How to Nail the Medium-Length Hair Trend

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Medium-Length Hair: Why Women Have Fallen for "The Chop"

Ali Larter's shoulder-length hair. 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.

And it just so happens to be one of the hottest hairstyles of the moment.

With the right cut, your hair will be swingy, yet still 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 lies, simply, 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 here.

"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.

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 (buy it from Amazon) to damp hair. This smooths 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. I prefer clampless curling irons like the pricey T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand (buy it from Amazon), 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 a texturizing spray. He uses Oribe Dry Texturing Hair Spray. I recommend Shu Uemura Texture Wave. 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 Teaser. 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, 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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Try Getting a Cut Just Above the Shoulders

From left: Sascha Steinbach and Ragnar Singsaas for Getty

Britney Spears debuted her new long "mom bob" at the end of September 2014. Spears has definitely grown up. Ask your stylist to cut your hair just above the shoulders. It will elongate your neck.

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Two Versions of Alexa Chung's Shag Hairstyle

Getty Images

Alexa Chung is famous for her shoulder-length shag haircut. This picture shows two versions of her signature look. On the left, she wears her shag in soft waves that fall away from her face. On the right, she has edgy bangs and natural, effortless waves.

The secret to this haircut is to have minimal layers cut into hair. Ask your stylist for thick, piece-y ends typical for the shag. If you opt for Chung's brow-skimming bangs, make sure your stylist cuts them so they actually skim the brows — anything shorter will look dated, anything longer and you'll find yourself sweeping them to either side. 

The shag works on all hair textures, but this particular look works best on hair that has natural wave to it. Find out how to get the waves on the left in "How to Curl Hair: The Secret to Sexy, 'Beachy' Waves." To get the rough texture on the right, use a salt spray and scrunch hair as it dries. You can make your own with this DIY salt spray recipe or buy one. Fekkai's 'Marine Summer Hair' Beach Waves or an old-school favorite, Bumble and Bumble's Surf Spray are both recommended.

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Sienna Miller's Gorgeous Choppy Lob

Sienna Miller cut her long hair into a choppy long bob (in England, they refer to her cut 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 a la the '20s. She's worn it slicked-back, parted both down the middle and to the side, and with braids.

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Lauren Santo Domingo's Chop Hairstyle

Lauren Santo Domingo. Astrid Stawiarz // Getty Images

Lauren Santo Domingo, pictured here, reportedly cut off her super-long blonde locks a few years ago when someone mentioned that all the New York girls have the same long hair.

According to writer Plum Sykes, Santo Domingo, former Vogue editor and founder of the world's most expensive online shopping site, Moda Operandi, 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, many devotees of The Chop are still walking the streets of LA and New York. Since it became popular a few years ago, the cut has moved beyond the realm of the trend and has found its place as a classic -- 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."

She's now wearing her hair long.

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Emma Stone's Trendy Shag

Emma Stone shag hairstyle. Steve Granitz for Getty Images

She's been a blonde, a redhead and a brunette. She's worn her hair long, in a long bob, in a mussy shag (pictured here). She's had extensions and braids and most recently she debuted a long bob with side-swept bangs that got the Internet humming with ecstasy.

Oh and there was the sleek updos, the messy updos and the waves a la the 40s. The blunt bangs, the side-swept ones.

And all of this within one year.

This is a photo of the gorgeous actress Emma Stone in a very trendy shag hairstyle. 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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Rose Byrne's Blunt Bangs & Shoulder-Length Hair

Rose Byrne blunt bangs. Cosmopolitan

Blunt bangs are super hot right now, particularly paired with shoulder-length hair, as modeled here by actress Rose Byrne.

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Olivia Munn's Sleek, Sophisticated Cut

Olivia Munn's shoulder length hairstyle
Olivia Munn. Michael Buckner // Getty Images

Olivia Munn is smart, funny and gorgeous, and  this sleek haircut looks great on her, but, then again, this style looks good on all face shapes. To get this look, you need straight hair or hair that's easily straightened with a flat iron or a flat brush with blowdryer. 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 hair.
  • 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's shoulder-length hair
Olivia Palermo. Jason Kempin // Getty Images

If you really want great-looking hair, you should learn to shampoo your hair properly. It turns out most of us break many shampooing rules when we step into the shower. We don't wet our hair enough, we don't focus enough attention on our scalps and we don't rinse out our conditioner.

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Jessica Lange Proves You Don't Have to Go Short After 60

Jessica Lange with shoulder-length hair
Jessica Lange. Frederick M. Brown // Getty Images

Jessica Lange was born on April 20, 1949. And look at her. Incredible! Lange shows you don't have to go super short the day after you hit a certain age milestone. Wear what's flattering on you. And 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 needs to be longer anyway. The length weighs down the curls. Go short and you get a pouf. If you have thin, flat hair, you need body so ask your stylist to cut in a few layers

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Simple & Sophisticated

Brian Ach for Getty

This haircut is super simple and yet still so very chic. Note how her hair still has quite a lot of body to it. One of my pet peeves is when hairstylists thin out hair too much. Simply gorgeous

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A Gorgeous Look for Straight Hair

Keri Hilson hairstyles
Keri Hilson. Frederick M. Brown // Getty Images

If you have straight, fine hair, this is a gorgeous style for you.

