Are Box Braids Cultural Appropriation

Box braid is the signature look for black women. It also attracts women from other cultures due to its versatility, low maintenance, and neat look. But since box braids came from black culture, you may think are box braids cultural appropriation or not.

Yes, box braids are cultural appropriation, and you need to learn about the roots of box braids before getting them. People of other cultures who wear box braids without cultural appropriation may face criticism and hate.

But what do box braids symbolize in the black culture? What should you know about box braids’ history? Read along to get your answers.

Where Did Box Braids Originate?

Are Box Braids Cultural Appropriation

The first traces of box braid appeared in ancient Egypt about 3000 years ago. Around 3500 BC, box braids originated in South Africa. 

It was a method for Egyptian women to cover their gray hair and make their hair look longer using extensions. Extensions were made with fur or human hair on fiber skull caps. They used beads, jewels, or cowrie shells to decorate their hair.

The installation process of box braids used to take 8 hours both in ancient times and in the present. Hence, it’s said that women had time and wealth used to wear box braids to show their high priesthood, richness, and designations.

Are Braids Black Culture?

Are Braids Black Culture

Since box braids originated in South Africa, it’s been considered that this hairstyle is black culture. Generally, box braids are mostly worn by black women during summer instead of the whole year.

Box braids are also a part of the Black Power Movement held in the USA between 1960 and 1970. Plus, box braids gain its popularity through this movement.

They wear this hairstyle to symbolize embracing their roots and identity and rejecting European ideals. And eventually, box braids became a go-to hairstyle for black women after the movie Poetic Justice premiered in 1993.

What Does Box Braided Hair Symbolize?

Box Braided Hair Symbolize

In ancient times, the box braid symbolized wealth and power. By wearing box braids, women distinguished their tribe and status in society. After that, box braids became a symbol of freedom for blacks in the United States in the 20th century.

At that time, this hairstyle did not have a specific name. Later in 1993, people started calling this style a box braid because it creates a box shape on the scalp.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About The History Of Box Braids

History Of Box Braids

Here are 6 things that you didn’t know about box braids history:

  1. This hairstyle existed thousand years ago in North Africa.
  2. The pattern of the braids was a symbol of black women’s identity.
  3. Box braids were a kind of message carrier and a critical language system.
  4. Women used to weave box braids with felt, wool, or human hair.
  5. Box braids were the main hairstyle of the natural hair movement.
  6. Janet Jackson was the main protagonist behind the present box braid trend.

What Braids Aren’t Cultural Appropriation?

Generally, cultural appropriation occurs when you wear a braided method without understanding and respecting the roots of braids. Almost all braiding methods come from a culture where that braiding was the highlight of their tradition.

And anyone can wear any braiding method without becoming the victim of cultural appropriation as long as there is respect and understanding. No matter what braiding method it is, take some time to learn about the history behind the braids before wearing them.

Why Are Box Braids Not Cultural Appropriation?

Box Braids Not Cultural Appropriation

Although box braids have a history in black culture, it still just a hairstyle. Also, when people from other cultures wear box braids without knowing the hardship and sacrifices of black people associated with box braids, they don’t like it.

This issue can cause controversial situations between the two cultures. Therefore, you should learn about the braids before getting them, so that box braids don’t remain a cultural appropriation in your tradition.

How Can Cultural Appropriation Occur In The Braiding Industry?

Cultural appropriation can occur in the braiding industry. For example, Kim Kardashian’s controversy about cornrows was the notorious one. 

After Kim gets cornrows, she mistakenly accredits African cornrows to 70s white actress and model Beau Derek. 

Due to a lack of knowledge about the culture and its roots, Kim Kardashian faced disrespect and controversy. 

There are more examples like this in the braiding industry. Sometimes we ignore that cultures aren’t static. They keep changing, which causes cultural dynamics.

Are You Now Feeling Inspired To Get Box Braids Yourself?

If you’re now inspired to create box braids in your hair, feel free to try them out. But there are some important things that you should know before getting box braids. Such as:

  • Box braids are heavy and can itch your scalp a lot
  • You need a whole working day to put on box braids if you want longer braids.
  • Box braids aren’t pocket-friendly enough, and you can keep them only for 8 weeks.
  • Hairstyles are limited and can cause shedding.
  • You’ll need to follow a new hair care routine to maintain box braids.


What culture is box braids?

Box braids came from South Africa, which indicates that this hairstyle is black culture.

What is the difference between braids and box braids?

Other braiding methods are done in natural hair only or need to use feed-in methods to install extensions for a natural look. In contrast, traditional box braids use a knotting system with the hair to install the hairstyle.

Can Latinas wear box braids?

African and Latinas are mixed race; thus, a Latina doesn’t need to hesitate to rock in hairstyles like Bantu knots or box braids.

Why are box braids called box braids?

The name box braid came from the parting patterns, which are box-shaped, to create box braids.

Do box braids damage Caucasian hair?

No matter whether box braids are installed in caucasian hair or black hair, it causes shedding and breakage if installed incorrectly.

How to loosen tight braids immediately?

  • Use a pencil to loosen tight braids; it’s an unorthodox but effective way.
  • Some may find the method doesn’t work for them.
  • Others will have success with this method.
  • Be sure to use a sharpened pencil for best results.
  • Gently insert the pencil into each braid and twist back and forth.
  • The goal is to loosen the braid without causing any damage.
  • This method can take some time, so be patient.
  • Once you’ve loosened all the braids, gently comb them out with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb.
  • If you find that your braids are still too tight, you can try repeating the process.
  • Remember to be gentle when using this method, as it can be easy to damage your hair if you’re not careful.

What were the symbols of braids in Mexico in ancient times?

In ancient Mexico, there were several symbols and meanings associated with braids. Some of these include scalp locks, which indicated bravery and honor; warriors, who wore braids to show their rank; and whether a woman was married or a virgin.

Phom Pia Braids vs. Box Braids

Phom Pia braids are a style of braiding that originated in Thailand. They are very simple to do and do not require extensions. However, they are not uniquely Thai and have become popular and trendy in the United States.

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So you now have ideas about are box braids cultural appropriation or not. Black people have a long history of slavery who wore box braids as a path to freedom. Therefore, they want people of other cultures to pay respect to the roots of the box braid before getting the hairstyle.

By Cindy Mahlangu

Hey there! I'm Cindy Mahlangu, a pro hairstylist with a serious passion for natural hair care. My mission? To inspire and educate others on the beauty and benefits of protective hairstyles. Through my creative writing, aim to empower individuals to embrace their unique hair texture and confidently care for their locks. So, whether you're rocking locs, braids, or twists, join me on this hair journey and let's achieve healthy, fabulous tresses together!

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