21 Slicked-Back Hairstyles That Are Perfect For Any Occasion

Whether your hair is long or short, curly or straight, sometimes you just want to keep it out of your face for once — but hair clips aren't your thing, and headbands are just so yesterday. We get it, friend, and we have the solution. What is it, you may be wondering? Slicked-back hair is the modern solution to keeping hair out of your face without requiring any accessories, and TBH, we're kind of obsessed with the look.

To slick your hair back, you'll want to use a gel or pomade with medium hold or shine (depending on how "wet" of a look you're going for), and you'll want to apply it to clean, dry hair. Be careful not to use too much product, or your hair might end up looking stiff and greasy. Generally, though, a slicked-back look is a super easy solution to unruly hair that just won't stay in place no matter how hard you try. Want some inspo for your slicked-back look? We've got you covered — here are 21 of our favorite slicked-back hair looks sure to inspire your next 'do!

Slick a low pony

One of the easiest ways to achieve a slicked-back look is by slicking your hair into a ponytail. But wait, why would you want to slick your hair if you'll be pulling it all back anyway? Well, for starters, slicking your hair pre-ponytail can really mitigate any frizz or flyaways, preventing stray strands once you pull your hair into the ponytail. Slicking your hair before putting it in a ponytail will also prevent bumps and help you get an easy, sleek ponytail that will last all day long.

Get a nice and neat bun

Want to pull off the bun look? Apply some gel first for a nice, neat, slicked-back bun that will have everyone talking. Use just a bit of gel or pomade for a look that will stay in place effortlessly throughout the day without looking wet. Place your bun as high or low on your head as you'd like, and for bonus points, leave out a few side tendrils for added visual interest. 

Smooth some high pigtails

Want a playful slicked-back look? Go for a pair of high pigtails! High pigtails offer a fun style to any outfit, but when you slick back the top, they'll stay nice and neat no matter the occasion. Tie back your ponytails with some scrunchies for an extra youthful, playful twist on your 'do. 

Make a slicked pixie

If you're currently sporting a short pixie cut, make it sleek and modern by slicking it back into a stiff pixie haircut à la supermodel Twiggy. Slicking your pixie will give you a look with plenty of hold, which is great, especially if you're growing out your pixie. Slicking it also offers an easy solution to keeping it out of your face as you go about your day-to-day activities. Pin a barrette or some bobby pins in your hair to ensure your bangs stay out of the way all day. 

Do it with a messy bun

Even if you don't want a perfectly sleek look, you may still find yourself wanting to slick back your hair for some neatness, as in the case of the above messy bun. Pile your hair in your favorite, messiest bun on top of your head — but first, slick back the top and sides. This will allow the mess to stay where it belongs (in the bun) while the rest of your look is slick and conservative. 

Slick a half up, half down look

The next time you want a high power ponytail, why not do it as a half-up, half-down look? Grab your favorite gel or pomade and slick the top and sides of your hair back. Then, grab your favorite scrunchie (or other ponytail holder) and use it to secure the top layer of hair into a high ponytail on top of your head. This sleek look is perfect for any occasion, but we especially love wearing it to brunch and work conventions. 

Keep your middle part

When you slick your hair back, you don't have to bring all of it straight back — why not keep a part in it? The middle part's reign is only beginning, so the next time you apply your favorite slicking agent to your head, slick the sides down the middle so you wind up with that middle part you're obsessed with. A middle part adds an edge of classy sophistication to your look, and we love this no matter what slicked back 'do you're sporting that day. 

Or sweep it to the side

If middle parts aren't for you, not to worry: Just go ahead and slick it all to one side. A side-swept 'do might call back to the '80s or '90s, but it'll do so in the best way possible. Pin some bangs back, keep them loose, or slick them to the side of your head for a look that'll have all your friends talking. 

Do a non-traditional part

If middle and side parts bore you, maybe you want to try a non-traditional part. Slicked-back hairstyles are a great option when you want to emphasize a zigzag or otherwise angled part. You'll want to slick all the hair that isn't tied back for maximum effect. To pull off the look above, slick your hair into a zigzag part, and form two low space buns out of your remaining hair. 

