The Popular, Profitable Art of Hair-braiding
A look at the art, history, popularity and entrepreneurial profitability of hair-braiding. How and why an ancient cultural tradition made the transition to contemporary, Hip-Hop, political fashion.
Hair-braiding is an ancient art form and cultural tradition that has been practiced since the earliest recorded history and passed down through the ages. Despite this lengthy history, braided hair is enjoying its greatest popularity ever, right now.
The reasons for the tremendous surge in popularity are as varied as the individuals wearing the colorful style. Braided-hair is unisex, universal and individually unique; and since no two heads are alike, the variety of styles available are limited only by imagination. Braids are an occasional exotic hairstyle for some, a cultural statement for many, and simply an attractive change of pace for others.
The fortunate consequence of this unprecedented popularity among such a large and diverse public has made hair-braiding a relatively new, recently structured, and highly profitable business enterprise.
History of Braiding
Just how far back the art of hair-braiding can be traced may be seen in the clearly visible hair braids in photographs of the mummy Queen Nedjmet (1070-946 B.C.E.). Nedjmet lived and ruled in the ancient African civilization of Kush, now known as the Sudan.
In West Africa, the ancestral homeland of most African-Americans, hair-braiding is a vital aspect of the cultural tradition. Many regions wore distinctive braids as a means of tribal identification.
There were, however various other social and political functions of braids in those societies. Intricate styles were used in ceremonial rituals, such as weddings; but were also cultural and demographic sign posts pointing to different age groups, societal status, or even as designations of royalty.
Aside from Africa, many other countries and cultures have enjoyed a long cultural, political and social association with the art of hair-braiding.
Braids were around during medieval times and were worn as adornments, but were functional, as well; often a means of keeping hair cleaner between baths, keeping it out of cooking fires, and more.
For Native Americans braids were primarily adornments (particularly for women and children), but could also specify religious observances, and when worn by men were used by some tribes as preparation for war.
In nearly every part of the world, from Africa to India, Asia to the U.S., at varying periods of history braids have played some part in the cultural aesthetic.
Why Braids Are So Popular
Today, hair-braids are not only a cultural tradition of people of African descent, but a major component of a pop culture that cuts across racial, economic, social and in many cases, geographic lines.