How to Nail the Shoulder-Length Hair Trend

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Why Women Have Fallen for "The Chop"

Ali Larter
From left: John Sciulli and Jason Merritt for Getty Images

Just call it "the chop." It's that perfect medium hair length that doesn't fall too long or hit too short. It's the to-the-shoulders cut you get when you're sick of long hair but you're not ready to commit to a bob or a shag. It just so happens to be one of the hottest hairstyles as well.

With the right cut, your hair will be both swingy and sexy. Long enough to attract long-hair-loving men, but edgy enough that you'll stand out among a sea of beachy waves.

The Secret to the Perfect Medium Length Hairstyle

The key to the perfect shoulder-length cut simply lies in the length. It can't be too long or too short and looks best when it hits at the collarbone or a bit above, as Ali Larter's does.

"The finish should appear blunt but should never be blunt, as blunt looks cheap," explains stylist Harry Josh in Vogue Magazine. "You texturize the ends with maybe a feather razor so the line appears clean, but there is actually a lot of movement in it. Too much of a block, and it looks heavy."

Stylist Andy Lecompte is the creator of Larter's gorgeous graduated bob. Lecompte told Allure Magazine the secret to this style is the long layers that begin just below the chin. He used a razor to "soften up" Larter's ends so they wouldn't be heavy and blunt.

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Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler
Dia Dipasupil / Staff

Amy Poehler tends to wear her hair shoulder length. It can take on many different styles and these beachy waves are a great look for her.

How to Style This Cut

Ahn Co Tran is great at styling this cut. You've likely seen his casual, beachy, textured waves all over Instagram and Pinterest. He has shared his styling secrets with InStyle magazine, Refinery29 and Glamour Magazine.

Here's how Tran gets this signature look:

  1. Apply Oribe Balm d'Or Heat Styling Shield to damp hair. This smooths the hair and protects it from heat.
  2. Roughly blow dry hair about 75 percent (sometimes Tran rough dries only 20 percent, sometimes 100 percent depending on the hair's texture). Don't be gentle here, your goal is to create volume. Turn your head over and leave the brush on the counter.
  3. Finish the blow-out by smoothing hair with a boar bristle brush.
  4. Section hair from ear-to-ear leaving a front section and a back section.
  5. The longer your hair, the fatter your curling iron should be. A clampless curling iron like the pricey T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand is a great option, but Tran uses one with a clamp. Always leave the ends out when curling. 
  6. Tran works in horizontals when curling hair, starting from the bottom up. He takes 1-inch sections and curls toward the face. On the next section, he curls away from the face. This makes the hair look more natural.
  7. For the last section on the top of the horizontal, he always curls away from the face.
  8. Continue curling hair around the head, always alternating the direction of the curl. Never touch the curls. Let them lie there, cooling.
  9. Once all the hair is curled, Tran moves to his products. For dry hair, he uses a serum, which he runs through hair mid-shaft to end. He recommends Oribe Supershine Moisturizing Cream. He also recommends Oribe Apres Beach Wave and Shine, which he sprays at the roots, lifting hair up. For fine hair that needs volume, Tran uses Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, though Shu Uemura Texture Wave is another great option. Hold hair up and spray at the roots.
  10. If you have fine hair and need more volume at the roots, Tran recommends the Tangle Teezer. You simply tease hair at the roots with it.
  11. Muss your hair by massaging the roots and scrunching your hair with your hands. You want a textured, lived-in look. You don't want your hair to appear as if a curling iron touched it. Use your hands and don't use a brush or comb.
  12. To get that piece-y look, Tran tells Refinery29 that he swears by Leonor Greyl Paris Eclat Naturel. He warms a dime-sized amount in his palms and then finger-combs the curls back into shape. The styling cream holds the shape of the curl.
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A Cut Just Above the Shoulders

Brittney Spears
From left: Sascha Steinbach and Ragnar Singsaas for Getty

Britney Spears definitely grew up when she got her "mom bob." It's a beautiful cut that is very easy to style every day. You can wash-and-go or give it a little more style if you like. It's also a great professional look and perfect for straight hair. Ask your stylist to cut your hair just above the shoulders. It will also elongate your neck.

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The Modern Shag Hairstyle

Alexa Chung
Getty Images

Alexa Chung is famous for her shoulder-length shag haircut. It's a very versatile cut that can be worn with soft waves or edgy bangs and natural, effortless waves.

