To say that braid hairstyles fit absolutely everyone would be the understatement of the year. Every single person can wear braids no matter the age, skin color, or occupation. Even men! So we’ve seen actresses, school teachers and students alike, girls going to the gym, brides, grandmas, and little girls all wearing different types of braid hairstyles. That’s how versatile and generally loved braids are.
But is there more to this amazing hairstyle? Of course there is! Braids have been around for far longer than anyone imagines. Both women and men having been wearing braid hairstyles for thousands of years. So let’s talk about that, as well as the ethical issue surrounding braids, how to wear them, maintenance tips, and some pros and cons!
The History of Braid Hairstyles
Despite popular belief, the history of braid hairstyles started a very long time ago. Some might venture the idea that it only began 5,000 years ago while others could even tell you that braids belong to modern culture.
In fact, the oldest known representation of braids comes from no less than 25,000 years ago. It can be seen on a small statue called the Venus of Brassempouy that was found in a cave in France in the 1800s. The statue was made by the Gravettian culture who lived in Europe in prehistory.
However, braid hairstyles became an immensely popular hairstyle during the Bronze Age, some 5000 to 3000 years ago. That is when historical sources show women wearing braids almost all over the world. This includes the Near East and Asia Minor, most of the ancient cultures in Europe, the ancient Egyptians, and North Africans.
Some interesting examples from the ancient world are provided by the Egyptians. Here, both boys and girls would shave their heads entirely save for one long strand of hair on the side of their heads which they would then braid. This was called ‘the lock of youth.’
However, if we were to go looking for aesthetics alone in terms of braid hairstyles in the ancient world, the prize would have to be given to the ancient Greeks. Who hasn’t seen the superb sculptures of caryatids wearing fishtail braids? Later on, ancient Roman women would copy that style by braiding their hair into very thin and long braids that they would coil around their heads.
Braid Hairstyles in the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages were a period in our history were modesty was a very prized quality for women. They would have to grow they hair as long as possible but also be careful not to embellish it too much or wear any makeup. Therefore, braids became a way to beautify themselves. Hairstyles always included braids. They ranged from two simple ones on each side of the head to very complicated patterns at the back of the head to which ribbons or meshes were added.
Not just that, but if you ever thought that faux braids or extensions were a modern invention, think again! Women have been adding fake braids to their hair for the past 500 years. That’s right. Braid hairstyles were so fashionable in the Middle Ages that women would actually buy fake braids for themselves. They were extremely intricate and women resorted to this solution because they couldn’t get their own hair to braid like that. Much like today!
Another thing we have in common with our women ancestors from 500 years ago is that they also used synthetic fake braids. When they could get or couldn’t afford real human hair braids, they would use synthetic ones.
Braid Hairstyles in the XXth Century
Let’s jump all the way to the XXth century. Even though the passion for braid hairstyles never subsided after the madness of the Middle Ages, it did dwindle down a little. Women went through the Victorian Age which was far more subdued and forced them to be as natural and strict as possible.
However, when the Victorian Age ended and the Edwardian one started immediately after, a new type of woman rolled in. She was modern, very feminine, she wore beautiful dresses that celebrated her figure, she used makeup, and, of course, braids were back in!
But even though things were changing for women at the beginning of the 1900s never to be the same again, one thing remained the same. They still used fake braids and buns!
What about today? In the modern era, braids have become a bit of a debatable topic. More and more people have started to associate braids with the African or black culture. This has also sparked the idea that everyone else not belonging to that culture but who wears braids is guilty of cultural appropriation and should stop. But is that true?
Braid Hairstyles and Cultural Appropriation
Here’s a fact. If you do a simple Google search for ‘braids’ or ‘braid hairstyles’ the main images that come up are of African women. The main results you get are articles referring to African-American hairstyles that involve braids. This is undoubtedly connected to the idea that braids belong to the black culture. And that braids should only be worn by women. (Which they shouldn’t, but that is another topic for another article).
