Why Do Black People Braid Their Hair

African women have been wearing braids since ancient times. It may make you wonder why do black people braid their hair all the time. There are generally many reasons behind them wearing braids.

For instance, black people wear braids as a symbol, escape maps, and rebellion against white communities in the past. Black hair is different from other races, so protecting their hair texture was also a reason for wearing braids then and now.

But how is black different from European and Asian hair? How did African hair braiding evolve into other cultures? Read on to know more.

How Is Black Hair Different From All Other Hair?

Black Hair Different From All

Black hair is literally different from the other races. Generally, people from other races grow hair in a straight, wavy, or curly pattern. On the other hand, black hair genetically grows in tight curls, but the types of curls may vary.

For instance, the curls can be coils, spirals, zig-zags, loops, or other curves. Therefore, their hairs grow upward instead of downward. Besides, black hair produces lots of sebum (protective oil) to keep hair healthy.

But the oil can’t spread properly throughout the hair fiber due to tight curls. As a result, hair fiber becomes dry, making the strands more brittle. This is what makes their hair texture different from all other hair.

Who Can Wear Braids

Although braids are a symbol of African culture, anyone can wear braids as long as they know and appreciate their origin. There’s a deep meaning behind the lineage of braids, and as long as that history isn’t disrespected, braids can be worn by everyone that wants to.

Why Does Black Hair Need Protective Styles

There are multiple reasons why black women braid their hair. Here are some:

1. Protect Their Natural Hair From Humidity And Heat
Protect From Humidity And Heat

Black hair is generally more porous; hence, their hair tends to soak up humidity quickly, similar to a sponge. As a result, it can make their hair more frizzed and cause flyaways, which can be challenging to fix afterwards.

Similarly, heat can make black hair feel drier and rougher, which can turn their hair into a big mess. Since black hair is mostly curly and dry, wind can also negatively affect their hair.

Wearing braids can protect their natural hair from wind, heat damage, and humidity.

2. Protect Hair From Getting Wet
Protect Hair From Getting Wet

Most black women braid their hair to protect hair from getting soaked in water. However, curly hair needs high maintenance, and water can damage hair. Generally, water contains mineral buildups like magnesium and calcium, which produce a hair barrier.

This way, it gets difficult for hair to penetrate moisture. Consequently, hair gets dry and leads to breakage. Wearing braids can prevent their natural hair come in contact with water and damage. 

3. For Experiment Purposes
Experiment Purposes

Braids help black women to prevent frizzy hair and breakage. But wearing different braids can bring variation in their look and style. So generally, black women also wear braids to experiment with different fashions.

4. Take Care Of Hair Texture
Take Care Of Hair Texture

The texture of the Afro hair is curly and rough. Without proper maintenance and care, environmental damage can ruin the texture of the braids. So wearing a protective hairstyle is a great way to protect the texture and maintain healthy Afro hair.

5. As A Symbol

In ancient Africa, braids were a great medium to represent a person’s age, wealth, social rank, religion, and marital status. 

Not only that, black people wear braids as a symbol of resistance and freedom during the Middle Passage period. Some of their braided hairstyles, such as Bantu knot, can also represent self-love.

6. Polygamous Wives
Polygamous Wives

In Polygamous Relationships, wives wear a braided hairstyle known as Kohin-Sorogun. Another name of the braid style is Turn Your Back To The Jealous Rival Wife.

This braided hairstyle consists of a pattern that can be seen from the back, and the pattern is basically a taunt for the other wives. 

7. Map Escape Routes For Slaves
Map Escape Routes For Slaves

In the transatlantic slave trade, many black people were forced to leave their houses and immigrate to America for slavery. At that time, black people wear cornrows, which contains intricate patterns, as their escape route map from plantations and slavery.

8. Rebellion Against White American Beauty Standards

When the beautiful afro hair is styled into elaborate styles, it catches the attention of many. But the white community finds it a threat. 

Therefore, the Louisiana governor created the Tignon law in 1786, that black women have to cover their hair using a wrap or scarf.

But they wore colorful fabrics with jewels, following the law as a rebellion. This way turned their head wrap into empowering and glamorous fashion. 

Even when the law was dismissed, some African women still followed the trend as resistance against white colonialism.

9. Modern Braids To Express Personality And Style

Even in the present day, braids are widely used by Africans and other races to express one’s personality and sense of fashion. Most African women are going for protective styles to prevent damage and breakage.

Reasons Why Black Women Have To Hide Their Hair   

Black Women Have To Hide Their Hair

Historically, many black women were compelled to hide their Afro hair due to abuse, racial discrimination, and social oppression. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Afro-women had to wear tignon to look less attractive to other people. 

Although this incident is taken from black history, still black hairstyles are limited in many places.

