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Traditional African Hairstyle of Cornrow


Since the origin of human history, people wore their hair in a variety of styles under great influence of their local cultures, climatic conditions and resultant requirements. That’s why different regions of the world have unique and different hair styling which transferred later around the world when those people migrated and spread their culture in areas where they migrated. Similarly, different hair styles emerged in African continent which were used to define social and marital status, identity, wealth, ethnicity etc. and become popular worldwide after immigration of African people to other parts of the world. Traditional African hair style “cornrows” or “canerow” also known as “braids” is very popular among African community throughout the world. Even in paintings of Stone Age of around 3000 B.C. found in Sahara, African women with cornrow hair style are being depicted although it is not an exclusive feminine style and males also style their hair in this way.

In cornrow hair style, braids of hair are made very close to the head either in raised rows of straight lines or complex geometrical shapes and designs of various sorts which along with styling hair, convey information about ethnicity, status and religious beliefs of the respected person. Hair with cornrow style are maintained easily if proper washing and regular oiling accompanies, and this style can be retained for days and even weeks. But without proper oiling this hairstyle is prone to produce dandruff in hair and can result in major hair loss after some time. Accessories like beads and shells are also used in braids of cornrow styling to further elaborate and beautify this hairstyle.

Cornrow style gained particular popularity among Afro-American population of U.S. in late 1960s’ and 70’s as part of “Black Nationalist Movement” to proudly embrace hairstyles which highlight natural hair texture as well as African culture so according to demand many saloons were opened to provide services of hairstyling like cornrow to the densely curled African texture of hair. But many companies as well as schools refused to allow their employees and students to style their hair in cornrows claiming that these hairstyles are inappropriate and have some alleged link to gang memberships. However, in a test case, the High Court of U.K. ordered a school to give admission to a student with cornrow hairstyle which the school was refusing on basis of his hairstyle being against school policy. High Court ruled that the respected student’s hair style is representing a family tradition and reasonable tolerance towards ethnic and cultural practices should be shown.

Cornrow style also has its traces in Greek and Roman cultures and Asian Martial Arts fighters also use this hairstyle as hair protection strategy during matches.

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