But it also normalizes the idea that everyone else who wears braids is guilty of cultural appropriation. But is that really the case?
The answer is no. The simple reason being that, as we’ve shown above, the oldest representation ever found wearing braids dates from 25,000 years ago and was located in a cave in France. So far, there is no sign of the African culture wearing braid hairstyles first. So what’s the problem? This is where things get a little more complicated.
The ethics of braids
One of the main reasons why white people wearing braids is difficult for some black people is because for them it’s just a fad or a trend. Whereas braids actually have a cultural significance for black people and represent a message whenever they wear them, for white people they are just another hairstyle.
For hundreds of years, black people have been forced to change who they are so that they could ‘fit in better’ with the western white ideal. This has meant changing their clothes, language, and yes, hairstyles. In fact, there have been instances even in recent years when black women have been asked to straighten their hair or cut their braids because they don’t conform to the dress code of their work place.
However, when white people wear braids, they don’t share the same demeaning and embarrassing experience. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most white people are celebrated for wearing braids as something fun, quirky and cool they are doing. This is what might make black people feel frustrated.
Which is why it’s always a good idea to show empathy and respect. Still, that doesn’t mean that any culture can claim braids for their own. We have seen how so many ancient peoples used to wear braids. Can you now tell a Greek woman to stop wearing braids? She’ll just point to an ancient statue and tell you that you’re wrong. And the debate continues.
How to Maintain Braids
Honesty time! As beautiful as they are, braids are a major investment, both when it comes to time and money. But you knew that. So who wants to waste all that time and spend all that money just to see it all go down the drain after just a few washes? That’s right, no one! So here are some tips you can follow to maintain those gorgeous braid hairstyles of yours!
Always protect your braids while you sleep
This means using a silk pillow case as well as a silk head scarf. If you can’t afford silk, a satin one will do. But keep in mind that you have to stay away from cotton! While very comfortable, cotton will only fray your braids and cause a lot of lint that will end up depositing in the braid. Apart from that, cotton will make you sweat. The moisture will get trapped inside the braids, damaging them in the long run. The smoothness of the silk or satin prevents all that.
You might also like to read – Top 80 Stylish Box Braids Hairstyles for the Black Woman
Only use natural products as a moisturizer
In other words, do not use mineral oils! It could be a little bit difficult, because most cosmetic products have mineral oils. Examples include petrolatum liquid, white oil, petroleum oil, liquid paraffin, and paraffin oil among others.
Read the label before buying any product that is supposed to moisturize your hair or scalp. If it says mineral oils included, try to stay away from it. Instead, opt for products that have natural oils in them such as almond oil or coconut oil. If you want a boost that lasts longer, go for a leave in conditioner that’s natural.
Wash your hair at least once a week
Just because you have braid hairstyles now, that doesn’t mean your hair care routine has to change. You need to wash your braids at least once per week. That’s because all the sweat and dirt building up during the day are a veritable recipe for disaster. Remember to moisturize while in the shower!
Try not to pull on your braids
This means don’t rely on ponytails and high buns as your day to day looks. This type of hairstyle will put immense pressure on your braids, and weaken your roots. We don’t have to tell you that your roots are going through a hard time as it is. Therefore, there is no need to add a secondary source of strain. Allow your braids to breathe freely!
Go in for maintenance every six weeks
This is not set in stone. It all depends on how fast your hair grows. However, on average the human hair grows half an inch every month. Therefore, you will have to schedule a visit with your favorite salon every five to six weeks. When you have growth, you will need to ask them to re-braid it. Some re-tightening might also be needed. If you want, you can learn to do it on your own at home as well.
Do not wear braids for too long!
Just like we already mentioned, given the fact that they are so costly, braid hairstyles might tempt you into leaving them in for longer than you should. But that’s a very big mistake! If you wear braids more than you have to, your hair will start to loc inside the braids themselves. It will then become very difficult to unbraid and untangle it, and it might even need to cut it off.
