What is African Hair braiding?
There is a mystic around African hair braiding. Black men know it’s a crime to touch a black woman hair after she got braids. And white people don’t understand that someone can sit 6 hours to braid their hair.
This is because hair braiding is more than a hairstyle for us. It is more than look, it is a culture, it is our culture.
It’s true that hair braiding can be traced back to ancient Egypt where only people of the high class are allowed to wear it. Later on, in different parts of Africa, the style of braids signify a belongingness to a certain class, or a certain ethnicity.
Naturally, things have evolved and braids do not convey the same meaning today. However they are still very significant for our culture.
Ask any woman born before 1990 about Janet Jackson character in the movie Poetic Justice, and they will all refer to her braids first. Braids that, till this day bear the name of the movie. This is how significant African hair braiding is. Furthermore, any black celebrity who want to affirm their identity will inevitably go back to wearing braids. There are countless examples. Look at the Instagram pages of the likes of Erykah Badu, Gabrielle Union, Solange, the list goes on.
In fact, hair braiding is making a surge back and we love it. Being black and proud is cool again. Besides the self-affirmation, hair braiding have several more benefits.
Benefits of African Hair Braiding
In one hand it help protect the hair. In order to achieve this, three elements are very important. The hair preparation prior to the braiding, the hair braiding itself and the maintenance. First, If someone has dry hair for example, it is important that they deep condition the hair prior to the braiding. The deep conditioning couple with a good moisturizing will allow the hair, the root and the scalp to stay protect and strong during the braids period.
Second, during the braiding session, the stylish needs to “identify” the scalp of the “braidee”. This will allow them to know how tight the braid should be. One of my biggest fallacy out there is tight braids make the braid last longer. That is completely false. Preparation and maintenance makes the braids last longer. Tight braids will damage the scalp and break the hair. So to reiterate, the stylist should always braid the hair according to the client scalp sensitivity.
And lastly braid maintenance. This is one of the most important phase of the braiding life cycle. Regardless of the reason you are braiding your hair, whether to protect it, or to look good, if you can’t maintain it, you might as well not braid it at all. Also, my personal pet peeve are stinking braids. We’ve all met that one person we felt like throwing up after we hugged them. You don’t want to be that person. To prevent that it is important to maintain your braids, and wash your scalp once a week. I still have the memory of me when I was a young girl watching my mother and my aunties spending hours and hours on Sunday afternoon, maintaining their braids. And guess what, I never felt like throwing up when I hugged my mother.
Getting back to benefits of braids, another significant one is it helps your hair grow. Indeed, if the three elements pre cited in this article are followed, there is nothing out there right now that will help your hair grow, without breakage as a good hair braids. This is possible because braids are worn for a long period of time (average 2 months) and hence it is protected from chemical that can be harmful. Also the fact that one don’t change style too much during the lifespan of the braids, and one don’t comb it every day, the hair don’t break. Hair braiding will also grow and strengthen the root.
Different style of African hair braiding
And lastly Hair braiding are just gorgeous. Something about a black woman wearing braids just says “I’m beautiful, I’m gorgeous”. A black woman with braids says loudly I’m proud of who I am. And nothing is more beautiful than confidence.
Finally, although I did cover this in a lengthy manner in this article, braids are not just for women. They are also for men. Some people look down on a black man with braids as a thug. They cannot be more wrong. To go back to the Egyptians mentioned earlier in this article, only pharaohs and people close to the throne are allowed to wear braids in ancient Egypt. Throughout the history in Africa, kings and warriors were the ones with braids. It earned not given. That is the reason why I have always been proud of Allen Iverson for wearing his braids in the NBA and letting the world know this is part of who I am. if you want me to play for you, you will have to accept me as who as I am. Just like kings and warriors used to do in Africa
Braids have been the proud and joy for black people for centuries. It shows our strength, our beauty and our culture. It has protected our hair, and it has affirm our place in the society. It’s both cultural, and practical and useful. The hours we put in braiding our hair, and taking care of them show that this is not just about style for us, this is who we are. Braids command respect. So much so that today all the other culture are trying to copy our style. We will let them copy it. But what is ours, what is part of our very core, can never be taken away from us. #africanhairbraidingrule.