In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to share some historical gems on some of the most popular hairstyles worn among the black women of today and yesteryear.
This beautifully intricate hairstyle originated back in Africa. African women have been adorning their crowns ever since 3500 B.C.! This style started with the Himba people of Nambia. Braids were very popular and necessary among many African tribes because the braid patterns indicated one’s tribe, wealth, marital status, power, and religion. Because braids take so long to install and perfect, it was a social practice back then and is still a social practice today! Many women would take this time to socialize and build connections with one another. This African tradition began with elders braiding their daughters’ hair, then the daughters would learn from their elders and practice on their friends’ hair. This was soon passed down generation to generation. It wasn’t until the 1990s when “box” braids—individual braids created with hair extensions—became popularized around the world.
INTERESTING FACT: Box braids were likely worn by wealthy African women. Because box braids took so long to install—between 4 to 8 hours—it is believed that women who could afford the extensions and the hours of installation was a wealthy woman indeed! Women adorned their box braids with cowrie shells, jewels, and beads to appear wealthy and alluring to their mate.
Afros grew out strong and proud around the end of the 1950s. This beautifully distinctive hairstyle rose in popularity and attracted diverse reactions from the public when some young black dancers and jazz singers were proudly sporting it. One of the main reasons these famous young black women wore afros was to show support for the civil rights movement. They also felt that their unstraightened tresses expressed racial pride. Pretty soon, young black college students began showing their support for the movement and embraced their racial pride as well. Afros reached their peak in popularity and influence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was an outward expression of black pride, a rebellion against European beauty standards, and a stand against racial injustice.
INTERESTING FACTS: It is apparent that afros have made their return to the mainstream world within the past few years. This return became known as the natural hair movement. Afros are still a rising hairstyle as more and more black women—young and mature—are ditching hair relaxers which chemically straighten hair, and embracing their God-given texture. Just like in the earlier decades, this movement represents a stand against European beauty standards and a stand for racial pride. Today, most women with afros are modernizing them, wearing them as twist-outs (putting hair in two-strand twists and, the next day, taking those twists down and fluffing the hair out into a style), braid-outs, and bantu-knot outs.
Dreadlocks were first seen back in 2500 B.C. The Biblical figure known as Samson was known for his long locks that gave him exceptional strength to overcome his foes. It’s noteworthy that people of different faiths back then felt that combing their hair was a show of vanity and otherworldly things, so long locks represented something deeply spiritual.
In the 1970s, locks became more popular with the help of singer Bob Marley. Because Marley was from Jamaica, many people associated dreadlocks with this Caribbean island. In fact, in Jamaica locks were seen as a way of living instead of vanity. Rastafarians grow their hair as a way of paying homage to Samson. To them, dreadlocks represent strength and inner power. Rastafarians also wore locks to go against societal norms and to send a message of difference and strength.
Regardless of race and culture, our hair is a personal crown of who we are and our heritage. So, keep that crown beautiful and taken care of, just the way God gave it to you!