart tells you.
Max accessories: when you need to distract from your actual hair entirely
The barrette clip was so intensely popular back last year I felt like I time travelled into primary school, and I’m not mad about it. Practical and cute, the best thing about the current crop of barrettes are the range of designs and how it’s suddenly acceptable to absolutely fill your head with them.
No one can tell you haven’t washed your hair if they can’t see it through all your drip.
A middle part and barrettes: when you need to distract from your actual hair, but just a little bit
*DJ Khalid voice* Another one! Use two smaller barrettes over your part—a middle parting here is particularly cute—to neaten up hair that’s not sitting quite right and keep it off your face while you write your essay.
Hair accessories are one of the lowest effort ways to add some interest to an outfit: these opalescent ones from Valet (cult fave Reliquia’s sister label) keep things a bit more grown-up (whatever that means).
Twisted low bun: when you need to look ~put together~
We’ve watched this video about 5 times, and it’s astonishing how simple this low, twisted bun is to achieve, especially for how chic it looks.
All you need is an elastic, and about 30 seconds: after parting your hair into two sections on either side, twist both inwards towards the nape of your neck, roll the ends into a bun as normal and secure.
Big VSCO Girl Energy: when you’ve been studying for ages and have a ponytail headache
A low bun, but make it VSCO Ggirl. While the scrunchie trend may seem to skew on the younger side, we think it’s all about the execution. Look for cotton-rich materials (or silk or velvet if you’re feeling bougie) and go big.
The hair wrap: when you’d like to channel Alicia Keys at the Grammy Awards
I just want to dive into this picture’s energy and live there. Real life angel Alicia is a great inspiration for styles that will protect textured or natural hair. If you’re low on time a headwrap is a great way to keep your hair out of your way while adding a little interest to your look.
Can we also take a moment to note that according to Helen Bradley Griebel’s study, the headwrap for women of African-American descent “has functioned as a ‘uniform of rebellion’ signifying absolute resistance to loss of self-definition.” A hairstyle for the ages! And also your 8 am tutorial.
Throw a hat on it: when you’re schlepping all over campus n need some shade
Sometimes, the best hairstyle is removing the need to style your hair entirely. As well as containing unwashed or unruly hair, hats are another way to add a little interest to your outfit.
If shoes are the punctuation on the end of your outfit—be they an exclamation point or a full stop—a hat is your opener. There are a tonne of ways you can go with this (snapbacks, beanies, fitted caps etc) but we’re particularly into this soft shell bucket style hat from Carhartt.