The secret to this haircut is to have minimal layers cut into your hair. Ask your stylist for thick, piece-y ends, which are typical for the shag.

If you opt for Chung's brow-skimming bangs, make sure your stylist cuts them so they skim the brows. Anything shorter will look dated and you'll find yourself sweeping them to either side if they're longer. 

The shag works on all hair textures, but this particular look works best on hair that has a natural wave to it. To get a rougher texture, use a salt spray and scrunch your hair as it dries. You can make your own salt spray or buy one. Fekkai's Marine Beachcomber and Bumble and Bumble's Surf Spray are both recommended.

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The Gorgeous Choppy Lob

Sienna Miller
Getty Images

Sienna Miller cut her long hair into a choppy long bob (in England, they refer to it as a "chin-length undercut") back in July 2014, and she kept the cut. Perhaps no other celebrity has worn this cut in so many ways, proving just how versatile it is.

She tends to wear it air-dried and wavy but also curled with a 1920s flair. She's worn it slicked-back, parted both down the middle and to the side, and with braids.

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A Modern Chop

Lauren Santo Domingo
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis / Contributor

Lauren Santo Domingo is a former Vogue editor and founder of Moda Operandi. She reportedly cut off her super-long blonde locks when someone mentioned that all the New York girls have the same long hair.

According to writer Plum Sykes, Santo Domingo went to New York stylist Valery Joseph and asked him to cut off the unhealthy parts of her hair. The result, she told Sykes, was "this new weird length. I was immediately obsessed. I love it. I wish I had done it before."

Models, actresses, and singers soon followed suit and chopped their long locks to shoulder-length. Although Santo Domingo has since grown her hair long again, many devotees of the chop are still walking the streets of Los Angeles and New York.

Since it became popular, the cut has moved beyond the realm of a trend and has found its place as a classic. That's most likely because shoulder-length hair is simply the most versatile, flattering hair length on all face types and for all hair textures. 

This look first became popularized in 2008 and remains popular. The question is, how long can "the chop" last before it hits its past-fresh date? Santo Domingo, for one, expressed her concerns to Sykes.

"I made Valery promise he wouldn’t do the same cut for everyone else," she told Sykes. "But everyone is going to him for shorter hair. So now we all have the same hair. Again."

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The Trendy Shag

Emma Stone
Steve Granitz for Getty Images

Emma Stone has explored almost every hairstyle possible. She's been a blonde, a redhead, and a brunette. She's worn her hair long, in a long bob, and in a mussy shag. She's had extensions and braids and updos of all kinds.

One of her most memorable looks was this very trendy shag. It's a great shoulder-length option if you are casual, have naturally wavy hair, and like to look a little bit "undone."

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Blunt Bangs and Shoulder-Length Hair

Rose Byrne
Michael N. Todaro / Contributor

Blunt bangs are super hot, particularly when paired with shoulder-length hair. Rose Byrne shows just how soft and sexy they can be, especially with her beachy waves.

The trick to these bangs is to leave them a little longer along the sides. The middle should just barely skim your brows.

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A Sleek, Sophisticated Cut

Olivia Munn
Christopher Polk / Staff

Olivia Munn is smart, funny, and gorgeous, and this sleek haircut looks great on her. It's also a great style for any face shape.

To get this look, you need straight hair or hair that's easily straightened with a flat iron or a flat brush with a blow dryer. Get a middle part and ask your stylist for a few layers. This cut looks great air dried as well.

What you need for this look:

  • A straightening cream or spray which you'll apply before blow-drying.
  • A good blow dryer that dries hair fast.
  • A paddle brush so your hair dries straight.
  • A great flat iron to run over hair after it's fully dried.
  • A shine serum. 
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A Great Wavy Hairstyle

Olivia Palermo
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis / Contributor

Olivia Palermo has beautiful, healthy hair that looks great in a classic shoulder-length cut. 

If you really want great-looking hair, you should learn to shampoo your hair properly. You need to ensure your hair gets wet enough, focus on your scalp, and rinse out all of the conditioner. With that, and keeping in mind every chemical you put on your hair, you can enjoy beautiful, healthy hair.

