INSPIRED BY: Fulani Braids


You may have seen them called “Festival Braids”, “Tribal Braids”, or “Alicia Key Braids”, but before this iconic hairstyle ends up in an issue of Allure with a brand new name, let's talk about the history of Fulani Braids.

In a new series from Thoughts Caught in My Fro called, “Inspired By”, we try to cut cultural appropriation off at the pass by exploring the cultural significance of hot, "new" trends. We all partake in a little cultural appropriation. It’s a symptom of globalization. We can do better by understanding the significance of the things we admire, and understanding that they serve more of a purpose than acting as the latest cultural costume. 

The Fulani people of West Africa are the largest nomadic group in the world. They have inspired hair styles among black women for years. Immense importance is given to the custom of braiding. The person who braids hair performs it as both a ritual and a social service. It is an art form taught by the senior female member of the family to her daughters and close friends. The person who braids well is considered an expert. The man or woman who braids does it as a social duty. No rewards are expected.

There is no singular Fulani hair style or way of braiding the hair. The title describes more of a genre of braiding style that usually includes different patterns, braids framing the face, cornrows, beads and other jewelry. It is not uncommon to see the women decorate their hair with beads and cowrie shells. The hair is put into braids that either hang or are sometimes looped on the sides. It is common for women and girls to have silver coins and amber attached to their braids.

The styles you see on Instagram, and on your favorite singer are Fulani-inspired. This is without a doubt. I’ve seen them referred to as ‘70s cornrows’, ‘Bo Derek braids’, ‘Beyonce Braids’ and more. The truth is, Africa is truly the mother of this style. - from Nigeria to Mali to Niger to Cameroon. The beauty of this style deserves to be celebrated and the honor given to the Fulani. 

Cultural Appropriation, or misappropriation, is arguably the single-most misunderstood concept of our time. This series will try to combat some of that by demonstrating the power in acknowledging and appreciating the collective intellectual property of the culture. Instead of erasing the cultural elements , we will begin to honor them by speaking about them.