Hairstyle File: The Evolution of Braids

Judging from the sudden popularity of Solange Knowles' retro Nineties 'do and Willow Smith's micro-braided strands, it's safe to say that braids are definitely hot again! By don't call it a comeback--this look has been one of the most popular Black hairstyles for centuries. From Reconstruction era styles to Brandy, here are some of the most memorable moments in the history of braids.
ESSENCE.COM Feb, 18, 2011

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While touring with the American Anti-Slavery Society, free Black author Frances Harper wore cornrows instead of mimicking white styles—a dramatic political statement at the time.

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As a star on “East Side/West Side” in the mid-60’s, Oscar-nominated actress Cicely Tyson was the first Black woman to wear cornrows on TV!

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At the 1980 American Movie Awards, Donna Summer wore a disco-era braided look popularized by, ahem, Rick James.

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With her micro-braids, multi-colored beads and hair accessory flourishes like chopsticks and feathers, “Forget Me Nots” singer Patrice Rushen took braids to a whole new level.

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With her sleek micro-braided cornrows and graceful persona, ESSENCE’s legendary editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor set hair trends for an entire generation of Black women.

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Dancehall Queen Patra sparked one of the most memorable trends of the early ’90s with her Jamaican “Dookie” braids (see also Janet Jackson in “Poetic Justice,” and R&B group Jade).

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In the mid-Nineties, teenage pop starlet Brandy made braided extensions her trademark. Here, she sports an elaborately pin-curled, half-up/half-down ’do.

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On an MTV TRL tour with Destiny’s Child, Beyonce sported long, blonde cornrowed extensions.

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When Alicia Keys first stepped on the music scene, intricately braided, skinny cornrows were her signature look.

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At Maxim’s 10th Annual Hot 100 party, Ciara flaunted uber-dramatic, waist-length, cornrowed braids.

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Always on the cutting edge, Solange sported butt-length, early ‘90s-style braids—plus a chic, African print turban—at the grand opening of Las Vegas’ Marquee nightclub.

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After over fifteen years in the music industry, Brandy recently returned back to the hairstyle she helped make trendy in the Nineties.

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All eyes were on Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s superstar offspring, Jaden and Willow, when they hit the Grammy’s sporting adorable braided styles.


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