The Fascinating History of Tribal African Braids You Never Knew About

African braids

Braids are more than just a hairstyle. They have a long and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. From the Himba people of Namibia to modern-day Harlem braiding studios, braids have been a sign of societal status, ethnicity, religion, and more. In this article, we’ll explore the origin of braids, their evolution over time, and the cultural context in which they exist.

African Braids 2
African Braids

The Origin of African Braids

Braids have been popular for 5000 years in African culture, dating back to 3500 BC. The Himba people of Namibia are believed to have been the first to braid their hair, and many African tribes used braided hairstyles to identify each tribe. Braid patterns and hairstyles were an indication of a person’s tribe, age, marital status, wealth, power, and religion. Braiding was and is a social art, with elders teaching children and younger children practicing on each other.

ALSO READ: 30 Half Fulani Tribal Braids Half Knotless Braids Hairstyles                      

What Is The Difference Between Fulani And Tribal Braids?

As braids spread across the world, different cultures put their own spin on the style. Cornrows originated in Africa in 3500 BC, afro box braids in Egypt in 3100 BC, the halo braid in Greece in the first century, pigtail braids in Native American culture in the fifth century, the crown braid in Europe from 1066 to 1485, the staircase braid in China from 1644 to 1912, and modern cornrows in the Caribbean in the 1970s. The Internet has also played a role in the evolution of braids, with braid tutorials becoming popular on YouTube since 2005.

African Braids 3
African Braids

The Evolution of African Braids

While braid patterns have remained the same over time, the way they are worn has evolved. Men and women who wouldn’t have worn braids in the past now embrace them, and women are approaching the style in different ways. From clean lines to messy and organic braids, women are taking a fresh approach to the style. Messier and freer styles of braids that don’t have to be tight or perfect are also becoming popular. In African American communities, braiding studios such as those in Harlem have become a symbol of unity and embrace of historical culture.

The Cultural Context of Braids

Braids have cultural significance beyond just being a hairstyle. They are a form of art, and people of all ages and ethnicities get their hair braided on a day-to-day basis. Among African Americans, braids are a go-to style for women with natural textures. Braids serve as a form of protective styling, protecting natural hair from heat damage and humidity. They are also a way to express cultural identity and unity.

African Braids
African Braids

In conclusion, the history of braids is a long and fascinating one that spans thousands of years and many cultures. From the Himba people of Namibia to modern-day Harlem braiding studios, braids have evolved but their significance remains the same. As Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist and brand ambassador for Schwarzkopf, says, “Braids will never be out of the picture. They’re always going to be fashionable because they’re practical and chic.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of braids?

Braids can be traced back to African culture around 3500 BC and were very popular among women.

How did braiding become a form of art?

In many African tribes, braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe. Braid patterns and hairstyles were an indication of a person’s tribe, age, marital status, wealth, power, and religion. Braiding was and is a social art.

How have braids evolved over time?

While braiding patterns have remained the same, the styles and expressions have changed. In today’s culture, braids are adorned, worn, and praised in many different ways. Men and women who wouldn’t have worn them previously now embrace them.

Why are braids a go-to style for African Americans with natural textures?

Wearing braids protects natural hair from heat damage and humidity, making it a popular form of protective styling.

Are braids still fashionable?

According to Nunzio Saviano, braids will never be out of the picture. They’re always going to be fashionable because they’re practical and chic.

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Sources: 

Byrdie. The Fascinating History of Braids You Never Knew About. 

https://www.byrdie.com/history-of-braids

Amplify Africa. The Rich History of Braids. 

https://www.amplifyafrica.org/post/the-rich-history-of-braids

Paforfashion: Knotless Braids 2023: 18 New Looks:

Ebena. Fulani Braids. https://ebena.net/style/tribal-fulani-braids/6685

Ebena. Ghana Braids. https://ebena.net/style/ghana-braids/914

Ebena. Box Braids. https://ebena.net/style/box-braids/43

Onchek. 6 Popular Braiding Styles and Their True Origin. 

https://www.onchek.com/theinsight/6-popular-braiding-styles-their-true-origin/

Ebena. Stitch Braids. https://ebena.net/style/stitch-braids/84

The Trend Spotter. 25 Hottest Tribal Braids to Copy.

https://www.thetrendspotter.net/tribal-braids/

Bukola Braiding. Simple Steps to Hair Braiding.

http://www.bukolabraiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Simple-Steps-to-Hair-Braiding.doc.pdf

Essence. How to Wash Braids. https://www.essence.com/hair/braids/how-to-wash-braids/

Outsons. How Long Does Your Hair Have to Be to Braid? 

Stylist. How to Refresh Your Braids: Simple Tips to Make Your Braided Style Last Longer. 

https://www.stylist.co.uk/beauty/braids-how-to-maintain-keep-in-longer-tight-fresh-braids-twists/330285

Thirsty Roots. 7 Tips for Maintaining Braids or Twists. 

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