Who amongst us did not spend hours upon hours, on Saturdays or Sundays, getting their hair braided every week? It is a rite of passage for black girls from all over of the world. Braids are part of our identity as a race, for both black women and black men. At times, braids cross over from hairstyle to an art form.
A recent ELLE documentary, “Braided: An American Hair Story”, explores the history of braids and the influence this glorious hair style has in American culture, and the cultural appropriation that comes with it. The contributors to the documentary include Lupita Nyong’o and Vernon Francois.
Another aspect of braiding that’s explored in the documentary is how it has been a form of entrepreneurship for black women, including those who immigrate to the U.S. from Africa and other parts of the world. Many of them learned to braid hair at an early age and turned their passion for braiding hair into a career.
One participant commented, “I did have a lot of times where braids was like the last resort, like the only thing that I had to fall back on…I’m so grateful for the talent. It has gotten my family out of a lot of tough, tough situations.”
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Of course, you cannot talk about the history of braids in American without talking about cultural appropriation. Braids suddenly being hip and acceptable once white women wear them when black women who rocked braids all their lives were looked down upon is a textbook example of cultural appropriation.
Much more is discussed in the documentary. Check it out and let us know your thoughts!