Stolen Style: A brief history of appropriated fashions

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BRAIDS and CORNROWS

Braids and cornrows have become the hairstyle du jour for non-black celebrities including Kylie Jenner and, more recently, Vanessa Hudgens.

Setting aside the fact that no one should ever wear lacefront braids (I’m looking at you Kylie), this style has its historical roots in African diaspora as a symbol of identity and resistance.

Cornrows date back to the Nok civilization of Nigeria circa 500 BCE, where they were used to symbolize various religious, social and cultural identities. Cornrows managed to survive the Middle Passage, which transported many African citizens to the Caribbean and the Americas where they were sold as slaves.

As part of the obliteration of any identity ties to their African roots, enslaved people’s heads were shaved. As the hair grew back however, braiding and plaiting became a form of cultural resistance that went unnoticed as enslaved people were required to keep their hair neat by their masters.

This idea of resistance in hair would be seen again in 1960s with the rise of the Black Power Movement and increased emphasis on black hairstyles like afros and cornrows.


Cosmopolitan Magazine also recently came under fire for using cornrows in a beauty tutorial video.

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