Braids have come a long way since those tight pigtails from childhood. They have actually evolved into a sleek and grown-up way to contain long hair in a neat and professional manner. Not only are they a diverse and convenient choice, they are also one of the oldest hairstyles documented in history. This week Red Market Salon follows the evolution of hair braiding from Africa, to Europe, and beyond. The roots of braiding have been traced to West Africa where it began as a symbolic art form to denote culture, status, and tribe. Bridal up-dos with braids were considered the most complex forms, complete with intricate patterns and hair weaving. As with many ancient cultures, elders pass on knowledge to younger generations, and braiding was no exception. It was a very social tradition, with styles and techniques taught through the ages.
Sometime later, the plait, or English braid, gained popularity in early Europe. Women of aristocracy wore elaborate, ornamented braids to signify their status, whereas working women used simpler braids to keep hair clean and contained. The plait is created by weaving three even sections of hair in and out of each other, beginning at the nape of the neck and descending down the back. This method is simple enough to try yourself and comfortable enough for all-day wear.
In early American history, Native Americans wore braids for its practical purpose of containing long hair. Over time, ornate braids became popular for religious rituals and war preparations, and were common in men and women alike.
By the late 1800s, the French braid was in fashion. At that time, it was considered a “new” style, but in actuality it was discovered by travelers to North Africa. The French braid consists of weaving three strands, like the plait, but unlike the traditional braid, this style begins at the crown of the head. It is considered more elegant than plaiting because it involves a more complex technique, resulting in a more sophisticated appearance. There are also variations, such as Dutch and fishtail braids, that are constructed in a similar manner but consist of weaving the hair sections under, instead of over, creating an inverse braid.
Today, braids retain their popularity among women (and some men) as a practical and elegant hairstyle. The most basic style of braid today, by far, is the English braid, with Swiss or other wrapped braids as variations. Top (crown-only) and side braids are also in fashion, as often seen worn by celebrities. Aside from their convenience and versatility, another plus is the flowing waves that result the next day.
Have fun trying out different braids on your own or with a friend. And for that special occasion, be sure to make an appointment with Red Market Salon for the ultimate styling experience.
Red Market is a high-end concept in hair salons with exclusive locations in NYC and Miami.