Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The History of the Braid: A Twisted Tale

The history of the braid
Braiding is more than a hairstyle – it’s a cultural tradition that cuts across racial, social, economic, and geographic lines.

Hair Braiding in Africa
Ancient African hair braiding patterns reveal a variety of complex geometrical designs, which often pointed to characteristics of the wearer.
  • Identity
  • Status
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • kinship

Hair Braiding in Egypt
In ancient Egypt, braiding was reserved for royalty and for ceremonial rituals like weddings.

Hair Braiding in America
Historically, most Native American women and children wore braids to signify things:
  • Whether a woman was married or unmarried women was based on the braids she wore.
  • Braiding was also performed for religious rituals.
  • Native American men wore braids with feathers, fur, leather, or beads to prepare for war.

Hair Braiding in Europe
  • According to Medieval and Renaissance artwork, upper-class women were revealed by elaborate braids and styles.
  • Simpler braids were often chosen by common women for functional purposes – to keep hair cleaner between baths and to keep hair out of the way while cooking, cleaning, and performing other daily chores.

The Braid Breakdown

There are hundreds of different types of braids, including French braids, English braids, Dutch braids, Swiss braids, multi-strand braids, crown braids, etc. – all of them “twists” on the traditional style.

Currently, 11 states have imposed a specialized license for hair braiders, and seven states require braiders to obtain a full cosmetology license. Ten states specifically exempt hair braiders from cosmetology licensing laws, and in the other 22 states, the law remains silent on the issue.

We loved when Dorothy brought her braid to Oz, but no movie has made braids more famous than “Return of the Jedi” did. Who could resist Princess Leia’s many braided do’s?

When your hair is divided into even rectangular or triangular sections all over your head, with the hair in each section twisted together and wound into a protruding knot, the style is known as African knots or Zulu knots in the U.S. In Africa, however, the style is called “chicken poop.”

In the 2005 playoffs, NBA forward Vladimir Radmanovic made more headlines for his hair than for his performance on the court. His reason for going braided? He just wanted to get the hair out of his eyes.

According to South African research published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2007, tight hair braiding, especially when combined with hair-straightening chemicals, can lead to permanent bald patches and severe acne on the scalp. Yikes!

In 2010, a 4-year-old was suspended from pre-K in his suburban Dallas school district because his hair was too long. The school board’s compromise that he could braid his hair and pin it up? REJECTED.

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