What Braids Are Not Cultural Appropriation

Braids originated centuries ago. You can find traces of Bantu knots, Fulani braids, and cornrows in ages-old Africa. You might think of these braids as a trendy and fancy hairstyles, but they are not. 

Not all braids are cultural appropriation. You can wear French braids, three-strand braids, and fishtail braids, which do not hold cultural significance. Fashion magazines like Marc Jacobs fashion show and Kardashians introduced such hairstyles to the world. 

But some of the braided hairstyles hold cultural significance to black people. Wearing them as you wish and ignoring their concerns undoubtedly raises the cultural appropriation debate. Keep reading to learn more about braids and cultural appropriation.

What Culture Did Braids Come From

What Culture Did Braids Come From

The Himba people of Namibia started braiding in Africa. They carried out this tradition for centuries. There were many other African tribes where they would identify other tribes with their braid patterns. Elders began to braid the children, and the younger generation started to learn braiding traditions from the elders. It was around the 1900s when braiding became famous around the world. 

Are All Braids Cultural Appropriation?

Are All Braids Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation means the disrespectful use of styles, practices, or objects that belong to a particular culture. The absence of appreciation while wearing a significant cultural tradition, style, or object can also mean cultural appropriation. 

For example, a white woman wearing a black hairstyle is a new trend while purposefully ignoring black people’s concerns. Not everyone appropriates cultural intentionally. Even if you have no ill intentions but borrowing a style from another culture, you might end up hurting others’ feelings. 

People might have seen how to style braids on youtube or in a fashion magazine. And wore a culturally significant style, unaware of its origin. This might be culturally offensive to some people. 

Are all braid hairstyles cultural appropriation? Not at all. Many braided hairstyles have cultural significance but not all of them. That’s why you must educate yourself before you try a new braided hairstyle. Just to make sure that you’re not appropriating any culture. 

Braids In Different Cultures

What Braids Are Not Cultural Appropriation

You’ll discover the presence of braids in African culture since ages ago. You can trace the origin back to  5000 years, or according to some, even earlier. Braided hairstyles signify a person’s tribe, age, marital status, religion, power, and wealth in African tribes. 

We’ll discuss a few of the popular braids from different cultures below.

1. Cornrows


Originated in Africa. Researchers have discovered their traces back at least 3000 B.C. Cornrows indicate one’s religion, age, kinship, marital status, etc. Shells, glass, coral, fresh flowers, twigs, and many other components were used to create this hairstyle back then.

2. Ghana Braids

Also known as banana braids or fishbone braids. For centuries this hairstyle has significance in the Ghananian religion, social and ethnic cultural traditions. 

3. Fulani Braids

A traditional hairstyle of the Fulani tribe or The Fula — a nomadic pastoral community from west Africa and the Sahel region. Fulani women and young girls wear this hairstyle. This braid is a symbol of their aesthetics and heritage

4. Dreadlocks and Faux Locs 

Dreadlocks and Faux Locs 

Dreadlocks originated in Africa, but it was significant in various cultures. You might have seen this hairstyle within Rastafarians and Jamaica region. Old scriptures also describe Hindu God Shiva wearing Jata or locks. Many old artifacts, drawings, and mummified bodies showed us that Ancient Egyptian pharaohs also wore locks.

What Kind Of Braids Aren’t Cultural Appropriation

Braids Aren't Cultural Appropriation

Here’s the list of braids that aren’t cultural appropriation

  • Pigtail Braid
  • Halo Braid
  • Elsa Braid
  • French Braid
  • Crown Braid
  • Staircase Braid
  • Dutch Braid
  • Three strand braid
  • Fishtail Braid
  • Chinese Ladder Braid

What Braids Are Cultural Appropriation

Here’s the list of braids that might be cultural appropriation

Braids Are Cultural Appropriation
  • Ghana Braids
  • Side Braids
  • Faux Locs
  • Crochet Braids
  • Bantu Knots
  • Fulani Braids
  • Waves
  • Laid/Gelled Edges
  • Marley Twists
  • Senegalese Twists
  • Weave
  • Yarn Braids
  • Micro Braids
  • Jumbo Braids
  • Box Braids
  • Cornrows
  • Dreadlocks

What Are the Different Types of Braids?

