African hair braiding is an ancient art that is an important part of the African culture, and has its roots in 3500 BC Egypt. In the ancient times, every tribe had a distinctive form of braid which was used to identify members of that tribe, their age, marital status, wealth, social status etc. Hair braiding was an act of trust and intimacy, and was usually carried out by mothers and grandmothers. Since it is an intricate and time consuming process, hair braiding was a time for bonding among the women of the tribe. The villagers used to apply Shea oil, palm butter or argan oil to the hair before braiding, which further nourished and strengthened the hair.
In African culture, an individual with well groomed and braided hair is considered to be healthy and well-mannered. Women wearing braids attract good partners and it also protected their hair during fire dances. Untamed and loose hair is discouraged as it gathers dirt and is considered to be a sign of mourning.
There are certain complex designs that are reserved for important social or cultural events like marriages, rites of passages etc. Aside from being deeply rooted in African tradition, the various African American Braided Hairstyles can also be a fashion statement. African hair braiding protects the hair from harsh environmental conditions, and makes it stronger and thicker. There are several types of African American Braided Hairstyles that can be done by trained professionals in salons all over the US.
1)The most common style is the Country plait. It consists of braids laid flat on the scalp and is done by weaving each section of hair into overlapping braids. It gives a chic and sleek look and is perfect for all hair lengths.
2)Another popular style is Cornrows. It is very similar to country plaits but there is a difference in technique that gives cornrows a completely unique look. The sections of hair are woven underneath each other and the braids are laid flat on the scalp which gives it a raised effect.The braids can be made of varying length and thickness – thinner braids are more time consuming but also create a more intricate pattern.The braids are further styled into patterns like spirals, linear rows or curves.
3)Apart from these styles there is also the Single braid, where sections of hair are braided till the very end. With these fundamental techniques in hand, one can experiment with the size and parting of braids to create fresh new styles.
The popularity of African American Braiding Hairstyles is steadily on the rise, and has been adopted by several celebrities too. With some creativity and practice one can create a variety of styles like braided buns, goddess braids, box plaits, twist braids, tree braids or twisted rope braids to name a few. Braids have been ‘in-fashion’ and stylish for a very long time, and with their recent popularity and revival they are expected to garner praise for years to come.
Below is a collection of some of my favorite braided hairstyles!