The Braid Games: A Katniss Inspired Hair Tutorial

I don’t know about you guys, but the past few weeks have been insane for me.  My family has been going through a lot – grandparents in the hospital, cousins having babies, big changes happening at work – It’s been a really hard time. In addition to that, a little over a week ago I had an interview for admission to medical school, which as I’m sure you can imagine was terrifying! I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching anything they could possibly ask me and making sure my outfit (a very grown-up suit) and hair (my version of a sophisticated top knot) were just perfect… but right before my interview, I went to see the midnight premiere of Mockingjay, part 2. I know – I’m so professional. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the film adaption of the final installment in the series, but one thing that made me crazy was the lack of braids! If you’ve read the books you know that the braid is as strongly tied to Katniss as her bow. The entire movie I kept whispering things to Jeff like, “Why is her hair not braided?” “Who’s idea was this?” “Did these producers not read the books?” “Everyone around her has braided hair! Are they trying to hide the fact that she doesn’t?!” Dating me must be so much fun.

So, in honor of The Hunger Games heroine, I will be giving you brief tutorials on three of my favorite braids, in addition to my take on the “Katniss” braid.

  1. The Waterfall Braid

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  •  Pick three sections of hair near your temple (I usually start on the right because I am right handed) and begin braiding as if you were doing a French braid – adding a bit of hair in each time you cross over (I usually cross over six times before starting to drop strands, as explained in the next step).
  • Once you cross the top section of your hair over (the second time), drop that piece so it hangs.
  • Pick up another piece of hair from the bottom to replace the dropped section.
  • Continue adding hair to the top section as well, as you would add to a French braid.
  • Finish by pinning hair, or continuing braid down and tying off with an elastic. (I like to loosen the braid up, pulling at the top of the hair for a little volume and pulling at the braid itself for a softer look).
  • Fix with a flexible hold hairspray.

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*Notes* The key to this braid is remembering to add to the top, and drop from the bottom. The trickiest part, as wold be expected, is the back because you are doing it by feel. It takes a little practice, but once you get it down it is a great braid to have in your arsenal! It is so versatile! You can leave it down for a soft romantic look, add flowers or other hair ornaments, or throw in a low bun for a more dressed up feel. I have done some version of this braid on many of my friends for weddings. Try here for a more in depth video.

2.  Fishtail Half-Up, Half-Down (with a twist)

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  • Section off the top half of your hair and pin it up.
  • Section off the bottom layer of your hair and pull to the side – this will be combined with the braids.
  • Un-pin the top section and separate hair into two, leaving some loose near the face on either side.
  • Pull hair to either side (I chose the left side this time), and Fishtail the first half of the section, then braid the second half (just a regular easy braid), tying both off with elastics.
  • Wrap the loose pieces of hair around the braids and tuck them behind the braid, pinning with bobby pins (this hides the tops of the braids).
  • Lay the two braids on top of the bottom layer of hair and tie off with an elastic, then wrap a loose piece of hair around the elastic to hide it, tucking back into the elastic to hold (this contributes to the messy, romantic vibe).
  • Fix with a flexible hold hairspray.

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*Notes* I will be the first to admit, this is not an easy one. I was inspired by Blake Lively’s hair from some event, and just tried my best to recreate it! It doesn’t have to be perfect, and if you have to change it up a bit to make it work for you, do it! I do this style for special events just because it is so time consuming and isn’t something I feel you can get away with every day. Have fun with this one, and be creative!

3.  The “Shelby Bun”

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  • Pick three sections of hair near your temple and begin a Dutch braid – a Dutch braid is exactly like a French braid only in reverse – crossing under instead of over.
  • Continue to the point where your head begins to curve toward the back, continuing a normal braid (not adding additional hair in).
  • Gather your remaining hair with the braid and pull into a ponytail.
  • At this point, pull gently on the braid and the top of your head to create volume for a softer, less Russian ballerina look.
  • Separate the pony tail into a top and bottom half.
  • Tuck the top half over itself, securing back into the hair tie, and do the same to the bottom.
  • Adjust the bun to hide any gaps, the bobby pin in place.
  • Fix with a flexible hold hairspray.

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*Notes* Named by my college roommates, this is my go-to hairstyle because its easy and so versatile! Growing out bangs? No problem – they are held in place by the braid! Don’t like buns? No problem – stop at the pony tail step and finish by wrapping a piece of hair around the elastic to hide it! Can’t master the Dutch braid? No problem – do a French braid! This is another one I do all the time for weddings. It looks great on bridesmaids and brides alike because it can be dressed up or down for any occasion. This is also how you begin the “Katniss” braid.

4.  The “Katniss” Braid

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  • Pick three sections of hair near your temple and begin Dutch (or French! – Movie Katniss does Dutch) braiding your hair, creating a good thick foundation, making sure the braid hugs the side of your head.
  • Pick up pieces as you go, pulling hair into the braid. As you are braiding, pull the sections on the top side tighter – this will create tension and help “lead” the braid so that it curves around the head.
  • Once you get to your opposite ear, begin pulling in the loose front sections of your hair. Here you basically have to switch directions to keep the braid looking like one fluid style, rather than disjointed and piece-y. So if you were braiding under, switch to over, and vice-versa.
  • Finish braiding the hair, securing with an elastic.
  • Gently pull apart the braid to thicken and soften it, creating a messier texture.
  • Fix with a flexible hold hairspray.

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*Notes* As stated above, this braid begins exactly like the “Shelby bun”. Once again, super versatile style! And once again, trickiest in the back. I don’t know about other people, but I always have to switch my grip when braiding the back of my head which can get a little tricky. Practice makes perfect! Just like archery…

Questions? Comments? Other braids you want me to cover? I know this tutorial is brief and some aspects of braiding can be tricky! So please comment below! We love hearing feedback and interacting with our readers. For more on me and my braids checkout my Instagram handle @hopelesswanderer_sb and search the hashtag, #ShelbysBraids. You may or may not see the month of braids I did before the Catching Fire premiere a few years ago.


As always, live healthy and love hard!


5 thoughts on “The Braid Games: A Katniss Inspired Hair Tutorial

  1. Angel says:

    I always enjoy reading this blog! Thanks, Shelby, for making the technicality of braids easy to understand! Once my hair grows out more, I will be putting these tutorials to use!

    • Shelby Briley says:

      Hi Angel! Thank you so much for your comment! I’m happy to know you enjoy keeping up with the blog! Also glad to know the tutorials made sense!! Thanks for reading and please let me know how it goes for you when you try them!

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