Cornrows: Since 3000 B.C.

Cornrows: Since 3000 B.C.

Cornrows are a very Afrocentric hairstyle for both men and women. Cornrows have also crossed over to different races and nationalities with some celebrities being accused of cultural appropriation.

Cornrows are helpful in hair growth and damage repair as the hair is protected within the braid. Cornrows are not maintenance-free and do require some upkeep to keep them fresh. It is important to note that cornrows should not be done too tightly or hair damage and breakage can occur.

Depending on the region of the world, cornrows are worn by men or women, or both, and are sometimes adorned with beads or cowry shells.

Cornrow braids can last long enough that they will not need repairs for up to a month. There are some issues to be aware of with cornrows. Those with dry skin could see dandruff and on rare occasions, some people experience hair loss, also referred to as traction alopecia. It is important to use quality oils or gels to keep the scalp moisturized.

Take special care when washing your cornrows. It is best to wear a net cap before using any shampoo when washing your cornrows. With the hair net on, wet the hair thoroughly. Use a high quality, mild shampoo that will effectively clean your hair and scalp without over-drying it.

Cornrows are often formed in simple, straight lines, as the name implies, but they can also be formed in complicated geometric or curvilinear designs. There are many types of cornrows as well as other popular braided styles:

  • Cornrowed Dreads
  • Cornrow Crown
  • Braid Hawk
  • Criss-Cross
  • Braided Updo
  • Box Braids
  • Faux Locs/Silk Locs
  • Havana Twists
  • Senegalese Twists
  • Nubian Twists
  • Yarn Braids
  • Micro Braids/Tree Braids

Cornrows are a traditional way of styling hair in various global areas. Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in Stone Age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara, and have been dated as far back as 3000 B.C.

The tradition of female hairstyling in cornrows has remained popular throughout Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa. Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows.

Cornrow hairstyles in Africa also cover a wide social terrain: religion, kinship, status, age, ethnicity, and other attributes of identity can all be expressed in hairstyle. Just as important is the act of braiding, which transmits cultural values between generations, expresses bonds between friends, and establishes the role of professional practitioner.

Cornrows made a comeback in the 1960s and ’70s, and again during the ’90s, when NBA basketball player Allen Iverson repopularized this hairstyle. Cornrows and other braided styles are also available in wig form.

Over the years, cornrows, along with dreadlocks, have been the subject of several disputes in American workplaces, as well as universities. Some employers and educational institutions have deemed them unsuitable and banned them – sometimes even terminating employees who have worn them. Employees and civil rights groups have countered that such attitudes evidence cultural bias, and some disputes have resulted in litigation.