Box Braids & Updos Are *The* Go-To Combination For Instant Elegance

Works every time.

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Keke Palmer pink box braid bun

There’s so much to love about classic box braids, but their overall versatility definitely tops the list. Whether they’re jumbo-sized, tiny, shoulder-length, or adorned with braid accessories and jewelry, there’s a stunning (and A-list-approved) version of the style perfect for any situation. But when those important dress-to-impress events roll around — and there are always so many of them this time of year — there’s only one answer: box braid updos. Celebrities already have them in the roster for their most high-profile red carpets, too, and it’s always to excellent results.

Fashion Week appearances, concerts, premieres, and even an interview with Michelle Obama are all prime occasions for a box braid updo, as demonstrated by some of the most stylish stars in the industry. But the plaits themselves might be the only thing these looks have in common — varying in arrangement, length, and color, they only prove how adaptable box braids really are for any scenario. No matter if you’re after something streamlined and classic or more intricate and experimental, there’s an A-list example ready to inspire your next statement style.

Ahead, gather ideas for braids, buns, knots, half-up looks and beyond, straight from a selection of TZR’s favorite stars.

Janet Jackson

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Jackson’s started more trends than most, so of course she figured out one of the coolest takes on a ponytail ever. With her cinnamon-colored plaits hoisted high, the ends are tucked under for a rounded look that feels so futuristic.

Tracee Ellis Ross


Ross’s extra-long ponytail would be a thrill to glimpse anywhere, even the grocery line — but the fact that she wore it to interview Michelle Obama on her book tour is next-level.

Gabrielle Union

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Fine — technically Union’s wrapped topknot is a half-updo. But there’s no denying how well this lush hybrid style works for black-tie dress codes. The two thinner braids left to fall on both sides of her face are the perfect finishing touch.

Keke Palmer


At first glance, Palmer’s high, sculpted bun looks straightforward in structure. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice just how carefully her box braids are arranged into yet another, larger woven pattern, shaped into a sphere, and secured in place with some invisible pins.

Yara Shahidi

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Want in on the mermaid-themed fun while you can? Enter the fishtail braid. As Shahidi demonstrates, it’s a summery, ethereal look that incorporates all of her long, highlighted box braids, gathered first into a ponytail and then woven all the way down.

Willow Smith


Bantu Knots are always a good idea just in general — but when they’re made from sections of box braids, like Smith’s sweet look, they get even dreamier. The best part is how easy it is to nail the style, while the coiled-up braids offer even more protection for natural hair.

Tessa Thompson

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A literal work of art, Thompson’s green box braids practically defy gravity as they perch at a jaunty angle. Woven up into one big sculptural plait, the hairstyle is like its own accessory on the red carpet.

Zoë Kravitz

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Piled high for an elegant, balletcore look, Kravitz’s tall topknot actually features tiny box braids on top and a buzzed undercut down below. It’s the coolest mix of edgy and elegant — which is kind of her style in a nutshell, come to think of it.

Storm Reid

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Reid’s only been in the spotlight for a few years now, but the looks she churns out are as professional as it gets. A standout moment is undoubtedly this braid of braids cascading down her shoulder like a Gen Z Rapunzel.

Jessica Williams

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Soft, whimsical, and more than a little cottagecore, Williams’ crown braid connects all the way across her forehead for an upswept look. Next to her raspberry lipstick and delicate gold jewelry, it’s enough to keep the dreamy aesthetic trend going for another year at least.