The rule of thumb here is that the more voluminous your braids are, the less time you can have them on. It’s quite simple to understand. Big, chunky braids always frizz out more whereas slimmer ones, which are tighter, can last longer.
Even so, you should only keep a set of braids in for up to eight weeks. After that, go back in and have your hair re-braided. But don’t forget to allow your hair to rest for a week or two before you braid it again. Keeping the strands in the constant strain of braiding is not healthy.
The Pros and Cons of Braid Hairstyles
They are big, bold, and beautiful. They will get you noticed in a crowd, and they will be the talk of the party when you get them. But are there any cons to braid hairstyles? Let’s make a quick pros and cons list that could help all the indecisive people out there!
Braids are a long term hairstyle
As noted above, braids are meant to stay in for up to two months. As a result, they will be the break you have always craved from styling your hair every single day. No more wasting time in front of the mirror, no more being late for work or for a date! In fact, when the two months are up, all you need to do is refresh them a bit, and you’re good to go!
Braids are the best protective hairstyle we know of
Of course, they are so aesthetically pleasing. But they have a secondary, no less important role in our lives. Braids are here to protect your precious tresses. Just think about it. When your hair is tucked away into those neat little rows of braids, the strands and tips are always protected against wind, rain, snow, and pollution.
This is a very low maintenance hairstyle
In fact, it’s so low maintenance that all you need to do is wake up… and go. We mean it! Of course, you still have your hygiene routine to go through. It requires washing your braids twice a week and then spraying your braids and scalp with moisturizing solution. It will make sure you’re comfortable. But apart from that, there’s nothing more you need to do!
There are tens of types of braids
We mean it. There is a whole catalogue of braid styles out there for you to try. It ranges from Ghana braids to goddess braids to jumbo and box braids and let’s not forget about the Senegalese twist. Of course, you also have the French braid, the Dutch braid, boxer braids, plain old three strand plaits like you used to do in school, and that’s just naming a few. The sky’s the limit!
Braids are amazing on vacations
If you have curly or kinky hair and are going on holiday to a place with high humidity, braid hairstyles are suddenly your best friends! Not only will they protect you from the harsh breezes and sand, but they will also keep your hair from absorbing moisture and getting frizzy.
Braided hair is prone to breakage
It’s important to understand that braiding your hair and wearing it in this style for extended periods of time can and will lead to it breaking. Braids tend to weaken the hair as well as your roots simply because of the pressure of the sheer weight. Sometimes the hair itself can break causing rupture somewhere along the length of the braid. Other times the braids can break off right at the root.
Another important thing worth mentioning here is the added weight that comes with extensions. Independently of whether they are natural or synthetic, hair extensions are very heavy. To create fake braids, stylists usually use a large quantity of extensions that can lead to enormous pressure on your head and scalp. This can, in turn, cause breakage and headaches. Please proceed with caution.
Braids are expensive!
Surely enough, you can learn how to create braid hairstyles at home. However, most women choose to go to a salon because braiding is almost always best left to the deft hands of the experts. However, this might prove to be a very costly experience.
Especially if you’re getting very long or very thin braids, colored braids or if you want extensions. These are the ones that cost the most.
Be prepared to pay for it all again in eight weeks when you have to get your hair re-braided!
The process of braiding is long
Once again, it all depends on you. In fact, it depends on your hair to be more precise. If your hair is long and you want thin braids, it will take around eight hours. It can even take more if you want extensions. You need to be aware of this before going to the salon. Discuss your options with your stylist and whether or not you should divide the process into two sessions.
Braid hairstyles are not professional
In the corporate world and some other industries, braid hairstyles are not considered appropriate or official. Therefore, if you are preparing for such a career or if you already have an office job, please think carefully before choosing braid hairstyles. The best thing to do would be to consult your HR department and find out their opinion on the matter. If not, you might be asked to remove them or cut your hair altogether!