Let us show you a few popular types of braids.

1. Three Strand Braids

Most basic braid styles using which you can create unique hairstyles. This one is much easier to braid and perfect for beginners.

2. French Braids

Very similar to the three-strand braids. In fact, to wear this braid, you must learn three-strand braids. The only difference is you have to start higher up to create your French braids and accumulate more hair as you move down the head. French braids are pretty tight and close to the head. 

3. Waterfall Braids

Waterfall Braids

Became quite popular after 2012 but is now an ordinary hairstyle. This braid style is simple yet suitable for formal events and bridal hairstyles. 

4. Fishtail Braids

This one is super easy to create. Often used in more elaborate hairstyles. Unlike the regular braid, you have to work with two strands of hair to wear this braided style. 

5. Lace Braids

It’s like a one-sided French braid plus very similar to a waterfall braid. Lace braids can be used in many different hairstyles to create breathtaking looks. 

What to Do If You Want to Wear Braided Hairstyles

Want to look at yourself in a braided hairstyle? Let us help you. 

First of all, educate yourself on braiding. You might be excited about a new braiding style. However, some braided hairstyles are not suitable for all hair types. Smooth, silky hair might not have the grip to hold your braid. 

Tons of hairstyles you see on social media might have cultural significance. Such as Fulani braids. This braid is not just for aesthetics to the Fula tribe. The tribe’s young girls attach family coins and amber to their braid to showcase heritage symbols.

If you’re trying intricate braid styles, you might get this done with an experienced hairstylist. Using the proper terminology for your culturally-sensitive hairstyle is essential. Crediting the inspiration means appreciating the culture. For example, use the appropriate terminology such as cornrows instead of boxer braids. 


Are cornrows cultural appropriation?

Yes, cornrows have significance in some black cultures. To avoid cultural appropriation, you might want to credit the culture. 

What is the correct way to wear box braids if I’m Mexican

When wearing box braids, it is important to keep the hair away from your face and neck. To do this, you will need to wear a headband or a bandanna. You should also avoid wearing tight clothing that could constrict the movement of your box braids. Try to avoid wearing heavy makeup or excessive perfume, as both of these can make it difficult to breathe. Finally, be sure to moisturize your scalp and hair regularly to keep them healthy and hydrated.

Did medieval women wear braids?

Medieval European women wore thick, beautiful braids to keep a headpiece in place to cover their hair. The braid was also seen as a symbol of femininity and beauty. Braiding techniques were often passed down from mother to daughter and the style was popular among both wealthy and poor women alike.

When did Han Chinese start wearing long-braids?

The 1911 Revolution was a watershed moment in Chinese history that saw the end of the Qing dynasty and the rise of the Republic of China. One of the most iconic images from that time is of Han Chinese men wearing long-braided pigtails – a sign of their solidarity against Manchu oppression. However, after the revolution, this hairstyle was discarded as a symbol of imperial rule.

Final Verdict

Cultural appreciation doesn’t exist to divide people. Instead, you can avoid offending others by crediting the original culture that birthed the hairstyle. A little bit of gratitude for your new braided hairstyle means a lot to many. 

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!


    1. Thank you for your question regarding braids of First Nations/people. We appreciate your curiosity and interest in learning more about this important topic.

      In response to your question, we would like to direct you to an article we have on our website that explores who wears first braids. The article discusses the significance of braids in different cultures, including those of First Nations/people, and the various ways they are styled and worn. https://www.hairthoughts.net/who-invented-braids/

      We hope you find this article informative and helpful in answering your question. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

    1. No, it is not racist to do more than two French braids to the nape of your neck. Hairstyles like French braids are not inherently racist and can be worn by people of different ethnic backgrounds. However, cultural appropriation and insensitivity can occur if you adopt a hairstyle without understanding or respecting its cultural significance. It’s important to be mindful and educate yourself about the origins and cultural context of the hairstyle before wearing it.

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