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And while hair can be experimented with and something to have fun with, it is also important to know where some styles come from, especially when they have a rich history.

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Braids were a way to signify many descriptors – marital status, age, religion, wealth, social ranking and also were a way to identify people of different tribes, which is why there are so many different types of braids today (classic, box, goddess, etc).

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There are ancient drawings, engravings, and hieroglyphics that depicted Egyptian queens having their hair braided by their servants.

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Mummy of Lady Rai, one of the oldest known mummies uncovered from Egypt, depicted with braids.
Image source: G. Elliott Smith (1871-1937) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Cornrows are a series of tight, three-strand braids weaved closely to the scalp. Cornrows depicted the agricultural lifestyle of the African tribes, and were geometric and mathematical in their creation.
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The reclaiming of natural hair became popularized with the Civil Rights Movement, when leaders encouraged black communities to accept their hair instead of conforming to Western standards. Styles like afros, dreadlocks and the jheri curl came into the forefront with Black hairstyles and are still worn in pop culture today.

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Popular culture also played a major role with male hairstyles. With hip hop dominating the scene in the 1980s, black barber shops not only perfected the fade, but also expanded upon hairstyles taking creative freedoms to create hi-top fades, waves, and giving traditional hairstyles a modern twist.

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Black hairstyles have existed for centuries and have been depicted and displayed in American culture for hundreds of years. It’s popularity today doesn’t mean these styles are “new” or “trendy,” but are weaved into a historical context. And in today’s climate, being aware of where these hairstyles come from, and the importance that they played both in tribal culture and American culture is crucial.

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Understanding and knowledge can only help to bring our world, in real life and on IMVU, closer together to celebrate each other’s traditions, cultures, styles, history and belief systems. So start a conversation and share your knowledge and culture. You never know what’s beyond just the look.

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