Pull out your floppy hat and get that mint julep mixing! Derby season is on its way and with it comes plenty of Southern-inspired hairstyles, makeup looks and ensembles. Though there are certain things that are most definitely bigger below the Mason-Dixon line (homes, dinner portions and grocery stores)—when it comes to hair, bigger isn’t always the case.
You might think of bouncy curls and high ponies, but the key to mastering a look appropriate for the likes of a Kentuckian is best described by the sweet motto of the American South: relaxed and simple. You want your look to be voluminous yet effortless—as if you rolled out of bed looking exactly like that—while also erring on the side of femininity.
Allen Ruiz, celebrity stylist and owner of Ruiz Salon gives his best tips for creating an Instagram worthy haircut for your Derby get-together, regardless if you’re there in person or just enjoying a cocktail from the comfort of your own rooftop.
Even if you’ve been using the same go-to products since you were a teenager, Ruiz says that every Southern hairstyle needs three key components to create that magic:
Though you’ll likely never see a Southern gal with her hair lying totally flight, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little extra help to get their tresses to rise to the heavens. “Volumizing tonic is a great foundation product for creating, you guessed it, volume,” Ruiz says. “Spray it on damp hair and blow-dry with a round brush for fullness and to lift your roots.”
If your grandpa used to keep a black comb in his back pocket—just in case he needed a touchup before Tuesday afternoon bingo, you’ve probably seen a fine-tooth comb in action. As Ruiz explains, “A fine-tooth comb can help to tease your hair by backcombing it to build volume and fullness.”
If you’re a child of the South, you can probably close your eyes and smell the hairspray. There’s nothing worse than that gentle Carolina (or Tennessee or Georgia) wind messing up your freshly-made look, so a true Southern hairstyle is ripe with hairspray to hold those strands in place. “A strong hairspray will help finish your voluminous style and of course, make sure it stays in place,” Ruiz says.
Now that your toolbox is prepped, it’s time to try your hand at some traditional Southern looks!
Vivacious curls that can make it through the humidity and those unpredictable Southern storms is a quintessential hairstyle for a Southern shindig. Ruiz suggests working with ½-inch sections of hair to make it manageable and stand out.
To begin, Ruiz says to lightly mist the volumizing hairspray on the piece you’re working with, right before you hold the curling iron horizontally and wrap your hair around the barrel to create large, loose curls. “Roll the iron toward the root and let your section set for 5 to 10 seconds and continue this technique throughout all sections of hair, making sure to alternate the directions you wrap the curl,” Ruiz says. “Once you’ve finished all sections, lightly break up your curls using your hands. Mist with a firm hold spray to set your style.”
Ponytails are not only practical and useful (especially when you’ve had one too many spiked sweet iced teas), but as your grandma likes to remind you, they pull your turkey neck back to make you look younger than any night cream could ever propose.
To pull off this look, Ruiz says to section the top portion of your hair from the top of your ears to the crown of your head. Then, backcomb using that nifty fine-tooth comb, creating volume as you go.
“Once you’re happy with the way the section looks, pin it in the back to secure,” he says. Then, sweep back the remaining hair into a ponytail and secure it with an elastic.” The last step? Hairspray, of course! “Use a fine-tooth comb and firm-hold hair spray to backcomb sections of your ponytail to help make it more full,” Ruiz says. “And if you want to hide the elastic, take a small 1-inch section out of the ponytail and wrap it around, securing with a pin.”
For the days when you just simply can’t, but you still want to look like you put yourself together (you do have a Derby party to get to, after all), a half-up and half-down pony with a touch of curl is the way to go.
The first step is to let your hair air dry if it’s naturally curly, or curl dirty hair for a better hold. Then, you’ll work from the back to the front. “Take a small section of hair from the crown and give it a little twist. Then secure it at the back of the head with a hair pin,” Ruiz says. “Go from side to side adding a little more hair each time. Then pin the section to secure the hair. It’s important not to pull the hair too tight, since you want the hair to still have some curl. Pulling it too hard will straighten the curl out. Once you have pinned the desired amount of hair, secure the final look with bobby pins. Then set and style with hairspray.”