Where Do Braids Originate From? You Won’t Believe This…


Ever wondered what the true origin of braids is and just how long they’ve been around? So have I! This is why I have decided to research this topic to the bottom of this. Keep reading to find out what I’ve found!

Braids originated from Africa with the Himba tribe in Namibia and can be traced as far back as 5000 years ago to 3500 BC. In those days, braids were very popular amongst African tribes as they served as a way to identify different tribes, status within that tribe in terms of age, wealth, and marriage.

Take a look at this table below for a more in-depth breakdown of where and when different braids originated from:

Braid TypeOriginYear 
CornrowsEthiopia3000 BC
Box BraidsSouth Africa3500 BC
Ghana BraidsGhana500 BC
DreadlocksIndia2500 BC
Pigtail BraidsNative Americans15th Century
Crown BraidEurope1066 – 1485
Staircase BraidChina1644 – 1912
Table Showing Where And When Different Braids Originated From

It’s crazy to think that braids have been around for such a long time. Of course, back then, they were done a bit differently, but for the most part, they resemble the way we braid those styles today. If you’re as eager as I am to find more about the origins of the popular braiding styles that we still see a lot of today and also what was used to create braids, take a look below!

The History Of Braids

Cornrows

Cornrows originated in Ethiopia in 3000BC, and from records, states that in the 19th century, even the men in various tribes would wear cornrows in their hair in different fashions, and it was used to identify kings and warriors from different tribes.

Cornrows are actually still a staple style worn by tribes throughout Sudan, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia). They are worn in different fashions to represent people’s age, social status,  relationship status, kinship, religious beliefs, and wealth; they have also been used as a type of self-expression.

Some men and women even decorate their cornrows with glass, shells, flowers, corals, and other such objects as a means of self-expression.

Box Braids 

The origin of box braids can best be traced all the way back to South Africa in 3500BC, with a striking resemblance to the Eembuvi braids worn by the Mbalantu tribe in Namibia and the chin-length bob braids worn by the women from the Nile Valley more than 3000 years ago.

In those days, box braids weren’t done using hair extensions, skull caps made from materials such as wool, felt, and even human hair was used, and hair was wefted onto them.

This was often done for traditional rituals to complement their traditional attire; they’d often decorate their box braids using beads, jewels, cowrie shells, and other such items to demonstrate their readiness and availability to mate.

Box braids were also used to demonstrate high priesthood and wealth as they were costly to do in terms of installation time and finding the materials to make them. Women who had box braids were often viewed as being wealthy, seeing as they had the time to sit for hours getting box braids and decorating them. 

The installation process took precision and a lot of patience; even now, getting box braids installed can take anywhere between four to eight hours, depending on how thick and how long they are; so just imagine how long it took back then when they didn’t use the quick techniques used today.

Ghana Braids

Ghana braids, also known as banana braids or even fishbone braids, have been traced all the way back to Ghana in 500BC; the earliest evidence or records that we have about Ghana braids have appeared in sculptures and hieroglyphics and show the detail and precision that these tribes put into their braids.

Even today, centuries later, Ghana braids and braids in general, are an important part of the traditions in Ghana (religious, ethnic, cultural, and social). Ghana braids are similar in appearance to cornrows, except that they are not a uniform size through your head.

Ghana braids start off thin at the roots and get thicker and fuller in the middle of your head before thinning and narrowing towards the end of the braids.

Dreadlocks

If you ask anyone where dreadlocks are from, they’d probably say from the Rastafarians in Jamaica. The truth is, the origin of dreadlocks can actually be traced back to India

An English literature professor named Dr. Bert Ashe wrote a book (Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles) about the identity of Black men and Black culture, whereby he talks about his journey getting dreadlocks as a black man and the history of dreadlocks. 

In writing this book, he obviously had to do extensive research on the origin of dreadlocks. He found that dreadlocks originated around 2500BC, and records (The Vedas, Hinduism’s oldest scriptures)  show that Hindu God Shiva is wearing dreadlocks, which are known as jaTaa in the  Sanskrit language. 

Other sources have backed this information, thus proving that dreadlocks don’t actually originate from Jamaica. 

In fact, records also show that ancient Egyptian pharaohs also wore dreadlocks as it was depicted in their tomb carvings and other such artifacts. mummified bodies have actually been recovered with their dreadlocks still intact, thousands of years later.

Dreadlocks were also very popular in the Himba Tribe, found in the most northwestern region of Namibia. Dreadlocks were used to indicate a person’s age, relationship status, and life stage. They used ground ochre, goat butter and hair to create dreadlocks.

Final Thoughts

If we’ve learned anything from this article is that braids started off as being more than a  fashion statement, they were a representation of one culture, status in their tribe, and their wealth, amongst other things.

For example, a girl who has just entered puberty, a new life stage, would have dreadlocks or braids that were loose free-flowing over her face whilst a young woman who wanted to show her availability and readiness for marriage would wear her dreadlocks tied back to reveal her face.

A married woman or a new mother would have to wear an Erembe headdress that’s made out of animal skin on their head. 

Something similar could be said for men in some African tribes, single men would wear a single plait to show that they were unmarried, but once they got married, they would cover their heads to hide their hair from the public unless cultural ceremonies deemed otherwise.

It’s just interesting to see how much braids meant back then and the lengths and methods people used to make braids, whereas we can simply go to our nearest salon to purchase hair extensions instead of having to get creative with animal skin and other such objects.

Related Question

Did vikings braid their hair?

Vikings did wear braids, but it wasn’t the most popular hairstyle amongst them, even though most of the shows we watch about Vikings can make you believe that braids were popular amongst them. Vikings liked to keep their hair and beards long and usually tied their hair in buns or knots and then braided or weaved colored tape through their hair. Some women would even wear scarfs or bonnets on their heads.

What race wore braids first?

The Himba people in Namibia were the first to wear braids and can be traced back as far as 5000 years – 3500 BC. The Himba people are Black Africans and often looked red as they would apply otjize, a paste of butter, fat, and red ochre, on their bodies every morning.

Jodie

Hey, I’m Jodie, the gal behind CraftyHairHacks. I have a deep passion for hair extensions, hairstyles, and almost anything that has to do with hair, which leads me to the writing and research I do for this website daily. Our site is still small, however, we’re pushing to get the best hair hacks out to as many as people as possible. ENJOY!

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