The Braid: A Historical Twist That Unifies Us All

The braid is one of the most loved hair styles, and also one of the oldest. When you think about professional hair cuts and styles, you might overlook the humble braid, but it is actually one of the most significant and culturally unifying technique on earth. For centuries, braids have played an important role in cultures all over the world, and still bring us together today.


Tracing back to the days of ancient Egypt, tribes all across the African continent placed great importance on a woman's hair. Despite the differences among these tribes and through the centuries, tribal members still shared many beliefs about hair; for example, only one person could braid another's hair, and women could not cut men's hair. Since the days of early tribes, those of African descent have revered hair and especially braids. The significance of braids here in America is particularly important because of the damaging impact that the slave trade had on the self-image of those forcefully relocated to this continent.

Braiding styles today both celebrate and revive the illustrious history of African hair culture. Some of the most sought-after traditional African braids include cornrows, box braids, and micro braids.


Ancient Europeans also placed great cultural significance on braids. The ancient Romans had a millennium-old tradition of selecting Vestal Virgins, six hand-picked ladies sworn to virginity and purity, to serve as the empire's spiritual leaders; these women donned sini crenes braids as symbols of their chastity. Ancient Gaelic and Celtic tribes also attributed symbolism to their locks. The Celtics wore their hair long, which gave them ample strands to braid in elaborate twists enhanced with precious metals, like gold and silver.

More recently, the most popular of all European braids, the French braid, came into vogue. Even though this twist is frequently attributed to France, it actually has its origins in northern Africa. Early European cultures, like Greeks and Celts, adopted this style early on, however, and it is now widely associated with the European continent.

European style braids, including the French braid, Roman Vestal twists, and Celtic knots, are among the most popular styles here in the United States. These styles are elegant and feminine, and good to learn.


Early Asian cultures believed that hair--or the lack of it--symbolized social and political status. Loose hair symbolized freedom but also sorrow, bald hair and long hair both expressed power and strength, and the samurai topknot signified high social status and honor. The braided queue expressed many conflicting things across the continent, from submission to loyalty, but it remains one of the most recognized hair styles of the Asian empires of old.

The Americas

Native American tribes in both the northern and the southern hemispheres also incorporated braids in their traditional and culture. The hair traditions differed from tribe to tribe. For example, the Kiowa women either wore their their hair in two braids or let their locks flow free, while the Plains Indian women kept their hair short and reserved braids for the male tribe members. In the Quapaw tribe, braids were worn only by the single women.

Today, Native Americans and their descendents still incorporate braids into their ceremonies and rituals. From simple braids to elaborate designs, these braids have deep spiritual significance still today.