What Braids Are Considered Cultural Appropriation

Fancy magazines, fashion shows, and celebrities show us the latest trends. You might be ready to follow them anytime. But would that be wise? Can you be certain you’re not making a cultural appropriation? 

Wondering how something as innocent as braids can be something offensive to other cultures? Keep reading to find out what cultural appropriation is and how to wear beautiful braids while avoiding cultural appropriation. 

Is Braiding A Culture?

What Braids Are Considered Cultural Appropriation

The history of braids clearly shows us why braiding is not just a hairdo. Braids are an integral part of Black and African culture which orginated about 5000 years ago. People back then used braiding to define social status, tribes, map escape routes for slaves, and more. 

In certain cultures still, the significance of braids is high. Many people celebrate and honor their ancestral roots with their braids. Braiding techniques were invented thousands of years ago. Yet generations after generations carried the traditions till now. 

What Are Examples Of Cultural Appropriation?

Examples Of Cultural Appropriation

When people adopt cultural elements from other cultures and use them disrespectfully or stereotypically — it’s known as cultural appropriation. The term often means the misuse of cultural elements such as traditions, beliefs, and practices of other cultures

It can also be defined as borrowing the elements because of their aesthetics while ignoring the cultural context. For example, wearing accessories that symbolize a religious belief you don’t practice. Cultural appropriation exists in various industries. It’s not limited to just braids or fashion. Below discover a few examples to understand cultural appropriation.

Example 1:

Gucci introduced an Indy Turban on their Fall 2018/2019 runway on white models. This act offended many members of the Sikh community. Gucci presented the Sikh Turban as a trendy hat for white models. Though the Turbans are an article of faith for practicing Sikhs. 

Example 2:

During the great migration, Black people weren’t allowed to style their hair in “Black” hairstyles. In 1973, actress Bo Darek wore a cornrow braid in her movie “10”. Her appearance with an African-originated braided style gained popularity among white people, where many never knew the cultural context behind this braid. Even Kim Kardashian was slammed a few years ago for calling her cornrow braids the “Bo Darek Braid.” 

What are the arguments against Katy Perry and Brooke Candy wearing cornrows and box braids?

There are a few arguments against Katy Perry and Brooke Candy wearing cornrows and box braids.

The first argument is that they are not wearing them in the traditional way, but rather in a more modern fashion. Some people argue that this is cultural appropriation, as they are taking from a culture that is not their own.

Another argument is that these styles are often associated with black culture and thus white women who wear them are appropriating black culture. This is seen as negative because it perpetuates the idea that black culture is “ghetto” or inferior.

What Braiding Really Means To Black Culture

Braiding Really Means To Black Culture

Braiding is more than an appealing hairstyle in Black culture. Various African tribes had distinctive braiding styles to identify their tribe. Braiding patterns of west African culture indicated their regional status

Braids have deep roots in ancient Africa. It symbolizes countless traditions and customs of African tribes and the suffering and struggles of enslaved Black people. In African civilization, hairstyles indicated one’s religion, ethnic identity, marital status, rank in the community, age, etc. 

Slave traders shaved the heads of newly enslaved people to erase their cultural roots. In 1786 the governor of Louisiana passed a new law that forced Creole women of color to conceal their hair. This was an attempt to hide their beautiful hair and an indication of slavery. 

Black slaves also used their signature braids to hide the signals and maps from slaveholders. For the Black community wearing an ancestral braided hairstyle is like embracing the cultural roots today. 

Are All Braids Cultural Appropriation

Are All Braids Cultural Appropriation

Wearing a braided style like cornrows inappropriately can be culturally offensive. But there are other braids that aren’t historical or cultural. Braids like French Braid, Three strand braid, Fishtail Braid, and Chinese Ladder Braid aren’t directly related to traditions or a particular culture. No one culture heavily claims them as theirs and many people around the world wear them. 

What Type Of Braids Are Cultural Appropriation?

Braids like Ghana Braids, Bantu Knots, Fulani Braids, Box Braids, Cornrows, and Dreadlocks. Since they have great significance in the Black and African cultures, wearing them without consent or credit is cultural appropriation. 

How Can Cultural Appropriation Occur In The Braiding Industry

Cultural appropriation can appear in the braiding world in several ways. Every individual’s perspective on cultural appropriation of braids may differ. It happens when a braid style from one culture is borrowed by another culture and celebrated improperly without giving credit to its origin. 

For example, Kim Kardashian acted like a trendsetter wearing box braids. On the other hand, the black community was discriminated against for carrying their traditional braided styles for centuries. 

Ignoring the credit due or using an improper name for the borrowed culture is also considered cultural appropriation. For example, naming Bantu Knots as the twisted mini buns. Using the original name given by the Zulu tribe shows the respect they deserve.

How To Avoid Cultural Appropriation & Promote Cultural Awareness Instead

Avoid Cultural Appropriation & Promote Cultural Awareness

To avoid getting slammed by others. Or, to avoid being offensive to other cultures, you must avoid cultural appropriation. Here are a few ways to avoid cultural appropriation and promote cultural awareness. 

  • Know the cultural context of the style you want to adopt
  • Avoid including cultural elements considered sacred or related to god, spirit, and religion in your style.
  • Don’t promote any culture based on stereotypical beliefs. 
  • When adopting a cultural element, make sure you are doing it with good intentions. Promote the culture and its people with your act. 


What are Ancient Egyptian braids?

Ancient Egyptian braids have been around for centuries. They were often adorned with beads, jewels, and other decorations to make them stand out. The “common” people wore simpler braids to keep their hair out of their faces while working, while the wealthier classes wore more intricate and elaborate styles.

The Egyptians worshipped snakes and wore their symbols on their heads. The Hebrew God is also known as the God of the Hebrews, and the Egyptians were enemies of them. Ancient Egyptians loved snakes and considered them to be the symbol of life.

What is the cultural meaning behind braids?

Braids have a significance in many African tribes. They use braids to specify tribes, social status, and marital status and hide secret messages. 

When do braids become cultural appropriations?

Braids never were a cultural appropriation. Only when someone borrows a signature braid pattern from another culture and uses it disrespectfully we can call those braiding cultural appropriations.

What braids are okay to wear?

You can wear any braid that isn’t linked with cultural heritage, such as Pigtail Braid, Halo Braid, Elsa Braid, French Braid, Crown Braid, and Staircase Braid. 

Who Introduced Braids in Europe?

The first braids were introduced to Europe by the Moors who invaded Iberia in 711 AD. They brought with them their hairstyle, which was a mixture of braiding and knotting techniques.

The Europeans adopted this style and started to use it to keep their hair out of their face. The first braids were made of two strands of hair that were twisted around each other and then secured with a hair tie.

What did married women wear their hair in Mexico?

Married women in Mexico traditionally wore their hair in braids. This served as a way to indicate their married status and also kept their hair out of the way. Loose hair was seen as being in a maiden condition, while hair that was worn up or in braids indicated that the woman was married.

What are some of the ancient Chinese hairstyles for women?

There are a few different ancient Chinese hairstyles that were popular among women in primitive society. The three main styles were the draped hai, Chui Ji, and braided hair. Each style had its own unique look and was popular for different reasons.

Final Thoughts 

How you wish to do your hair is completely up to you. But you should show respect and appreciation when trying to take inspiration from another culture. Without understanding a culture properly, you might make offensive indications that will disrespect others. A little bit of awareness and respect might make the act of sharing cultural elements a moment of pride for both parties. 

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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