Who Invented Cornrows

Cornrows have become a cool and sophisticated hairstyle in today’s world after Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner wore it. African people are the ones who invented cornrows to represent their identity. That’s why some popular celebrities faced backlash for wearing it without acknowledgment.

However, this hairstyle didn’t center around only black culture. Cornrows have become famous in different cultures worldwide over time. But who made cornrows famous? What cornrows symbolize?

Read on to learn how this braided hairstyle became popular throughout black history and today’s American public figures.

What Cornrows Symbolize?

Cornrows Symbolize

The first trace of cornrows was found in 3000 B.C in South Africa. Men and women in the Horn and West coasts of Africa were mostly seen in this braided hairstyle.

In ancient Africa, cornrows were the symbol of wealth, power, religious beliefs, kinship, marital status, etc. But cornrows build a rich history during the Middle Passage in black culture. This hairstyle became the symbol of resistance and freedom for slaves.

Who Made Cornrows Famous?

Made Cornrows Famous

From ancient times to the present day, cornrows gained popularity in different ways. For example:

1. Transatlantic Slave Trade

During the Middle Passage period between 1700 to 1808, millions of Africans were forced to leave their continent and immigrate to America for slavery. Many of them were even compelled to shave their head to be more sanitary and to take away their identity.

But some of them didn’t shave their head, instead made tight braids to make their hair look neater. Eventually, they turn the braided pattern into their escape route. At that time, cornrows gained massive popularity among the enslaved people.

2. After The Civil War

When the slavery era ended, many African women opt for a new identity by straightening their hair to be more accepted in the white community. This concept gained massive popularity by early 1900.

Madam CJ Walker

The process of straightening the curly hair of black women was first introduced by Madam CJ Walker in the 19th century. Through her homemade line of hair care products, she became the first black woman millionaire in the history of black culture.

3. The Black Power Movement

Black Power Movement

This revolutionary movement, between 1966 and 1980, was the initiative of African Americans to emphasize economic empowerment, racial pride, and equal rights.

Most American African wear cornrows to represent their identity and pay homage to their culture. And to show support for their natural hair movement and culture, many western people. As a result, cornrows gained massive popularity again in 1970.

4. Celebrities Using Cornrows

In the present time, many American actresses, models, and singers, such as Bo Derek, Zendaya Maree, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry, wear cornrows. And their millions of fans followed their hairstyle and made cornrows a trend again.

However, Kim Kardashian had to face backlash for wearing cornrows at MTV Movie & T.V. Award show in 2018 and calling the hairstyle Bo Derek braids. 

Kim Kardashian

In response to her backlash with Bustle, she said her daughter North West asked her to wear cornrows and she was absolutely aware of the cultural background of the braids.

However, her caption in one of her Instagram posts related to the backlash appeared to be ruder than an apology, which caused more negative reactions on Twitter against her.


When did cornrow braids originate?

Cornrow braids first originated in 3000 B.C. In the 19th century, many warriors and kings, especially in Ethiopia, wore cornrows and gave them rebirth.

Where did cornrows braids originate?

This braided hairstyle originated in the Horn and West coasts of Africa.

When did cornrows become popular?

Cornrow braids gained vast popularity during the black power movement in 1970, when many American African wore this style to represent their culture.

Who started the Cornrows in the NBA?

In 2001, Allen Iverson first cornrows in the NBA.

When did Bang Chan have cornrows?

On April 18, 2019, Bang Chan was trending as the fans were pissed for creating cornrow braids on his blonde hair.

When did Drake have cornrows?

On March 24 2022, Drake posted a reel on his Instagram with the cornrow braids hairstyle.

What cultures can wear cornrows?

Besides African culture, any other culture can wear cornrows. But it’ll be considered cultural appropriation if anyone isn’t acknowledging the history and trying to take credit for the hairstyle.

Can Moroccans wear cornrows?

Braids have also been a part of Arab culture along with African culture from ancient times. So a Moroccan can wear cornrows.

Can Middle Easterners wear cornrows?

Yes, Middle Easterns are Arab people and braids have also been included in their culture besides other hairstyles.

What are the cultural practices of braiding hair in the Bronze and Iron Age?

During the Bronze and Iron Age, braiding hair was a common cultural practice in various parts of Asia Minor, the Caucasus, the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Near East. Braiding served as a form of communication and social stratification, as well as a spiritual practice.

Do Afro-Colombian braids have a message?

Afro-Colombian were first worn by slaves in Colombia to communicate with each other without being caught. The patterns and designs of the braids had meanings that could only be understood by those who wore them.

What is Roman Empress Vibia Sabina’s hairstyle?

Roman Empress Vibia Sabina’s hairstyle was a masterpiece of the time. It consisted of a massive coil of knotted braids that were piled on top of her head in an intricate design. This style was popular among women in the Roman Empire and was often seen in artwork and sculptures from that period.

When did ancient boxes become braided in modern America?

The modern version of braiding, which is often called box braid, did not become popular until 1990. That year, Janet Jackson wore a style of braids called box braid on the red carpet and the look quickly became popular. Since then, many celebrities have worn this style and it has become a staple in the African American community.

What was Nefertari’s hairstyle?

Nefertari was an Egyptian queen and the wife of King Ramses II. She is most well-known for her ornately braided hair, which was interwoven with braided extensions. To complete the look, she would leave a small piece of her own scalp hair, which was slightly curly naturally.

What is the message of 1 Timothy 2:9?

The real message of 1 Timothy 2:9 is that churchgoers should maintain a sense of modesty and humility. This is reflected in the prohibition against braiding their hair, as this was often seen as a display of vanity and pride.

Is it easy to combine Bantu Locks and circular cornrows?

Bantu knots and circular cornrows are two popular African-American hairstyles. Both styles can be combined into one hairstyle, but it isn’t easy to do. The best way to get this style is to go to a salon that specializes in African-American hair. This style is easy to maintain, but it can be expensive to get done at a salon.

Related Articles:

  • Why Are My Cornrows Frizzy
  • What Should I Put in My Hair Before Cornrowing it: Cornrow Basics for Beginners
  • Should I Oil my Cornrows

So, Who Had Cornrows First? 

So you now have the answer of who invented cornrows and how cornrows get popular over time. During the natural hair movement in 1970, cornrows get their most vast popularity.

As this braided hairstyle was used to represent black culture and their identity, wearing cornrows without acknowledgment and claiming oneself as the owner of the hairstyle will come under cultural appropriation.

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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