Where Did Box Braids Originate? 

The rising popularity of the box braiding technique may make you wonder where did box braids originate? This hairstyle first originated in South Africa. And it isn’t just a style for black women; this particular hairstyle has enriched cultural history.

Box braids were the symbol of differentiating a person’s tribe. And in 1990, Janet Jackson was first seen in promotional images with long box braids, which gave it a name and huge popularity worldwide.

But what is the cultural history? Can anyone go for this method? Are box braids only for African culture? Read along to find your answers.

How Do Box Braids Look Like?

Box braids are not different from standard three plaits braids, but this braiding method is more defined compared to knotless braids. At first, you need to divide your hair into precise square shapes throughout your scalp.

How Do Box Braids Look Like

Then you can use human hair or Kanekalon hair to create the plaits. It consists of thin strands of braids like cornrows that may mimic natural hair from afar. However, these braids look like ropes hanging down from your scalp.

Box Braids History

Box Braids History

This hair braiding method came from the chin-length bob braids, which used to be worn by women of the Nile valley. It’s also said that these plaits came from the Eembuvi braids of Namibia.

However, this braided hair technique didn’t have any particular name until 1990 when R&B musician Janet Jackson and the film Poetic Justice gave it a name. But box braids can be traced over 3,000 years ago as a social practice method.

1. Box Braids Cultural History 

Box Braids Cultural History

In ancient Africa, braided hairstyles were a token of a person’s age, identity, social ranking, wealth, marital status, and other classifications. People used to wear box braids to highlight their tribe, high priesthood, and wealth.

On the other hand, this braiding method was also a symbol of communication during the slavery period of black. In some Caribbean islands, black used to wear braid patterns as map routes to escape. 

Again, black women and men wore box braids to fight for their rights in the US as African Americans during the first natural hair movement. This movement coincided with the black power movement in the ’60s and ’70s.

2. Who Made Box Braids?

Who Made Box Braids

This style first originated in African tribes back in 3500 B.C. Many believed this hair braided style was only worn by women who had enough free hours adorning the plaits.

Decorating braids with jewels, colorful beads, and cowrie shells was a way of earlier women eluding their readiness for marriage, representing a woman’s age, economic status, etc.

3. Where Are Box Braids From?

Box braiding started in South Africa first. But people around the world from different tribes follow this social art to represent their identity. 

In Namibia, these plaits were used as social practice. Then in Caribbean islands, they used this braiding pattern as an escape route. Khoisan and Afar people from Africa used braid styles to distinguish tribes, religions, power, and wealth.

4. When Were Box Braids Invented?

When Were Box Braids Invented

Back in 3500 B.C, the first trace of box braids was found in South Africa. The box braid we know today as the best protective style was a tight braiding method of Egyptian women traced back almost 3000 years ago.

5. Egyptian Box Braids 

In ancient Egypt, women used to wear tight braid styles to hide their graying hair and make their hair looks longer. They used to use extensions for their braiding method. 

At that time, extensions were wafted into fiber skull caps made of durable materials like wool, felt, or even human hair.

Cowrie shells of other valuable objects were used for decorating their plaits for the ceremony. The key aspects revealed by braided patterns were a woman’s identity, such as richness, power, and other social designations.

6. How Do Box Braids Protect Your Hair?

How Do Box Braids Protect Your Hair

Box braids are known as a great protective hairstyle. Just like cornrows, box braids protect your hair from environmental damage. 

When you wear box braids, you cover your natural hair under the extension. Hence, you protect your hair from sun heat, humidity, and wind damage. This way, your hair gets a healthy environment to grow healthily.

7. Can Anyone Do Box Braids?

Unfortunately, not everyone can go for box braids. Any hair texture is acceptable for this hairstyle, but your hair must be longer than 1.5 inches at least. Again, if you have any scalp issues, your hair is too fragile, or you have recently dyed your hair, you can’t opt for box braids. 

On the other hand, creating this style requires both precision and time. So if you don’t have enough time, it can be challenging for you to complete the whole method.

Box Braid Technique 

If you want to create perfect box braids like a celebrity hairstylist, you should know the right technique and trust the process. Follow this beginner-friendly box braiding tutorial to master your perfect technique.

1. How To Make Box Braids More Flexible?

If your braids are too tight, take a shower with warm water to relieve scalp pain. Take a spray bottle, mix water and oil, and then massage the scalp with it to loosen the braids.

2. Are Box Braids African Culture?

Box braids are a signature hairstyle of black women and usually don’t follow Eurocentric beauty standards. Hence, this hairstyle got involved in cultural appropriation. 

However, if you wear this style with proper knowledge and respect, you shouldn’t face criticism as often.

3. What braids come from Europe?

Widespread braiding in Europe started in the Iron Age, around 500 BC. Women would braid their hair into tight plaits to keep it out of their faces and protect it from the sun.

This style of hair braiding is called Celtic knotting. As the Romans invaded Britain in the 1st century AD, they brought their own style of hair braiding – the Roman braid. This style was popularized by the Roman emperor Constantine and was used to keep hair out of the way while working.


What’s the problem with wearing a traditionally black hairstyle if I don’t support racism?

When a white woman wears a traditionally Black hairstyle, she is contributing to the invisibility of systematic racism.

Racism is a problem when it exists in any form, including when it’s disguised as traditional hairstyles. Wearing traditional black hairstyles can perpetuate the idea that black people are inferior to other races.

This is why it’s important to be conscious of the messages we’re sending when we choose to wear certain hairstyles. If you don’t support racism, it’s important to avoid hairstyles that could be interpreted as supporting it.

What is the meaning behind hair braiding in Mexico?

There is a rich history and meaning behind hair braiding in Mexico. Braiding is used as a form of communication and expression, and can convey a variety of messages and intentions. It can also be seen as a way to trace the invisible thread that connects us all. Braids help to strengthen relationships and connect communities. They can also be seen as a form of art, and are often used in rituals exploring hair.

Why would Asian girls wear braids more painfully?

Asians have thinner hair than other races, which may cause more pain when the braids are tightened.

Related Articles:

  • Can You Redip Box Braids
  • What To Do After Taking Out Box Braids From Your Head


So where did box braids originate, who made this method, and when was this style invented? You have the answer. This style is super versatile in that you can put it on a bun, high ponytail, or other hairstyles. Its versatility and attractive look also make this twisting technique popular among native Americans.

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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