Some call them the successor of the man bun. Others were quick to point out just how fast they absolutely took over Instagram. But, just like the man bun before them, braids for men divided the world between followers and those who completely opposed this hairstyle. Yes, we’ve been here before already, with the man bun. Only this time, it got even more serious, when allegations of cultural appropriation were thrown about.
So let’s shed some light at length on the topic of man braids. Where did they come from? How many types and styles of man braids are there? How can you get man braids, how should you style them, how can they be maintained, and what celebrities have been seen wearing them?
The History of Man Braids
A few years ago, when modern men started to wear braids, social media exploded in titles such as ‘men have finally learned how to braid their hair.’ But that’s not exactly the case. It was just the moment when this particular hairstyle reemerged into the spotlight.
In fact, men have had a relationship with their braids for thousands of years. And a very significant one at that. For example, the ancient Celts used to wear very elaborate braids which they adorned with feathers, bronze and silver ribbons, gold balls or gold plates.
As the historical records show, if a man wanted to enter the Warrior class, he had to pass a test. The whole Warrior band needed to chase him through a forest. He had to make it to the other side without any of his braids coming loose in the branches of the trees.
Native American and Chinese Man Braids
Another very old culture in which men wore braids with a deeply religious or symbolic meaning is the Native American one. In some tribes, men who prepared for battle used to braid their hair. This hairstyle was a preferred one for strategic reasons while fighting. It was utilitarian and it meant that your enemy couldn’t pull your hair and stop you in the battle field.
In the Chinese culture, warriors would shave their head completely save for a very thin and long strand of hair which they would braid. It was called a ‘queue’ and historians say that it dates back to 2000 years ago in the Han period. In fact, they also report that, according to Chinese tradition, in the 1890s, if men cut their braid off, it meant they were rebelling.
Viking Man Braids
Some of the most popular man braids today belong to the Viking culture. But is that real? Did the Vikings actually braid their hair or is it just a stereotype reinforced by Hollywood? As it turns out, it’s not true.
There is no denying that there might have been some Viking men who loved to grow their hair long and then braid is so as not to trouble them on the battle field. There was no rule against that in their culture. However, most Vikings used to cut their hair very short, shave it at the back and comb a long and feathery fringe over their eyes.
There are simply no reports or carvings from that period depicting Vikings with long hair or with braids for that matter. It is a well-established fact that they knew how to braid, it’s just that it would have taken far too long to do it and it was not in their custom.
The African-American History of Braids for Men
There are some particular types of man braids that belong mostly to African-American cultures. One example are cornrows. They are very taut and close to the scalp, and are thought to have begun as a utilitarian practice rather than an aesthetic one. They can vary from simple cornrows to very intricate designs that may or may not have symbolic or religious meaning.
But it’s important to note that such types of man braids did not originate in the Americas. Many other cultures, especially black ones have them and hold them as a symbol of pride and their long history. Which brings us to our next topic.
The Cultural Appropriation of Braids for Men
It’s impossible to talk about braids for men and not touch upon the idea of cultural appropriation. This is a topic that needs to be discussed at large because we now live in a world where every wrong step or social faux pas will earn you a lot of backlash.
That being said, when it comes to braids for men, the world is divided. Some believe that they are just a hairstyle and people shouldn’t give it so much meaning. On the other hand, others think that braids for men have a lot of cultural significance and shouldn’t be taken so lightly or appropriated, for that matter, by men who do not belong to a certain culture. Do you remember the whole ‘my culture is not your prom dress’ debacle? It’s the same idea.
The problem arises when braids for men are not given the correct context they deserve. First of all, as we’ve already explained, this is not a new thing. Men have been braiding their hair for hundreds if not thousands of years as historical records show. The fact that it has now just reemerged as a mainstream thing should be showcased properly.
Second of all, braids for men are not exactly a trend. Perhaps some versions are, but not all of them. Individuals in the African-American communities have been continuously braiding their hair for the past centuries. Therefore, this nullifies the idea as a trend.
Thirdly, braids for men are not necessarily gender specific and could be viewed more trans than anything else. Up until the modern era when we became adamant in separating men’s hairstyles from women’s hairstyles, braids were a shared way of wearing their hair for both sexes.
Examples of Cultural Appropriation of Braids for Men
As we already mentioned, the problems arises when the context in which braids for men are used is not the correct one. For example, the beauty and health director at Teen Vogue wrote an article about getting Senegalese twists. While that’s absolutely fine as a topic, the photos in the piece showed a model with fair skin. This made people on Twitter turn on the publication and say that they were ignoring the origins of the braids.
Another good example of handling braids the wrong way was a Tweet by magazine Marie Claire about model Kendall Jenner. They praised her by saying the model took braids ‘to a new epic level.’ However, this might have been inappropriate and tone-deaf since black people have been wearing braids for hundreds of years. It is definitely not a white supermodel who has taken this hairstyle to new levels.
The Coolest Types of Braids for Men
If your hair is the right length, then you can teach yourself how to braid hair at home. Especially if what you’re going for is a casual, relaxed look. However, if you want more complicated designs, we suggest you see a professional. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of braids for men you can choose from.