Why Are Braids Important in Black Culture

In African cultures, braids are a symbol of resistance, freedom, love, and power. African people also wore them as a way to signify their tribes, social status, and other societal class-based categories throughout history. 

Apart from these factors, another thing that makes braids important in Black culture is the fact that many slaves used their braids as a map to escape slavery.

Why Is African Hair So Different From European And American Hair

Black hair is totally different from Asian and European hair. The major difference between these races is hair’s texture. Caucasian and Asian hair is less curly and coarser than Afro hair.

Density is another remarkable difference between their hair. Generally, Afro hair has approximately 90,000 hair follicles, whereas Caucasian hair has more than 120,000.

Besides having kinky hair, black has less hair compared to European hair. In addition to that, black hair is more prone to breakage as the cuticle layer of the hair is thin. Still, black hair can whitesand chemical processing and heat better than European hair.

When someone mentions dense, curly, and thin-stranded hair, the first group of people that cross our mind is of African descent. But why is African hair like that? 

The first reason behind the structure of African hair is genetics. It’s a hair type that can be seen in almost every person of African descent and is continuously carried down to new generations through specific yet unidentified genes. 

Secondly, the heat in sub-Saharan Africa and the sun rays there are so prominent that the hair of the people living there evolved to be dense so as to protect their scalps from the heat.

Do Braids Belong to One Culture

Although braiding started in Africa, it can be seen across all cultures around the world. And even though they hold extreme significance in African culture, it’s hard to say that they belong to just one culture.

What is it Called When Black People Braid Their Hair

Most black people commonly wear a braiding style known as “Box Braids”. In this protective hairstyle, the hair is sectioned into square-shaped braids all over the scalp. Although this hairstyle takes time to be installed, once you get done with it, you can keep it for six to eight weeks.

How Did African Hair Braiding Evolve Into A Cultural Tradition On Another Continent

When many Africans were compelled to slave ships in 1619, many people were ordered to shave their heads. Again many people choose to wear braids to manage their hair instead of shaving them.

Although they were forced to immigrate to America, they still practice their tradition regardless of the place, especially their braid traditions. Few non-African people also showed interest and followed their braid tradition. That’s how African hairstyles evolved into a cultural tradition on another continent.

Why Are Braids Considered a Protective Style

Any hairstyle that keeps the ends of hair tucked away so as to protect it from strain, damage, tugging, and the weather is known as a protective hairstyle. When it comes to braids, they require the hair of the wearer to be tucked inwards so that the knots can be tied.

Benefits of Braids

The benefits of braids are vast. They include the following:

  • Protecting the hair from heat and cold.
  • Retain hair length by protecting the scalp and root of the hair.
  • Promoting hair growth.
  • Retaining moisture.

Are Braids Unprofessional

When braids are done on natural hair, and the natural color of the hair is retained, they can be worn in professional workplaces. 

However, if your braids are not neat and clean, or if you have braids that are too fancy, it can be considered unprofessional in a corporate workplace.


What’s the difference between a microbraid and a regular braid?

Microbraids are tiny braids that take hours to install but offer versatility and style. They are lighter than other protective styles, making them a good option for those with sensitive scalps.

How Did Slaves Wear Their Hair?

Amongst slaves, the most common hairstyles were plaits, braids, and cornrows. And they were forced to wear one of those styles or hairstyles that were similar to their owners. Apart from that, slaves that worked indoors were made to cover their hair with scarves, wigs, or clothes.

What Cultures Use Braiding?

Although braiding originated in Africa, it can be seen across cultures in the Caribbean, Europe, India, China, Japan, Australasia, and Central Asia.

Are Braids a Hispanic Thing?

Yes, braids are an important part of Mexican culture. Mexican men and women have been wearing braids as a part of their cultural identity for centuries. They were worn as protective hairstyles that kept the scalps and hair of Mexican people safe from the weather in Mexico.

Why is African Hair Weak?

The intricate texture and curls in African hair make it extremely fragile and susceptible to breakage. The curls cause tangling and a hard time combing hair, which in turn leads to stress on the hair when someone tries to unbend or uncurl it, causing hair breakage and fall.

Related Articles:

  • What Are Goddess Braids
  • Are Weaves Bad For Your Hair
  • Is Crochet Hair a Protective Style


So why do black people braid their hair? Afro hair is curly and dry; hence, they wear braids to protect their natural hair from water, wind, heat, and humidity. Besides this, they have worn braids as a symbol, escape maps, rebellion again white, and even for experimental purposes. 

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 comment

  1. I appreciate that you mentioned that wearing braids helps guard against wind, heat damage, and humidity for natural hair. This is due to the fact that heat can make black hair feel drier and rougher, as you said. African hair braids would be a fantastic solution for a friend of mine who has been seeking ways to better protect her hair for the summer. I’ll make sure to let her know about this and look up experts that can assist her with it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *