Dragons and knights, kings and queens, castles and magical swords—who isn’t fascinated by the era of courtly love? From feudalism and chivalry to traveling troubadours and the religious Crusades, and even to its shadow side of civil strife, persecution and the Black Death, there’s definitely a lot to unpack about the Middle Ages, certainly much more than what we’ve enjoyed onscreen with current fantasy shows on today. It was a time period rich in history and culture, the vestiges of which still remain to this modern day. One of these beloved reminders is the enduring popularity of medieval hairstyles and trends—oftentimes very long and unshorn, and done in romantic styles like braids and twists, they were a prime hallmark of a woman’s status and femininity (nobles typically had longer hair and those of lower birth had it shorter, with servants and monks usually being fully shaven).
That said, hair was a major focal point for the women of the era (actually considered an erotic feature!), and they enhanced, adorned and styled it in ways to showcase their place in society, as well as, we surmise, to attract reputable, high-born suitors. And though pop culture has been largely credited for the resurgence of medieval hairstyles in recent seasons—thanks, Netflix!—we also credit this to their undeniably timeless appeal. What’s not to love about a fabulously braided mane, capable of overturning kingdoms and launching a thousand ships, amirite? Scroll on:
31 Medieval Hairstyles We’re In Love With
Although women in the Middle Ages typically wore braids in a pair, one each on the side of the head or tied up in buns above each ear, several iterations that reference this original style can be seen today. Hairstyles that feature accent braids nestled in a sheath of long curls or waves, or feeder braids that completely clear up the forehead—another super important feature of the era, and a reason why women also favored middle parts—that then progressed to intricate lace braid versions on the back of the head were also in vogue. Multiple braids were also a huge hit, with women wearing as many as four plaits at a time. Make like the courtly ladies and adorn your braids in delicate (and runway-worthy) embellishments like pearls and metallic accessories.
1. Braided Updo
A Dutch braid bisects a curled bun that’s rolled upwards and secured with pins at the overseam. Conceal the ends with an ornate barrette.
We love this clever, modern take on medieval hair buns, which starts with a simple half-ponytail three-strand plait.
3. Halo Crown
Perfectly on-theme with the era’s queenly aesthetic. Check out our halo braid tutorial.
4. Dual Braided Bun
Two braids of different widths give a dainty headband effect.
5. Fishtail Halo
We’re totes copping this millennial version of the regular crown braid for date night. Finish with a soft spritz of hairspray, like TRESemmé TRES Two Ultra Fine Mist Hair Spray, to keep the frizzies at bay. Check out our milkmaid tutorial.
6. Forehead Four-Strand
Although medieval women would never cover their foreheads with hair (they only used jewelry, headbands or fake flowers!), we’re betting this gorgeous four-strand headband plait might have changed their minds.
Achieve this Celtic-inspired style by first doing two regular braids and pinning both in a figure-eight pattern onto the head.
Hello, beautiful! This wildly popular look shot to fame as one of the hallmarks of the Middle Ages.
9. Loose Fishtail
Romantic and original, this half-updo version is a favorite for weddings and daytime outdoor events. Learn how to do a fishtail braid and don’t forget to pancake (a.k.a. tug) the links apart for more texture!
10. Side Fishtail
A one-sided fishtail offers a simpler, more bohemian alternative to the full fishtail version.
11. Skinny Braid with Croissant Bun
A thin three-strand braid accentuates a bumpy low chignon for an elegant look.
12. Skinny Temple Braids
True to canon, these two-sided feeder braids were one of the most widespread medieval hairstyles of the time.
13. Twisted Fishtail
Crisp, clean and oh-so-adaptable for workday to weekend.
14. Two-Pronged, Tied
Another hallmark hairstyle of the Middle Ages, this look is fairly simple to recreate: Simply begin two three-strand braids high on the back of the head and tie the ends together with an elastic.
15. Two-Pronged, Braided
Alternatively, you can also weave both plaits together into one bigger middle braid.
16. Two-Pronged, Dutch
A more secure (and trending!) version is to affix Dutch braids on each side of a middle part, then knot both sides together in a bun on the back of the head.
17. Temple Braids with Bump
A testament to the era’s classically beautiful tastes, this braided middle-parted look mimics a baby beehive on the crown.
18. Wraparound French
Create a French braid from one side and circle around the entire head, pinching fresh hair with every link.
19. Jumbo French
We envision this standout French braid being totally the look du jour on the battlefield.
Apart from braids, twists were another method used to create more texture on hair during the pre-styling tool years. Hair was usually left long and wavy, with the forehead cleared up via a center part (Fun fact: Women would sometimes even shave their foreheads for a higher hairline!) Play with these medieval hairstyles—and maybe do away with any disposable razors—with delicate temple twists and quirky inside-out ponytails meant to change your point of view.
20. Twisted Pony Bun
Fake your way to a French-braided look with a twisted version that entails pinching hair from each side and gathering both into a ponytail. Repeat for three to four levels, then curl the tail under to form a bun. Learn more via the tutorial.
21. Twisted Croissant Bun
Twist the hair on the sides of each temple towards the middle, crisscross and pin to secure. Then take the loose hair and curl it over itself, tucking the ends into the previous twists. Embellish with rosettes, or for a totally fresh update, some pearls.
22. Floral Twists
As the name suggests, skinny temple twists are decorated with coordinating blooms. We love this look for garden weddings!
23. Half Halo
Twisting hair from the forehead all around offers an ecclesiastical vibe that’s also trés cool.
Create some clear-cut twists by splitting each temple section into two, then twisting each manually around each other to resemble a roped look. Tie both together with a clear elastic in the middle. A medium-hold shine spray, like S Factor by TIGI Vivacious Hair Spray, keeps things gleamy.
25. Full Halo
Employ the same method of rope-twisting two sections, but this time start above one ear, pinching new hair into the rope twist as you work your way around the head.
26. Inverted Twisted Pony
’80s babies know the appeal of this look all too well: mainly that it’s so extra, but is actually a cinch to create. To achieve, gather hair above each temple and twist both under and towards the middle, combining both into one ponytail. Leave the pony loose, then gather hair one level down and repeat the process.
27. Short Hairline Twists
If your hair is lob length or shorter, you can still go the medieval route with twisting your fringe area away from your face and securing the sides with pins.
Texturized hair gets a major boost from this look, which treats two twists stacked on top of the other as a makeshift headband on the back of your head. Tip: Suave Professionals Sea Minerals Infusion Texturizing Sea Salt Spray helps you get that beachy feel.
29. Princess Twists
A more straightforward take on medieval hairstyles, but widespread in high court nonetheless, are these pretty middle-parted twists. Ed’s note: This look was also big in the 1970s!
30. Twisted Ballerina Bun
This easy-peasy look is ideal for those who want to spiff up their bun game in a pinch. Twist hair from each temple towards the middle, then coil the loose ends into a knobby chignon.
31. Loose Twists
This look has stood the test of time! We’ll never get enough of the über-romantic feel of corkscrew waves pinned back loosely à la half-ponytail.