Bantu knots, Fulani braids and braids are just some of the African hairstyles that have existed for centuries. But thanks to fashion magazines, the Marc Jacobs fashion shows and the Kardashians, these hairstyles that have cultural significance for blacks have become very popular among people outside the black community over the years. You know what that means, right? Obviously, no one can stop you from wearing your hair however you want, so if you still want to use a braided hairstyle, there are steps you can take before going to the salon. Some black people reject the term “dreadlocks” and call their hair “locks” because they refuse to characterize their hairstyle as “dreadful” and encourage others to do the same.
Many braided hairstyles have cultural significance, so be sure to learn more about the style you're buying. So much so that non-black women quite often cross the fine line between appreciation and appropriation, who think they can borrow hairstyles from black culture, often without understanding history, and escape the associated prejudice. The difference between black women who wear blonde and straight fabrics and non-black women who wear culturally black hairstyles is that straight blonde hair doesn't have a painful history of discrimination that they've been trying to escape for at least the past 230 years. Tharps explains that braids and other intricate hairstyles were used historically to indicate marital status, age, religion, wealth and rank in society.
Tignon's laws were aimed at freeing women of color and required black women to cover their hair in public, because their intricate hairstyles were considered to threaten the social status of white women and, therefore, the patriarchal social order. Discrimination against black hairstyles has not only fueled the otherness of blacks, but also the exclusion of black communities from creating generational wealth and stability for their families. Across the continent, a person's hairstyle can tell a lot about who they were and where they came from. In the 90s, Oprah stylist Andre Walker created a “Typing System” (trademark) that has since been widely adopted as a quick way to find out what type of hair texture you have.
So instead of going to Instagram and calling your new hairstyle “boxer braids”, use the appropriate term “braids”. It's the fact that you wear the hairstyles that we call “ghetto” and “unprofessional” for us, but that are fashionable and great for you. Welcome to Rooted, a campaign celebrating the power of black hair and the launch of “Tallawah”, an exhibition by photographer Nadine Ijewere and stylist Jawara Wauchope. Centuries before the tignon, ancient African civilizations used their hairstyles to indicate social status, such as the tribe to which they belonged, their religion, age and marital status.