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You Don't Have to Go Short After 60

Jessica Lange
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor

Jessica Lange was born on April 20, 1949, and she looks as beautiful as ever. Lange shows that you don't have to go super short when you turn a certain age. Wear what's flattering on you—shoulder-length is flattering on everyone.

Before growing your short hair longer you should consider if your hair texture can handle this cut. Super curly hair should be longer to weigh down the curls to avoid the pouf. If you have thin, flat hair, you will want some body, so ask your stylist to cut in a few layers

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Simple and Sophisticated

Shoulder length hair
Ralf Nau

This haircut is super simple and yet so very chic. Her hair has a lot of body to it as well. Sometimes, stylists can try to go too thin on hair, but it's not always necessary because thick hair is gorgeous. You just need to find the right cut.

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A Gorgeous Look for Straight Hair

Keri Hilson
Moses Robinson / Contributor Editorial #:

If you have straight, fine hair, this is a gorgeous style for you. It looks a little thin, but the color actually adds volume in more ways than one. Not only do the darker roots add dimension, hair color actually plumps up hair follicles.

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Show Off Your Waves

Christina Hendricks
Noam Galai / Contributor

Christina Hendricks has gorgeous hair with an envy-worthy red color. She always wears it on her shoulders and usually nice and wavy.

Her waves also balance out her body, which is voluptuous. When she wears her hair straight it doesn't work as well. When you are curvy, it's nice to have ​volume in your hair to balance out the rest of you.

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Go Bronde

Dawn Olivieri
Michael Tran / Stringer

This haircut works because of how thick Dawn Olivien's hair is. Her hair color is a hybrid of blonde and brunette, a super trendy color of the moment called "bronde." The highlights really work with the simplicity of the cut to give her a stunning, beautiful look.

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Gorgeous Babylights

Karlie Kloss shoulder length hair
Getty Images: Pascal Le Segretain

Karlie Kloss shows off her perfect "babylights" hair color on her medium-length hair. Kloss is one of the originators of this hair color, along with actress Rosemunde Pike.

Babylights are subtle highlights worked in very finely to mimic the variations in natural hair color. It can be done in any color, from brown to blonde, and is a great way to shine up shoulder-length hair.

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Wavy Shoulder Length Hair

Bellamy Young with curly hair
Gregg DeGuire for Getty Images

The secret to great haircuts is two-fold. First, you must consider your face shape, then you need to choose a cut that works with your hair's texture. Just as there are flattering styles for all face shapes, there are also unflattering styles. 

Bellamy Young found the perfect cut for her. The soft curls round off her face and her exposed forehead elongates it. It's stunning and simple at the same time.

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Try a Modern Center Part

Sammy Winward
Anthony Harvey / Stringer

The center part is very popular, so give it a try. It's a simple change that anyone can pull of. If you don't like it, just switch back.

If you do like what you see, consider your hair color: you want to make sure your colorist knows that you sometimes part your hair down the center. She will make adjustments in her technique to accommodate it.

Sammy Winward's gentle waves act like a beautiful curtain to her face. The platinum color is also a fantastic contrast to her bright red lips. It's a great look for winter.

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Long, Side-Swept Bangs

Getty: Steve Granitz (l) and Anthony Harvey (r)

Taylor Swift's bangs make this look. It is very classy, chic, and absolutely perfect, giving it that beautiful doll look. The very angular side-swept bangs really draw attention to her gorgeous eyes and it can also be styled differently depending on the occasion.

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A Graduated Bob With Funky Color

Tori Spelling
Andy Kropa / Contributor

A bob is a classic look, but it can be made fun and funky with a little color. Tori Spelling's graduated bob is a couple inches shorter in the back than it is in the front. The contrast of dark brown underneath a platinum blonde is eye-catching, though you need the right personality to pull it off.

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Take Hair From Day to Night

Actress Aya Cash
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Another great thing about shoulder-length hair is how easy it is to transition from a work hairstyle to an evening look. A few curls and pins is all you need and you're ready for a night on the town.

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Curl Your Hair for a Formal Event

Rachel Weisz
Samir Hussein / Contributor

One of the best things about shoulder-length hair is that it holds a curl so well. Longer hair may pull the curl down and short hair may be too short for a curl. This is ideal for formal events. Simply fire up your curling iron and give your hair some stunning curls for the night.