It’s difficult to sleep with braids!
Most women who have had braids at least once in their life say the exact same thing. It takes a long time to get used to sleeping with braids. That’s because of their weight and texture. In other words, braids are both heavy and somewhat ‘lumpy’ against the pillow. Keep that in mind before you get your hair braided!
Goddess Braids High Bun
This has to be one of the most common and well loved braid hairstyles out there. It consists of a set of perfect goddess braids that have been put up in a gorgeous top bun. The one thing that should catch your eye and use as inspiration is the glossy effect on the braids themselves. If you want to replicate that, you can use some leave in hair oil that will bring out your natural hair color and keep your braids healthy and hydrated.
Rita Ora Pencil Braids
Here’s a small set of pencil braids courtesy of singer Rita Ora. The name pencil braids comes from the fact that they are so long and thin. Of course, most women usually get a whole head of pencil braids. But Rita has opted to have just a few.
Her three small braids start right at the forehead line and continue with the ponytail. It’s definitely a style that suits her and one that you can easily copy at home!
Jessica Simpson Braid Hairstyles
Do you remember back in the day when every girl wanted to be like Jessica Simpson? She was the epitome of the American Girl. Jessica was cool, thin, and had long, blonde hair. Luckily things have changed a bit since then and we now like some more diversity.
But even so, we cannot deny that some of her hairstyles are still worthy of remembering. For example, here is one that you can still wear today. Of course, it is quite lavish and might be thought of as matronly, but you can wear it to a formal event, a wedding or your prom.
Jessica is wearing a massive low bun that quite resembles a beehive construction wise. The braids that surround it are classic three strand braids. The entire design reminds us of traditional Ancient Roman hairstyles, which is absolutely fantastic.
As a disclaimer, Jessica is probably wearing hair extensions to get the beehive bun to that massive volume. Apart from that, the braids you see on top are aso not real. Therefore, you can take that into account if you want to try and copy this hairstyle.
Selena Gomez Braid Fauxhawk
We’re just going to say it. This might be one of the coolest hairstyles Selena Gomez has ever worn on the red carpet or off it! She usually has amazing hair, but this one simply topped them all off!
If you’re wondering, this is a fauxhawk or a faux (fake) Mohawk. It’s made of a long braid that goes all the way from the top of her head and down her back where it finishes with a messy three strand plait. Selena also has a pompadour in the front, which makes this hairstyle even more badass.
Do you want to know another secret? This hairstyle is super easy to replicate at home. You will have to spend a few hours practicing, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to wear anything else when you go out, go to a party or on a date!
Orange Braid Hairstyles
If you’re in the mood for something fun and uplifting, orange braid hairstyles will do just that for you. Or if you’re looking for the perfect hairstyle for summer or a music festival. There are several ways in which you can get neon orange braids.
You can have your own hair dyed, surely. But we must warn you that this is the hard way to do it. Or you can get extensions. Depending on your budget, they can be natural, Remy hair extensions which will be dyed orange. Or they can be synthetic ones made from plastic fibers or yarn. It’s all up to you!
Beyonce Braid Hairstyles
It wouldn’t really be an article about braids if we didn’t talk a little bit about Beyonce. In fact, it wouldn’t be an article about hairstyles in general if we didn’t mention her. The singer has never shied away from wearing traditional braids belonging to the African culture. One perfect example of that would be cornrows or Fulani braids. Of course, she wants to send a message and empower black women all over the world that they too should celebrate who they are and love themselves more!
But in this picture she’s wearing a simple and thin fishtail braid crown that emphasizes her beautiful features in a very elegant way. She is the queen after all!
What do you think?
Are you ready for this year’s coolest braid hairstyles? Or are you comfortable just scrolling through our website feasting your eyes on these gorgeous styles? We love to do both, we confess! Let us know in the comment section down below!