Fun Fact Fridays: The History of Braids

wpid-IMG_20130422_204839.jpgSince I’ve been into braiding my hair for weeks now I got curious as to how hair braiding actually started. I started wondering about who first thought about it and how it came about. So I decided to do some research about it (to feed my curiosity of course and yours in case you’re wondering as well…hehehehe!) and here’s what I found out.

According to Wikipedia, a braid (also called plait) is a complex structure or pattern formed by intertwining three or more strands of flexible material such as textile fibres, wire, or human hair. Compared to the process of weaving a wide sheet of cloth from two separate, perpendicular groups of strands (warp and weft), a braid is usually long and narrow, with each component strand functionally equivalent in zigzagging forward through the overlapping mass of the others.

The simplest possible braid is a flat, solid, three-strand structure in some countries/cases called a plait. More complex braids can be constructed from an arbitrary (but usually odd) number of strands to create a wider range of structures: wider ribbon-like bands, hollow or solid cylindrical cords, or broad mats which resemble a rudimentary perpendicular weave.

Braids are commonly used to make rope, decorative objects, and hairstyles (also see pigtailsFrench braid). Complex braids have been used to create hanging fibre artworks. Braiding is also used to prepare horses’ manes and tails for showing, polo and polocrosse.

Hair braiding has long been thought to have originated in East Africa. The oldest known image of hair braiding was traced back to a burial site called Saqqara located on the Nile river during the first dynasty of Pharaoh Menes. It was a means of communication so that at a glance one individual could distinguish a wealth of information about another, whether they were married, mourning, or of age for courtship, simply by observing their hairstyle. Certain hairstyles were distinctive to particular tribes or nations. Other styles spoke to an individual’s status in society.

"The braid" (1887) by Auguste Renoir Image courtesy of Wikipedia
“The braid” (1887) by Auguste Renoir
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Braiding is traditionally a social art. Because of the time it takes to braid hair the women took time to socialize while braiding and having their hair done. It begins with the elders making simple knots and braids for younger children. Older children watch and learn from them, start practicing on younger girls and eventually learn the traditional designs. In the US, you see mothers and grandmothers braiding and putting colorful beads in little children’s hair. This carries on a the tradition of bonding between elders and the new generation.

Braiding hair down to the scalp has been traditional in many African ethnic groups such as the TuaregBushmenCoptsAmharaNubianAkanBeja,HimbaSomaliAbabdaDogonFulaBedouinPygmiesTigraway, and the Yoruba. Asian ethnic groups such as the SumeriansAkkadiansBabyloniansPhoenicians and Assyrians, the ethnic groups of North and South America such as the CherokeeSiouxBlackfoot ConfederacyInca,MayaAztec and the Olmec, and European ethnic groups such as the SpanishDutchFrenchHellenes and Italians.

I wish I can do all the other styles by myself but unfortunately it’s a little challenging for me and the only style I can do is the simplest one, the flat or plait. Hey at least I can still braid my own hair, right! 😉 Oh how I miss my cousin Hannah! She used to braid my hair all the time when I was little and she’s really good at it. She used to try different styles on my hair but my favorite one is the headband style :).

I found this pretty cool collage of different styles of braids (see below) and I’m thinking of maybe challenging myself…30 days, 30 braids ;-). Hmmm…can I do it??? Well, I should at least give it a try right? I have nothing  lose! So challenge myself it is! 30 days, 30 braids! Hehehehe! 😀

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4 thoughts on “Fun Fact Fridays: The History of Braids

    1. Thank you so much for sharing!!! It’s a really great find and very interesting!!! I need to let my hair grow even longer so I can try the other styles :).

      Thanks again for sharing and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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