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The History of Cornrows

Apr 25, 2008
Have you ever seen someone with beautiful braids that lay close to their scalp? Oftentimes these braids can be decorated with shells and other types of beads. If you know what I'm talking about, then you have seen "cornrows." Originally from Africa, cornrows are known for their low-maintenance regime, and the style is popular on men and women alike.

Cornrows sparked their popularity during the ''Black Power Movement'' of the early 1970s. During this time millions of African Americans were afraid to wear their ''natural hair'' in public. This period of time also brought other popular styles to our attention, including the afro. Cornrows are popular because they are not only very low maintenance but because their intricate designs are also very popular.

Cornrows have represented many different attributes in pre-slavery times including kinship, religion, age, status, ethnicity, and more.

Here are some fun and interesting facts you might not have known about cornrows:

1. During the 1960s African American women preferred not to be seen in public with their natural hair. On a popular television show of that time, East Side / West Side, actress Cicely Tyson wore a full head of cornrows for one of her scenes. Some people believe this sparked the end of the ''natural hair'' trend.

2. Cornrows can last two to four weeks if they are properly cared for and maintained. To avoid the hair becoming locked or matted, cornrows should be removed after four weeks.

3. Cornrows have been disputed in the workplace for several years due to their ''unprofessional appearance.'' Some employers have completely prohibited the style while others have simply stressed their disapproval.

4. The most popular design for cornrows is the ''straight back'' design, which means several braids lay flat on the head in a front to back direction. However, cornrows can also be manipulated into thousands of different designs including zig-zags, and some styles can take up to 13 hours to complete.

The maintenance of cornrows varies from person to person based on their specific hair condition, but there are some general ''rules of thumb'' to keep in mind if you're considering this timeless design. If not completed correctly cornrows can damage the hair, so it's crucial to make sure cornrows are not braided too tightly. If too tight, they can pull the hair out from the roots, mainly around the edges.

You can wash cornrows using a dry shampoo, but make sure not to use regular shampoo. If you wash your cornrows like normal hair, they will unravel before your eyes. You can also use a mild astringent to clean the scalp. For any stray hairs that pop up, just rub a little bit of gel on the cornrow. Before going to bed, make sure you wrap your hair in a silk scarf to keep the style intact while you sleep.

With such fascinating origins, it's no wonder that so many people have fallen in love with cornrows over the years. For men, women, and children alike, cornrows have stood the test of time, and they have become a stylish icon for African Americans.
About the Author
Marquetta Breslin, owner of Braids By Breslin, is a licensed hair braider and has been braiding hair for over 12 years. For more information about cornrows, please visit Marquetta's website.
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