Dialect Magazine


Hair Braiding. How and where did it begin? As we know it today, hair braiding has long been a custom in West Africa. The creative designs signify the social status, age group and village that a girl or woman has come from. Each braid pattern is different and can become more inventive for special occasions such as, marriages.

Unbeknownst to many, hair braiding is an ancient art, practiced by the Ancient Egyptians as long ago as 4000 BC. Today it has become a hot fashion trend with many styles. Not only African American women, but also Caucasian women, as well as men, have embraced this beautiful art. The colors and styles created thus far have been beyond our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Many would assume that braiding is all the same, but there is actually a slight difference between modern and ancient hair braiding.

Ancient braiding is traditionally a social art. Braiding is time consuming, and because of this, the women socialized while braiding and having their hair done. As many of us know, socializing is actually typical behavior in all beauty shops, and male barbershops. It begins with the elders making simple knots and braids for younger children. Older children watch and learn from them. In the process, they start practicing on younger girls and eventually learn the traditional designs.

With modern braiding, beads were added. Mothers and grandmothers were also putting colorful beads in little children’s hair. This carries on the tradition of bonding between elders and the new generation. Here in America, this has become a staple.

Another modern braiding technique is hair weaving. Hair weaving has become one of braiding’s most common and popular techniques. Hair weaves range from real hair to an array of different colors and textures made from synthetic hair. The traditional beads have also developed into all sorts of shapes and sizes.

As a result, simple hair braiding has indeed come along way, and will continue to do so for years to come. For an eclectic hairstyle change, try it out if you have not already, but if you work a regular job, you may not want it to be too outrageous. Happy braiding!




Ashly is a freelance writer and poet from Baltimore, MD.

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