+ Hairstyles

Hair Tutorial: The Sock Bun

Wandering around the Hill yesterday on a slightly warm, humid day, I saw a lot of faux updos.  What do I mean by the term faux updo?  Allow me to show you.

This is a faux updo.  Sometimes called the Meredith Grey, this “hair style” happens when a woman pulls her ponytail halfway through the elastic.  This creates a flaccid mound of hair that just hangs there, lifeless and unloved.  It’s a look that says, “I could have done my hair today, but that would have required effort.”  

Harsh words aside, the faux updo is no one’s best look.  The truth is that you are better off with a basic ponytail (low, medium or high) than you are with this hairstyle identity crisis (Am I a bun? Am I a ponytail? Someone fetch my lithium.).  Or you can take the route that a lot of women (esp. fashion bloggers) are taking and go for a sock bun.

The original sock bun tutorial that took Pinterest by storm, comes from Three Pink Dots.  And while I think it is still the best tutorial, there are some tips that Virginia and I think you should be aware of before you start cutting up the contents of your sock drawer and turning them into hair accessories.

Choose a sock the same color as your hair.  If you’re blonde, try to find a tan sock, brunettes dark brown, black sock for black hair and for you gingers out there, I would recommend either a medium brown or a maroon sock, if you can find one.  This seems like a pretty simple thing to do, but just yesterday, I saw a woman wearing a navy blue sock in her blond hair.  This is no bueno.

Choose a light to medium weight sock.  The author at Three Pink Dots actually used a tube sock, and since she has a lot of think hair, it worked for her.  But for the VAST majority of us, a light to medium weight sock is preferable.  In fact, men’s silk socks are perfect for this.  Why?  

Because the thicker the sock, the more hair it takes to cover the sock.  The more likely it is that you’ll have some sock showing (see the first tip), and the more obvious it will be that that bun is not au naturale.  Quelle horreur.

Smooth and tuck the flyaways away.  By far the biggest mistake women make with the sock bun is that they don’t tuck away the flyaways.  As a result, the bun looks messy and unkempt, a bit like you napped on it.  So grab a can of hairspray and some bobby pins and make sure that the hair is as smooth and flyaway-free as you can make it.  

Smoothing flyaways is especially critical for those of you with layered hairstyles.  If you don’t pin like your life depends on it, you’ll wind up with gym hair.  And you do not go to work with gym hair. (This also applies to wet hair and dirty hair.)

The placement of the bun defines the look.  A high bun is fashion-y and trendy.  A bun in the middle of the head is a bit more subdued.  And a low bun is all business.  Where you place your bun determines the message that the hairstyle is sending.  

Virginia thinks that to be successfully executed, the bun needs to be higher.  But, she believes that the higher bun is only appropriate for recess.  I’m a bit more forgiving on the question of work appropriateness, believing that as long as every other piece of clothing and accessory on your body is work appropriate, you can get away with the sock bun anytime.  

To sum up, if you intend to wear a sock bun, don’t be lazy about it.  Just because this is supposed to be an easy solution doesn’t mean that it won’t take time and attention to get it right.  Because if you can master the technique, I may never have to see another Meredith Grey faux updo again.  From my lips, to God’s ears.

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  1. E says:

    This works wonders for me: https://www.soap.com/p/conair-bun-maker-set-158711

    I didn't like the idea of using a sock – plus this one can be pierced with some bobby pins. I highly recommend it!

    Yay for nice buns on the Hill! Haha!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  2. Lindsey says:

    Or, people could stop cutting up their socks and use one of those “perfect bun maker” things. I got mine at CVS for $3.99. They started selling them in the check out bins at H&M too. Seriously, people, just get one. https://www.amazon.com/Conair-Bun-Maker-1-set/dp/B004ROW0QM

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  3. E says:

    I don't understand step 4… start rolling the edges under, inside out? Edges of what, the sock?


    March 20, 2012/Reply
  4. JS says:

    Belle, these are great and I know people are clamoring for long hair tips…but I walked away from long hair long ago and have never looked back. I love my short hair, but would love to hear any ideas you have for accessories, etc.

    Otherwise, love the blog! Thanks!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  5. Mary says:

    I'm using the sock bun today! I love it!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  6. jen says:

    I am a massive fan of the sock bun, and couldn't agree more with your tips. I'm a blonde and use a light tan sock. I also use a very thin sock, even though my hair is quite thick. It hides much better.

    Also, the sock bun is fantastic as a curl/wave creator. Put in a high bun with wet or damp hair before bed, and you wake up with some very natural looking waves!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  7. Nicole says:

    Hi all who have tried this-

    Do you think it is possible for someone with curly hair to do this? I do not have ringlets by any means, but it is pretty curly and VERY thick. I hate the way my hair looks in a pony tail so I'm willing to try!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  8. Ellie says:

    Nicole– I think the thicker, the better!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  9. Nancy says:


    I have curly think hair and have had moderate success with the sock bun. I absolutely love the look but think that a sock bun looks best when top of your hair is straight (the part not in your bun). I have definitely worn it outside of the office but find that the bun part is not as polished because my 'ringlet ends' stick out by the end of the day. It really requires a lot of pinning but it's not impossible. Hope this helps! Be sure to try it out. Your hair texture may work better if it's less curly!

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  10. Lindsey says:


    I think this works better when my hair has more texture – it's naturally straight and so if I curl it with a wand first and add some hairspray then I think it holds better in the bun. Also, depending on how long your hair is, have you tried spin pins? Again, if my hair has a bit of texture then I'll put it in a ponytail and then tease it a bit and work it into a bun and use the spin pins to secure it.

    March 20, 2012/Reply
  11. Dawn says:

    What a throwback! I haven't had hair long enough to put in a bun since I was in grade school, but we had an endless array of cut up socks in my house for sock buns!

    March 21, 2012/Reply
  12. MX says:

    ob-sessed. i'm so desperate for quick, professional-looking hair dos that I cut up a sock on the spot! thank you for this, and keep em coming!

    March 21, 2012/Reply
  13. Megs says:

    Yay for Pinterest…but also yay for women serving in the military! A very tight and professional sock bun is the expectation for women in several of the branches, especially if they are enlisted.

    March 22, 2012/Reply
  14. CPT says:

    I am in the military and see this look all the time. Not a hair out of place, and shellacked to stay in looking professional all day. So funny to see it here too! Megs is right–most enlisted women with long hair use this style every day.

    March 22, 2012/Reply
  15. Jen says:

    A military staple! I gave up the French braid for this, traveled throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, the sock bun stays in place! I tend towards “shellacked in place,” aspire to this slightly messier and casual look, since it's not exactly easy to transition severe sock bun to evening.

    March 23, 2012/Reply