Keep short hair out of your face

You can also use a slicked-back style on short hair to keep it out of your face as you walk through your day. The slicked-back look on short hair often offers a hint of edge and sophistication, not to mention you'll be able to see all the emails you've been receiving without hair getting in your face. It's a win-win for everyone involved, really. 

Slick it into a braid

Don't want to just slick back all your hair willy-nilly? We don't blame you. If slicked styles are a bit intimidating, try slicking your hair into a style you're already comfortable with, like a braid or a braided ponytail. Slicking your hair back before you do the 'do helps mitigate any stray strands or flyaways you may otherwise encounter, leaving you to get your girl boss on without worrying about hair getting in your face. 

Keep long hair out of the way

Of course, if you love to leave your hair long and loose, there's a slicked-back style perfect for you, too — just slick your long hair back a bit. Using just a small dollop of gel or pomade to sweep your hair out of your face will help you retain your long, luscious locks without worrying about them obstructing your view. 

Give it some volume

Believe it or not, you can also use a gel to get a voluptuous, volumized 'do that'll leave all your friends jealous. To achieve this look, apply some volumizing spray to clean, dry hair; then, run your fingers through it with a gel or pomade for a swept-back, poofed-up hairdo that you'll find yourself going for again and again. 

Slick back space buns

Believe it or not, slicked-back hair doesn't always have to signify a nice and neat hairstyle; in fact, sometimes slicked-back fronts just allow the rest of your 'do to shine in all its glory. The next time you're considering slicking back your hair, try putting the rest of it into a couple of high space buns for a neat and sleek look that's still playful enough to let everyone know you love a good time. 

Make it look wet

Of course, you don't have to hide the fact that your hair's been slicked back with a copious amount of gel. Why not flaunt that wet hair look? To achieve this, use a bit more gel than you normally would. Apply to the length of your hair, focusing on the roots, and sweep it back until you've got a stiff, slicked-back look that'll have all your friends talking. 

Just slick down the sides

You don't have to go for the wet look if you don't want to — In fact, you can slick your hair without making it look slick at all. Slicking your hair is a perfect solution when you want to mitigate frizz and flyaways, meaning you're perfectly free to just slick down the sides if you wanted. To do this, apply a minuscule amount of your favorite gel or pomade to your palms before running them through the sides of your hair. Your hair should stay in place without feeling sticky. 

Leave out some tiny tendrils

If you want a neat look that still gives a bit of edge, slick back your whole hairdo while leaving out a couple of curly tendrils. The small curls could be just in front of your ears or closer to the front of your face. If you don't have naturally curly hair and want to make your look extra put-together, curl your tendrils with a small barrel curling iron and be sure to set them with some light-hold hairspray for a look that will last all day long. 

Showcase your ombré

If your hair is currently some form of ombré, a slicked-back look is a great way to emphasize the color change from roots to ends. Ombré colors tend to get camouflaged in certain styles; why not let them stand out by slicking your hair straight back? This will let the color transition shine for a stunning look that will have all your friends asking where you got your hair done. 

Slick and pin back the sides

Sometimes you only want to slick your hair to get your bangs out of your face, and that's perfectly fine! To achieve a nice, neat look that won't get in your way no matter what you have going on during your day, slick back the sides of your hair and then pin them to your head so they stay out of the way. Leave the rest of your hair loose when you want to go casual or tie it back into a twisted bun for a bit of a more formal vibe. 

Only slick it a little bit

When you want to get an ultra-natural look but your hair is just too frizzy not to do anything to it, just apply a bit of gel to tame the flyaways before doing the rest of your 'do. This look doesn't have the plastered-to-your-head look that's common with slicked-back hairdos, but it gives enough hold to make your look nice and neat. Apply dime-sized amounts to your hair at a time until you have the hold you're looking for. 

Braid a high slicked pony

The next time you want to go for a nice, sleek ponytail, use some gel to slick it back first — and then braid it! A sleek, braided ponytail is a timeless and sophisticated look that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Tie a scrunchie at the top and end of the braided ponytail when you want a more casual look, or use small plastic hair ties when you want to be more inconspicuous.