Throughout the ages, black communities from around the world have created unique hairstyles that they can call their own. From Ancient Egypt to Jamaica, black people have adapted their hair to their surroundings in the most beautiful ways. In this blog post, we take a look at iconic black hairstyles. Hairstyles that have stood the test of time, evoked conversation, and solidified black identity today.
The Influence of Ancient Egypt on Black Hairstyles
From box braids and dreadlocks to afros and shape-ups, some of the most iconic black hairstyles can be seen in the artworks of Ancient Egypt. Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is seen in many drawings, engravings, and hieroglyphs wearing various iconic towering hairstyle. Egyptian Princess Kawit is seen in 2050 B.C. sarcophagus (stone coffin) having her hair braided with strands of human hair, wool, and other materials.
The hairstyles, headdresses, and wigs of wealthy and royal Egyptians indicated their ranking in society. Slaves and servants during this time were prohibited by law to wear wigs and headdresses.
Twist Locks & Dreadlocks of Jamaica
Even though dreadlocks are associated with Jamaica today, it has been around for over 2500 years. It is one of the earliest known styles and is recorded in the Hindu Vedic scriptures. In the scripture, it is described as “wearing twisted locks of hair.” Many associate dreadlocks with musician Bob Marley and the Rastafarian movement. The style became popular in America in the 1920s through activist Marcus Garvey.
The Braids of West Africa
West Africans are known for their amazing braids. In West African culture, braids signify your marital status, religion, wealth, and ranking within your community. This includes the following:
- In Nigeria, housewives in polygamous relationships create braided hairstyles called kohin-sorogun. Kohin-sorogun means “turn your back to the jealous rival wife.” The patterns, when seen from behind, is intended to make their husband’s other wives angry.
- In the Wolof tribe of Senegal, young men braid their hair a particular way to show that they are ready for war.
- The Popular Bantu Knots
Still popular today, Bantu Knots have rich African roots that have been around for 100 years. As one of the most iconic black hairstyles, it is also referred to as Zulu Knots and Nubian Knots. They are bundles of hair twisted to create little buns all over the head. Today, the hairstyle is worn as a protective style. It has even been worn on the red carpet by singer Rihanna and actress Lupita Nyong’o.
Cornrows & Slavery
Named after its visual similarity to cornfields, cornrows are tight braids that run along the scalp. First worn by African slaves all over the world, cornrows were worn to pay homage to where they come from. It was a practical hairstyle that can be worn throughout the long days of manual labour. In the 2000s, cornrows became a fashionable hairstyle and were worn by everyone. Today it is worn as a protective hairstyle. There are so many iconic African hairstyles that have all truly made an impression on society. These few are some of our favourites, with special mention to the natural hair movement of the 60s and 70s, and the Jheri Curl.