Middle parts are a lot like pineapples on pizza—you either love 'em or hate 'em. As for me, the recent movement celebrating middle hair parts has been something I can wholeheartedly support (unlike Gen-Z's recent crusade against skinny jeans).
A split down the middle may be a relatively new trend, but it's not a new trend for me. I've been rocking middle parts since I outgrew my infant mohawk (don't ask). Although hairstylists and friends have tried to peer pressure me into succumbing to the side part, I've never given in. Why? Well, middle parts are pretty great. It's a style that's easy to execute with my fine, straight hair, and one that most flatters my oval face shape.
"While I do feel that middle parts can work well on all face shapes, I do find that they accentuate round, oblong, and oval face shapes the best," says Miko Branch, hairstylist and co-founder of Miss Jessie's. "This is largely because the middle part offsets the roundness or length of those shapes, and with the right cut, can give more definition around the high points of the face."
If you're a former side parter, you might find that your hair is resistant to change. "Transitioning from a side to a middle part can pose a slight challenge, especially on curly, coily, and kinky textures, as hair becomes accustomed to sitting in a certain spot," says Branch. In order to enforce a new part, Sally Hershberger, a hairstylist in New York City, recommends parting the hair straight out of the shower to help it dry in place.
"In addition to reinforcing the new middle part after each wash and style, adding products with weightless hold around the root can help transition parts and keep hair in place," adds Branch. Hershberger recommends 24K Supreme Body Volumizing Mousse ($32; sallyhershberger.com) to immediately add hold and set a strong foundation for styling, and then blow out your desired look. If your hair begins to deviate from the middle part, lightly apply some dry shampoo from the root to mid-shaft, and pull hair back into a low bun for about 20 minutes, which will help ensure the part stays in place once hair is taken down.
Middle part-curious? If you feel like the split may not be for you, these hairstyles that come alive with a middle part might change your mind.
A short chop has a balancing, slimming, and elongating effect on faces with sharp angles and short or round shapes. “You can’t go wrong with a modern, blunt bob with a middle part,” says Hershberger. “It looks especially sleek with straight hair as it can create the appearance of a sculpted face and jawline.”
Soft and flirty, the new shag—further improved with a middle part—is a far cry from the cuts of the ‘70s. “With today’s modern shag, the idea is to have loose, unstructured structure and lots of movement,” says Marco Pelusi, a hairstylist in West Hollywood, Calif. “There is natural fullness due to the layers and the shaping of the cut, but without the forced fullness from spray and product.”
Long hair with long layers
For something more classic, Hershberger recommends long hair with long layers to match. A long layered haircut cuts the top layers of hair shorter than the bottom, removing just the right amount of weight to give the hair movement without making the ends look straggly. “The middle part in combination with layers frames the face beautifully regardless of face shape," she says.
Half up, half down
A textured pony at the crown works for almost everyone who wishes to rock it, no matter their texture, shade, or preference (yes, even for short-haired gals!). Another plus: It can conceal greasy roots until wash day. “I love a half up, half down style with a middle part as it offers a lot of room to play,” says Branch. “I think this technique also looks great with buns or braids added to the topmost portion. It’s a really fun, playful style.”
While there's an art to the messy bun, a smooth, slick style has an appeal of its own. The fast hairstyle looks professional and more high-maintenance than it really is. “A slicked back bun with a centered part always looks chic,” says Branch. "The style is great to show off your facial features, and you can add a wrap or headscarf to add a touch of personality."
Braids and barrettes
Maybe it’s the abundance of outgrown bangs and haircuts we’ve seen during quarantine, but Leigh Hardes, hairstylist and natural hair specialist at Maxine Salon, says there has been a major reemergence of both braids and barrettes this year. “I’m a big fan of braids in all shapes and styles, but with a middle part, I love when they are braided down on either side of the hair in pigtail style,” adds Branch. “There are so many ways to apply braids, but I find that this protective style really enhances all face shapes.”
Curly but not too curly, soft waves can mediate the severity of a middle part. You don’t need a beach trip or salt water to achieve the effortless look, either; use a curling iron with a larger barrel (or lived-in brands for a heatless option), then top everything off with a brushable hairspray for a natural, satin finish.
In case you haven’t heard, curtain bangs are the hottest take on fringe that lets you compromise on commitment. Longer strands of hair are swept to the sides of the temple—quite literally like curtains—across the forehead for a face-framing effect. Finish with a middle split to further complement the middle part.