Yes, there was a time not that long ago, when a professional African-American woman would not have considered wearing braids a viable option for the workplace. And just think, if women wouldn’t dream of doing it, then how much less our braid-wearing men!
In the world of fashion, hairstyles come and hairstyles go, but African braid hairstyles have become an increasingly popular alternative to chemical processing and other hairstyles that require higher maintenance.
A Short History of Braiding
Braids – or plaits – are formed when three or more strands of hair are layered one over the other until the braid or braids have reached the desired length. Different affects can be achieved by using odd combinations of hair strands, or by weaving multiple braids together.
The concept of braiding has been around for at least 5,000 years. In Africa, braided hair can be traced back to 3,500 B.C.E. when it was a social event between women, especially family members who would practice on each other’s hair, creating new styles. Wall murals from Egypt show princesses and commoners alike sporting braided hair, and in Europe the style known as the French Braid was common among women who did not have access to keeping their hair as clean as they could in a culture that frowned on bathing in general.
Today braiding one’s hair has become more of a fashion statement than anything else, but the sheer variety of African Braid Hairstyles allow one to pick and choose what is right for them, or even combine styles to create new and exciting creations.
Types of African Braid Hairstyles
There are, quite literally, hundreds of braid hairstyles, but as we do not have room for them here, we have chosen a few of the most popular African Braid Hairstyles as examples of what can be done.
Cornrows – Cornrows are probably the most common type of braiding, even for those with short hair. They do not require a particular length of hair, and you do not need extensions to make them look good. These small, even braids are created close to the scalp and can be arranged in the common front-to-back straight lines (hence the name ‘cornrows’) or they can be used to create zigzags or even circular pattern.
Micro Braids – Micro braids (also known as pixie braids or invisible braids) are made when the hair is braided into incredibly thin plaits. These can be long or short, depending on preference. When the hair is long (or extensions are used) the braids can then be used to create up dos or put into ponytails.
Up Do – The Braided up do takes tight (usually long) braids and pinned up into complex patterns. The downside of a braided up do is that long hair or extensions are needed to create this style effectively.
Box Braids. Box braids are pretty much the same as micro braids, only they use synthetic hair instead of natural hair. Box braids can take hours (in the range of 6-12 hours) to create, but once completed they can last for 2-3 weeks before needing work.
Bob Marley – An awesome choice for coarse hair, straight braiding can be done in several different ways; fish tails, or tying the braids up together to create a ponytail, or even leaving the braids straight to be dropped around the shoulders.
No matter what type of function you are going to, or how dressed up or casual you want to be, African braid hairstyles offer a wide variety of choices for versatile hairstyles.