Hair braiding is an ancient, long-standing art. It started back in 4000 BC in the West African tribes. Originally, it was a social activity, with grandmothers and mothers braiding their daughters’ hair, and the youngsters braiding even younger children’s hair. As the years passed, the art of braiding was brought to the rest of the world and gave rise to different types of hair braids. Today, braids are worn for almost all occasions, from weddings to sports meets.
Braids are typically done on medium to long hair and while short hair is often exempt, some manage to braid their hair using inventive braiding techniques, like braiding hair horizontally across the head, or even using thinner strands of hair to create micro braids all around the head.
While there are only a few ways to braid short hair, multiple styles of braids are available for long tresses. The simplest of these would be the English, French and Dutch braids. The English braid is the most typical braid you see among women. It is done by plaiting three strands of hair from the nape of the neck downward to the tips, then securing it either with rubber elastics or barrettes. French braids are similar to the English braids, but they start from hairline, near the forehead. As this braid progresses, it incorporates hair strands from either side of the head into the weave, securing all the hair. An inverted French braid is often called a Dutch braid. This type of braid gives the look of an embossed braid, as opposed to the smooth look of the French braid. Another simple braid would be the biker’s braid. Though not technically a braid, it is often used by bikers and motorcyclists to secure hair from whiplash from wind. This hairstyle is done by securing a high ponytail at intervals with a number of hair elastics. Rope braids are also examples of false braids. These are done by twisting two to three strands of hair and should be secured in the end with hair elastics to prevent untwisting.
Other braids are not as simple or as fast to do. The Heidi / Swiss braid gives the appearance of a hair tiara for the wearer. It is made by taking two braids at the nape of the neck and crossing them over the crown of the head. Depending on the length of the hair, the Heidi braid could be wrapped around the whole head, forming a crown of hair. More complicated braids are done using more strands of hair from four to seven. Nine-strand braids can be considered the height of hair braiding art and are exhibited only by Renaissance Fair professional hair braiders. Keep in mind that the more strands there are, the harder it is to make it into a neat weave. It also makes for wider and shorter braids. Herringbone braids are time-consuming, whether doing or undoing them. These are technically a two-strand braid, formed by bringing sections from one half of the hair to the other. The braids remain neat for a long time, and don’t need to be secured. This braid style is also called ‘fishtail’ braid, because the unsecured braid splays at the bottom, like a fish’s tail. Lace braids and crown braids are two other complicated braids which employ techniques used in the French braid. Lace braids are done by gathering hair from only one side and incorporating it in the weave as it travels down the head. Crown braids, on the other hand, are woven around the head to make a crown. They are much more complicated than the Heidi braids and are very difficult to do solo.
While braids can be worn as is, they can also appear in different combinations and configurations. One such combination is the classic braid, which is basically two English braids worn on either side of the head. It is a style most consider childish or schoolgirlish. But if they are worn coiled, they can give a very sophisticated look. Another elegant braid configuration is the cascade braid. It is done by letting half of the hair in the back stay loose and flowing. This gives the overall effect of femininity to the hairstyle. Braids can also be braided into other braids, like taking two braids and weaving / twisting them into one larger braid. Braids can also be accented by smaller braids to add to the overall effect of the hairstyle.
There are practically no limits on how a woman’s hair can be braided. Different styles and combinations can be employed, especially if they are to be worn ifor very special occasions like weddings. All it takes is imagination, and a lot of patience.