Here's a twist on the blow-out salon trend: the braid bar.
From Fort Lauderdale to Tamarac to Delray Beach, braid bars and braiding services are popping up throughout South Florida, as the looping look crosses over to the mainstream for everyday use and for nighttime formal events.
"Braids, in particular, have become a huge fashion statement," celebrity stylist Ted Gibson said. "From red carpet events to going to the beach or going to dinner or hanging out with friends, braids have become, as far as hair is concerned, a fashion staple."
At his new braid bar, which opened this summer inside the Ted Gibson salon at The W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, locals and tourists sit in front of a designated counter and ask for side braids, milkbraids (think Swiss Miss), fishtail braids, headband braids — even Princess Leia twists. Braids run from $35 to $55 depending on the style.
Gibson salon manager Marjorie Calim said that by having a designated braid bar, "it's more private. You don't interfere with the other customers'' who are there for cuts and coloring.
"It makes it more exclusive to have a braid bar instead of having someone sit in one of our chairs and get braids," she added.
Kim Mury sat patiently on a cushy stool recently, as her locks of dark brown hair were turned into a fishbone braid. (It's called that because the back of the hair looks like a fish skeleton.)
Mury was inspired by fashion designer Lauren Conrad who posted online photos of herself wearing an intricate side braid.
"It was like a headband but it was a braid. It was so pretty,'' said Mury, 20, Fort Lauderdale. "It's like going from a day look to an evening look."
Over at the Erik Alan Davis Salon in downtown Fort Lauderdale, the most requested braid is the "waterfall," which has a braid in the back flanked by cascading hair. Prices here start at $25. Men are also coming in requesting customized braids, or what Davis described as "Mortal Kombat chic."
"What South Florida girl doesn't want a style that lasts them a week?'' said Erik Alan Davis, who began offering his braid bar service in April. "They can go from the beach to an upscale event and still feel put together. It gives women other options."
Simone Hylton, co-owner of Natural Trend Setters salon in Tamarac and Delray Beach, thinks braids are becoming even more popular thanks to celebrities such as Beyonce and Heidi Klum. The look is everywhere on social media, where people photos of themselves sporting various braid looks, as well as on TV shows and movies like HBO's "Game of Thrones" and "The Hunger Games."
"It's crossing racial barriers. Everyone is wearing braids, not just black girls. It's hot,'' said Hylton, adding that 60 percent of her business is now solely braids. "They are low-maintenance. Once you have them, you don't have to do anything to your hair. It's beautiful to look at."
At her salon, which specializes in styling hair naturally without chemicals, Hylton teaches employees the various ways to braid.
Among her customers' most requested styles: the Havana twist, which involves rows of fat braids.
"Braids keep the hair in control. They are also great to swim in,'' Hylton said. "Your hair is going to stay in a style, and with our climate here, it's really awesome."