From Frances Cutri elongates the head shape to form this hair style

The traditional French Roll is on the back of the head and twists up from the nape of the neck like this one from Frances Cutri above or Ali Holmes to the right.


Classic bridal hair the French roll  from Sharon Blain


The French Roll

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The French Roll is hair ups neat, classic and sophisticated hair style that makes good use of a few bobby pins and some backcombing. This hair style is the one to get you a job or impress at the cocktail party, for weddings and prom nights it is aways a favourite. The five second 'thrown up' variationof a French roll, often using a claw clip, is a simple way to get your hair off your face and offers a great alternative to the ponytail, pigtail or plait for mid to long hair lengths.

Ali Holmes WildLife Hairdressing

The shorter hair version of the French roll also makes your hair look longer than it really is. When I talk about short hair your hair would need to be 4cm (1/2 inch) plus in the nape and long enough at the sides to pull back and reach an imaginary center parting down the back of your head.

Tools and other bits and pieces you will need:

  • Hairspray (we love Freeze from OSIS)
  • Hair pins or grips to match hair colour
  • Paddle brush (best type of brush for a smooth effect
  • Pin-tail comb (I prefer a metal tail comb but a plastic tail will do)

For Shorter Hair:

  • To begin this hair style imagine the center back parting we just spoke about and then backcombing the area about 2 cm (3/4 inch) either side of it.
  • Using a paddle brush, smooth the top and sides of your hair back towards this section. If you have a fringe or shorter pieces of hair around the face you can choose to leave them out or hairspray them into a smooth look at the end.
  • Put your brush down at this point as it is easier with both hands free.
  • Draw your hair back, by smoothing it with your palms, into the nape of your neck. If it begins to get 'electric', spray a little hair spray onto your palms.
  • Twist the gathered hair in on itself and upwards, the direction doesn't matter and rather depends on whether you are right or left-handed. Any hair that does not quite reach also does not matter, as we will deal with that later. The trick here is low and tight into the nape, rather like making a ponytail.

  • Once you have the hair twisted up against the back of your head you will find you can hold it with one hand and pin with the other.
  • Once you have the first few pins in and the hair no longer feels like it will fall down if you let go, check what it looks like using a second mirror. The tip here is to put your back to the larger wall mirror and using even the smallest of hand mirrors you will be able to angle it to see everything.

  • Now you can begin to use your tail-comb (fine toothed comb with long pin like handle) to poke in the loose bits and ends of your hair and pin. Use your hairspray as glue for any really short bits.

NOTE: If the tips of your hair protrude out of the top you have longer hair than you thought so follow instructions for a long French roll.

For longer hair:

If your hair is long then the French roll becomes so easy to do, with just a little practice, that you may end up wearing it as often as you would a ponytail.

Tools and other bits and pieces:

  • Hair pins or grips to match hair colour
  • Paddle brush (best type of brush for a smooth effect)
  • Pin-tail comb (I prefer a metal tail comb but a plastic tail will do)


  • Draw your hair away from your face and low into the nape. For a neater look use a brush, for a casual look simple use your hands.
  • Twist the hair together firmly as if into a ponytail. The firmness at the base of the roll prevents it becoming loose and baggy if it rubs on your collar.

  • Direct the hair upwards along the centerline of your head and twist more loosely.
  • Fold the ponytail so that is does not stick out over the top of your head.
  • Tuck the folded end under the rest of your hair to form a base.
  • Using your pins or grips secure your hair along the folded seam so that the pins are hidden.

An alternative is to use a claw clamp to secure the roll. I personally find these too small for really long hair and they make the look into something far less sexy or sophisticated than it can be.

For that casual, yet sexy feel, let some strands fall out around the face and neck. To separate them and give added texture, use a little gel, gloss or pomade/light wax. Rub it through your finger tips and then stroke them through your hair. Don't over do the products: less is more.

This very low into the nape version of a roll could also be something you might want to try for a variation:

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