Who hasn’t heard or seen cornrows as least once? These are, most likely, the most mainstream version of man braids available. By definition, they are very tight braids which you need to wear as close to your scalp as possible. If you intend on playing with texture a little bit, you can get single or even double rows. A skilled barber or stylist will be able to braid your cornrows in very intricate designs to keep things interesting.
· Layered Braids
You might also think about layered braids as some cornrows that you don’t need to worry about so much or fuss over. They are only connected at the root and hang free around your head. That’s why you can tie them in a ponytail, a man bun or simply let them be. It’s all up to you or the mood you’re in.
Layered braids are at their best when you have medium hair. Not short enough for them to look too 90s but not long enough to seem like faux dreads.
· Box Braids
This version of braids are called box braids because they are three-stand plaits that need to be very square and straight. Therefore, they look almost boxy. It’s a style that transcends genders, and can be successfully worn by women as well.
Apart from that, if you can’t actually wait until your own hair grows long enough, you can get extensions for your box braids. However, here’s a fair warning. The longer your hair is, the more time it will take to braid it. Still, you can find fake box braids to buy and attach them to your own hair if you want to save time.
· Viking Braids
Now we’ve already established that Viking braids don’t have an actual correspondent in history. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still wear this hairstyle. It has been made popular by Hollywood blockbuster movies and, of course, by the hit TV series Vikings. In the latter, we can see one of the main characters, king Ragnar wearing a gorgeous set of long, dread-like braids for men. He ties them in a high ponytail with shaved sides and back that reveal his amazing battle tattoos.
This could easily be you. However, keep in mind that we don’t pillage English villages all that much in the 21st century. So your office or workplace could frown upon your Viking hairstyle. If so, we suggest you keep the man braids and dial down the shaved sides and head tattoos.
· The Single Plait
You might have seen it first worn by your little sister. However, that doesn’t mean the single plait can’t be turned into a superb hairstyle for you as well. All you need to do is learn how to slick it back to perfection and you should be good to go. Add a few well-placed accessories to the mix that will make you a true fashion icon.
· Braids for Men with Man Bun
What could be better than mixing two of the most highly debated and controversial hairstyles of all time? Do you want to have people gossiping about you at the water cooler every morning? Then take your man bun a step further and add some braids for men. It’s a wonderful way to add some texture to your wonderful and slick bun. You can have one or even multiple braids that go all the way from your forehead to your bun.
Of course, we won’t call them pigtails like we do for little girls, so as not to make you feel uncomfortable. We can call them boxer braids or twin braids that cascade majestically down your shoulders. But, in reality, as a frame of reference, they are the classic pigtails your mom used to do for your little sister when she went to school.
· French Braids for Men
These are some of the easiest and most classic types of braids you will ever come across. In fact, they are so easy to make that you will even be able to make them yourself at home once you learn how. You can ask a friend to teach you or watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials. It’s both easy and fun!
What to Take into Account When Thinking about Braids for Men
Before you start braiding your hair like there’s no tomorrow and becoming the coolest and freshest guy in your office, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Here they are.
1. The length of your hair
If you don’t have more than three inches in length, than you can kiss those long braids goodbye. You can still try to braid them or ask a professional to do it, but they won’t last. After the first few showers, they will de-braid. Of course, there is always the option of extensions if you really can’t wait.
2. What type of hair you have
This is a very important criteria that will pretty much set the tone on how your braids will keep. Remember that you can braid every type of hair in existence. However, curly and wavy hair is always best if you want them to keep for a long time.
If your hair is very fine or oily, the braids will not hold in place. Therefore, intricate patterns will not be possible. Or you will need a few hundred elastic bands and bobby pins to make everything look neat. But you don’t want that.
3. The thickness of your hair
Another thing to keep in mind when considering braids for men is your hairline and thickness. If your hair is thinning and your hairline is receding at the front, braids might not be the best option for you.
This is a style that exposes your scalp a lot. Therefore, you will only make matters worse by emphasizing a flaw. Not to mention that braids might actually cause you to lose more hair. If the braids are very tight and you keep them on for months, they will start pulling at the roots and breaking off the hairs. When you start to comb them out, you will notice a lot of the hairs falling out.
Celebrities Wearing Braids for Men
Where to start? This is a very long list as braids for men have been very popular among the stars in recent years. So we’ll just pic the most iconic looks.
A$AP Rocky’s loose man braids are among the most celebrated and copied around the world. They are very long-lasting, don’t need a lot of maintenance, and look absolutely stunning. Therefore, if you want to go for this look yourself, you should know it’s one of the best.
Rapper Xzibit has been wearing traditional cornrows as long as we can remember. This is a hairstyle that can work well on any type of hair. Still, it is most often worn by people with very kinky or curly hair since it’s such a great way to tame it.
If you do go for this look, ask your stylist to give you some intricate designs that match your personality. This is a fantastic hairstyle that allows you to get as creative as you want!
Singer Harry Styles also appeared on stage with a set of French braids and a man bun back in 2014. Of course, the whole Twitterverse went mad for it. Some supported it while some actually said the hairstyle made the young singer look less hot than usual?
What do you think?
Did Harry look better with braids for men or should he have left them at home? Or does he look better now? In fact, let us know in the comment section below how you feel about braids for men in general. Are you ready for them yourself or do you think the world should move on to other hairstyles better suited for the 21st century?