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Shoulder-Length Hair? Just Add Bangs

Naomi Campbell with shoulder-length hair
Naomi Campbell. Andrew H. Walker // Getty

Naomi Campbell's bangs are lovely in this sleek hairstyle.

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Christina Hendricks Shows Off Her Waves Beautifully

Christina Hendricks with shoulder-length hair
Christina Hendricks. Peter Bregg // Getty Images

Ahhhh Christina Hendricks. She always has a shoulder-length, red hairstyle of some type, usually wavy like this one. Her waves 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 some body in your hair to balance out the rest of you.

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Vanessa Shaw

Vanessa Shaw with shoulder-length hair
Vanessa Shaw. Frederick M. Brown for Getty

Pretty hairstyle on Vanessa Shaw!

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Add in Long Layers for Dimension

Helena Christensen with shoulder-length hair
Helena Christensen. Ben Pruchnie for Getty

For a fresh look, make sure to have long layers cut into your hair.

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Dawn Olivien "Bronde" Hair Color

Dawn Olivien. Frederick M. Brown for Getty

This haircut works because of how thick Dawn's hair is here. Her hair color is a hybrid of blonde and brunette, a super trendy color of the moment called "bronde."

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Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler with shoulder-length hair
Amy Poehler. Pascal Le Segretain for Getty

Poehler tends to wear her hair shoulder length all the time. 

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Heidi Klum's Medium-Length Hairstyle Is Gorgeous

Getty Images

Model and TV personality Heidi Klum typically wears her hair long, but here she wears it to her shoulders.

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Gorgeous Caramel Highlights on Lucy Hale

Lucy Hale with gorgeous highlights. Getty Images: JB Lacroix (l), Jenny Anderson (r)

Look at the lovely caramel highlights painted on Lucy Hale's brunette hair via the balayage method.

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Karlie Kloss Shows Off Her Gorgeous Babylights

Karlie Kloss shoulder length hair
Karlie Kloss. Getty Images: Pascal Le Segretain

Karlie Kloss shows off her perfect "babylights" hair color here on her medium-length hair. Kloss is one of the originators of this hair color, along with actress Rosemunde Pike. The particular hair color trend is taking the style sites by storm. And it's a good trend that should last a long time. The problem is, it's kind of a confusing term and it hasn't been explained very well. 

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Bellamy Young's Wavy Shoulder Length Hair

Bellamy Young with curly hair
Bellamy Young. Gregg DeGuire for Getty Images

The secret to great haircuts is two-fold: first you must consider your face shape and secondly, 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. 

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Center Part With Just the Right Amount of Attitude

Annabelle Fleur poses at PANDORA Jewelry X Nanette Lepore at New York Fashion Week on September 15, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for PANDORA Jewelry//Getty Images

Love this hairstyle. Love it.

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Taylor Swift's Long, Side-Swept Bangs

Taylor Swift. Getty: Steve Granitz (l) and Anthony Harvey (r)

Taylor Swift's bangs make this look. Love how the part is far to the side and the bangs sweep down over her eye.

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Tori Spelling's Graduated Bob With Funky Color

Tori Spelling. Tiffany Rose for Getty

Tori Spelling's hair color is questionable but her graduated bob is nice. These types of bobs are shorter in the back and 1-2 inches longer in the front.

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Diane Keaton's Gray Long Bob

Diane Keaton in two different shoulder length haircuts. Andreas Rentz for Getty

Great long bob on Diane Keaton.

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Michelle Pfeiffer's Shoulder-Length Cut Is Perfect

Michelle Pfeiffer. Jesse Grant for Getty Images

Lovely cut on actress Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Emma Roberts as a Blonde and a Brunette

Emma Roberts as a blonde and a brunette. Getty Images: Andrew Goodman (l) and Chelsea Lauren (r)

These two pictures were taken just weeks apart.

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Just Add Bangs

Getty Images

Love this shoulder-length cut with the side-swept bangs.

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Curl Your Hair for a Formal Event

Rachel Weisz attends a screening of 'Youth' during the BFI London Film Festival at Vue West End on October 15, 2015 in London, England. Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage

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 too short hair may be too short for a curl.

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How to 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 hairstyle. A few curls and pins is all you need.

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Try a Modern Center Part

red lips, blonde hair
Sammy Winward on September 7, 2015. Getty: Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage

The center part is so popular at the moment. Try parting your hair in the center. If you 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.

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Kerry Washington's Thick Waves

Mark Townsend's Instagram

 This is a gorgeous cut if you have thick, wavy hair.