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Afro Braids History: Everything You Need To Know

Fashion and beauty standards around the world are constantly changing and cyclic as well. It would be hard to keep track of all the fashion that has come and gone since the centuries before.

Since the world opened up through technology and became a global village, fashion trends have been uniform all over. This trend has also been the same for hairstyles.

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Afro Braids History

There have been many hairstyles that have come and gone throughout history. The Afro braid hairstyle that is so popular today happens to be one of the oldest hairstyles ever.

The hairstyle has many different variations today including box braids, cornrows, and french braids.

The hairstyle is believed to have first appeared in prehistoric times around 3,000BC based on statues that emerged from that time. It is believed to have originated from the motherland, Africa.

In prehistoric times, the hairstyle indicated different things in society. These include social status, age, religion, ethnicity. They were also fashionable during those times.

In Egypt, afro braids were a sign of social status and were worn by people of royal blood and scribes mostly. This is proven by the mummies in the Egyptian tombs. The hairstyle spread throughout Africa to the Maasai in the East, the Yoruba, and Fulani in the West and all through the center.

Plating these braids was a community activity and would bring together members of the community.

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Afro Braids And Slavery

When talking about the history of afro braids, it is important to talk about the role the hairstyle played during slavery. When African slaves were boarded onto the ships ferrying them to America, the women’s hair would be shaved as a way to further degrade them.

For those who made it to the USA, they had a lot of work to do for their masters. This was both in the cotton fields and houses.

Since they did not have enough time on their hands, they had to adopt a simplistic way of keeping their hair neat. Hence, they started braiding their hair in few lines of cornrows.

The simple hairstyle evolved into a way of helping slaves escape. If a woman had four cornrows, for example, it signified the number of roads one had to take for their freedom.

They also did not have access to much hence they used butter and kerosene as treatments and conditioners. As the hairstyle was associated with a dark past, black women did away with it and adopted straight hairstyles.

Afro Braids Huge Come Back

With time, however, it was embraced yet again by the African Americans.

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In the 90s, there was more representation of the hairstyle in pop culture and media. They worked to change the narrative that the hairstyle was inferior and gave it worldwide recognition.

This they did through the inclusion of afro braids in music and movies as well as magazine covers.

Afro braids which are synonymously known to be historic for the African American community in the USA have since been adopted by Caucasians as well.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian have in the past been criticized for wearing the historically relevant hairstyle. 

In some ways, the hairstyle brings the African American community together in their ancestor’s shared struggle. This could explain why they get a bit touchy when other races partake.

Afro Braids Today

With the influx of YouTube tutorials as well as blogs and websites on hair and fashion, more and more people have embraced the hairstyle.

People wear the afro braids looser today compared to the older days where they had to be tight and neat. Today, the hairstyle is also rocked by men in society.

Not only is it in fashion but it is functional as well as it is embraced as a protective style. It helps the natural African kinky hair grow longer and healthier.

Afro braids have also undergone a controversial phase where they were associated with gang membership. There have been cases where schools have banned their students from rocking the hairstyle.

Human rights activists in the USA and Europe have been working tirelessly to call out this bias in institutions and society at large.

All in all, this hairstyle which started before most civilizations is bound to outlive us all and evolve with time.

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