One of the ultimate aesthetic expressions for women of African descent has got to be braids. The hair style spans back to ancient Africa, and is so culturally significant that the technique was used to communicate. Various ethnic groups throughout Africa used braids to signify their martial standing, or if they were expecting a child.
Undoubtedly a practice that slaves retained upon forced travels to the Americas, braids for Black women and men in the U.S. are a go-to for creative and fuss-free looks.
In the 20th century leading up to today, braiding has prompted a multi-million dollar division in the beauty industry. Loads of salons, independent braiders, and hair products have emerged. Braided styles like the early nineties “dookie” or “goddess” braids became a staple for women, adorned by golden beads and other hair ornaments.
We can cite a plethora of stars who have ushered the style along from an ancient body art of communication, to a contemporary style inspiring global popular culture. Arguably, there are no other celebrities like Cicely Tyson, Brandy and Janet Jackson who made braids an integral part of modern Black iconography.
Since the debut of Brandy, the singer-actresses signature look centered on her gorgeous pigtail or knotted braids. Janet Jackson starred opposite Tupac Shakur in John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice” using her “goddess” braids as a cornerstone of her character’s personal style.
But we can’t forget about the men. Male artists like D’Angelo, Jaheim, and Trey Songz have worn the classic braided cornrows braided by the sista around the corner. Singer Mario even had a song called “Braid My Hair.”
Throughout our collective memory, we can recollect the seconds, minutes, and hours that we’ve spent in between our mother’s knees, or at the community stylist, having our coiled strands interlocked together, tighter than Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.
Today, we can see the visual evolution and versatility of present day braided styles. The look has become more global, high-fashion, and has even taken cues from other cultures blending it with traditional African elements.
Braids are beautiful, diverse, sexy and classic. Here’s to the love of braids!