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The History of Black Hair: 7 Surprising Facts

Getting to know your hair better is one of the best ways to ensure you have a healthy hair journey. Part of knowing your hair, is knowing its history. So, we will be sharing a few things you may not have known about the history of black hair! Let’s begin…

The History of Black Hair and…

Cornrows and Braids

cornrows: black hair history

In 15th century West Africa, hairstyles identified age, religion, rank, marital status, and even family groups. For example, the hairstyle ‘kohin-sorogun‘ originated from Nigerian housewives in polygamous relationships. It is a hairstyle with a prominent design at the back and its name means to ”turn your back to the jealous rival wife.” So, when seen from behind, it would tease a husbands’ other wives.

The cornrow styles that we know and love today also get their name from Africa, and more specifically from the pattern of corn field. This time symbolising agriculture, order and way of life.

Slavery

Knowing what we know now about the cultural importance of hairstyles, it will come as no surprise that they also played a significant role during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Black people throughout the slave trade had their heads shaved. It was a form of control made effective by stripping individuals of their cultural identities. Those who were able to grow their hair back or even keep their hair kept it braided out of tradition, safety, and necessity while working on plantations.

Sunday was a day of rest, and on this day Black people would use what ever they could find to maintain their hair. It meant getting creative and making do with the likes of bacon grease in place of the natural and plant-based products they have previously had access to back in Africa.

Bantu Knots

Another hairstyle with deep African roots is Bantu knots. ‘Bantu‘ in many African languages, including Zulu and Swahili, means people. Originating from the Zulu people in South Africa, Bantu knots are also known as Zulu knots and has earned a variety of different names from the Black diaspora.

Dreadlocks

man with dreadlocks and hat: the history of black hair

The term dreadlocks originate from the guerrilla warriors’ movement. They protested against cutting their hair until Haile Selassie, the former Ethiopian Emperor was released from exile. The warrior’s hair became matted and gradually formed locs. Thus, the term ”dreadlocks” was coined, as the warriors were ”dreaded”. Today, many people just tend to call them locs. They also have evolved to include variations such as Sisterlocks and temporary faux loc styles.

Threading

Threading, or African threading is a hairstyle and natural technique that stretches the length of natural hair without heat. It is also a protective hairstyle within itself, as your hair is not being manipulated whilst it is bound by thread. It originates from Sub Sahara African countries and has evolved further in South Nigeria where African hair threading is sometimes called ‘Los’ or ‘Eko bridge’.

The History of Black Hair and Madame CJ Walker

Madame CJ Walker was the first Black female self-made millionaire in America. In 1910, she founded the Madame C.J. Walker Company where she sold a whole host of Black hair products, including the Wonderful Hair Grower. Walker employed over 3000 people, largely Black women. The entrepreneur suffered from a scalp disorder that caused hair loss which had inspired her to start the business.

The History of Black Hair and Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt hieroglyphs

The most popular Black hairstyles, including braids, dreadlocks, and afros can be dated as far back as Ancient Egypt! There, we see evidence of them seen in drawings, engravings, and hieroglyphs. For example, the painted sandstone bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti was rediscovered in 1913. Since then, Nefertiti’s royal beauty, enhanced by her tall hairstyle, soon became an international symbol of female empowerment. Have you seen it before?

We hope you found this post on the History of Black Hair insightful. You can achieve all of these styles with a range of our products in our store.

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