13 Medium-Length Hairstyles to Inspire Your Next Haircut
You know the story. Goldilocks lets herself into the Bear family homestead and tries on Papa Bear’s flannels (too big), Mama Bear’s nightgown (too soft), and then Baby Bear’s PJs (juuust right). A medium-length haircut is a lot like those Baby Bear PJs, minus the breaking and entering. If short hair is too big of a commitment, but long hair is too high-maintenance, a mid-length style may be juuust right. It’s got the pros of both, but the cons of neither. You can’t lose.
"Medium-length looks have been and will be popular for a long time — for any texture," says hairstylist and co-founder of R+Co Howard McLaren. "What keeps it modern is the versatility." There are plenty of mid-length styles to choose from. On the shorter end of medium, you can try a cheeky chin-length bob or a hybrid pixie-shag-mullet (a.k.a the Mixie) if you’re feeling a little more rebellious than Parisian. Or if you want to keep some length, a medium-long wolf cut can bear its teeth in the best way, or you could opt for a softer, more romantic layered lob.
Below, we asked the experts to lay out their favorite ways to cut and style a mid-length look.
Meet the Experts:
Howard McLaren is a hairstylist and co-founder and creative director of R+Co.
Ty Holbrook is a hairstylist whose clients include Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, and Lea Michele.
Howard Reyes is a hairstylist at Suite Caroline Salon in New York City.
Louise O’Conner is a hairstylist and founder of Louise O’Conner Salon in New York City.
Devin Toth is a hairstylist at New York City-based Salon SCK.
Julien Farel is a hairstylist and founder and owner of Julien Farel Restore Salon and Spa in New York City and Palm Beach.
Choppy Wavy Lob
Tell your stylist, "I want to look like I woke up in my Parisian hotel room around 11 a.m. and ordered room service croissants and café au lait for brunch." What’s that? They look confused? Okay, fine. Ask them for Selena Gomez’s "choppy, wavy lob," an effortlessly tousled medium-length look. Hairstylist Ty Holbrook recommends this cut for medium or thick hair (which gives it that sexy oomph). To style, "use a thickening spray or root lift and blow it out with a medium round brush. Then, rough it up a bit with your hands," he says.
A medium-length haircut is all about having the best of both worlds: not too long, not too short. You can do the same with your color by giving your platinum bob some lived-in shadowed roots, like Khloé Kardashian. Even better? "The color maintenance won’t be as bad with shadowed roots compared to a basic double-process," says Holbrook.
Messy Curly Shag
A messy, curly shag has a cool, disheveled, Jim Morrison vibe (and a curly fringe gives it a little modern-day polish). It’s a low-maintenance look for already curly hair, but you can amp up the coils for a little extra rock-n-roll like Alanna Arrington has here. "After washing, use a curl-defining spray and then diffuse," says Holbrook. "Afterwards, tweak a few pieces by wrapping each section around a medium-barrel curling iron."
The 2023 starter kit to being an official "cool person" is as follows: A good sense of what’s happening on TikTok without spending too much time actually making videos, chunky platform loafers, and the core cut – so named because of how central it is to being an effortless cool girl (like Alexa Chung). It’s a perfect swingy, one-length style that lands right where the neck hits the shoulder, says hairstylist Howard Reyes.
Happy Medium Cut
Consider Gemma Chan’s versatile length your "happy medium." Not so long that you’re flirting with mermaid territory (and a lot of tangled hair), but not too short for a top knot or ponytail. "It’s the perfect sweet spot," says Reyes, who likes to add long layers in the front to give the cut a little energy and movement. "Opening the hair right above the mouth makes the look feel lived-in and easy, while opening below the chin feels refined. It isn’t necessary, but it is definitely a technique to keep the cut from looking boxy or heavy."
The Rachel was the haircut heard ‘round the world in the ‘90s and even though we’ve left Friends, the Macarena, and Furbies behind, this face-framing style never really went away — just ask Georgia May Jagger. In 2023, it remains a timeless go-to for medium-length hair with feathered, face-framing pieces in the front. "It looks especially great when clipped back with a single barrette above the eyebrow," says Reyes.
No one can have everything, but they can have a pixie, a shag, and a mullet all in one (which is pretty damn close to everything). Just ask Kristen Stewart. If you’re not feeling one of those three cuts, your stylist can go a little harder on the other two. "There are variations that can be customized to your own taste and how edgy you want to go," says hairstylist Louise O’Conner. The important piece is the flirtatious length on the sides and back of the cut.
Face-framing, bottleneck Birkin bangs are great on any length, but we love the punky edge it adds to Jenna Ortega’s shoulder-length hair. "The length gives it a little more drama," says O’Connor. "Loose, hidden layers help the hair to move and slightly frame the jawline and give texture." She recommends adding a spritz of Oribe Texturizer and shaking the hair out for Ortega’s "undone-on-purpose" look.
A mid-length lob with airy, "I just walked over a subway grate" volume is even better if you don’t have to, you know…get hit with a blast of gross subway air. Zendaya’s Marilyn Monroe-inspired style is a beautiful fit for someone who likes big, bouncy hair. Devin Toth, hairstylist at New York City-based Salon SCK, recommends styling with a round brush and a large-barrel curling iron. "Soft layers and perhaps a side part are also a good idea if you’re going for the volume and puffiness," he adds.
On the scale of punk rock haircuts, the shullet (shag-mullet) is longer than the mixie but shorter than the wolf cut. It’s a middle ground where you’ll reliably find Joan Jett and Miley Cyrus. "Sometimes it looks more like a shag, sometimes it looks more like a mullet," says Toth. "Be sure to tell your stylist which direction you are leaning towards." If you want the front to have a more seamless transition to the length in the back, you’re leaning shag. If you want a blunt shape in the front, you’re more of a mullet person.
A wolf cut is a softer, shaggier shag cut. "It should have a rectangular silhouette, soft bangs, and layers throughout the bottom," says Toth. It’s a perfectly imperfect medium cut if you like to have a little more length to play with different styles since you can get that shaggy wolf vibe with any texture (flat-ironed, beachy waves, or bouncy curls).
Okay, stay with us here: Picture a jellyfish. A dome on top, a skirt of shorter tentacles (they’re tentacles, right?) below, with a third layer of longer tentacles (or maybe those are legs?) underneath. The result is a three-tiered shape, which also happens to make for a super fun, geometric cut. "Jellyfish bangs consist of thick, blunt symmetric layers that frame each side of your face with horizontal chunks," says Toth. Like jellyfish tentacles… legs… arms? "It gives off an edgy-but-playful vibe."
If blunt, straight bangs are like icing on a cake, wispy bangs are like a gentle sprinkle of sugar. Piecey fringe like Rihanna’s gives her medium-long style more texture and interest, says hairstylist Julien Farel, and is long enough to push back on bad hair days (they come for us all).
More haircut inspiration:
9 Bangs Trends To Help Frame Your Face Because You’re a Work of Art
Originally Appeared on Allure