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Ever wondered why you can't French braid your own hair? Or why your version of a bulky fishtail looks more like a sad, skimpy minnow? We talked to James Pecis, a hairstylist known for his intricate weaving techniques, for help acing our braids.

1.Get low 

If your braids are looking uptight, it's probably because they are up and tight. Start braiding a few inches down from your ears. This is the biggest difference between a sexy laid-back look and a playground style.

2. Gain weight

If you want a thicker, lusher braid, resist the urge to pull it apart. "That loosens short, spiky layers," says Pecis. Instead, gently massage it with your thumbs and forefingers until it's big and bulky. And, if your hair is really fine, prep strands with dry shampoo first for fullness.

3. Lose the mirror

"It's very confusing to try to follow what you see in the mirror, which is an inverse of what you're doing," says Pecis. Go by feeling instead. Yes, your braid might turn out a little less precise than you'd anticipated, but that messiness is what makes it sexy and cool.

4. Tie knots

Want a braid that looks totally different from everyone else's? Try tying knots. Take a small piece of hair from one side of your head, divide it in two, and tie it into a square knot (like the first step in tying a shoelace). Continue all the way across, creating a chain-link effect as you go. Secure with an elastic. You can apply this technique across the back of the head, the front of the hairline, or even down the top of the head for a unique twist. "It's the best style to get through the end of a New York summer," says Pecis.

For more tips on braids, ponytails, half-up styles, and more, check out the September issue of Allure, on stands now!

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