Growing up, I wasn't allowed to wear my hair braided. My mom wanted to make sure my sister and I weren't mislabeled when we stepped out into the world. While some might say her feeling about braids was wrong, if we look at how society has viewed black hair in the workplace, in media, and beyond—her point of view in the 90s' wasn't too far off.
Thanks to women like Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, and Bozoma Saint John black women like myself are unapologetically wearing braided (and twisted) styles in spaces where they are still labeled "unprofessional" or "ghetto." This wave of black women embracing our hair texture and historical styles is allowing us to express ourselves in new ways. Even if the white gaze, thanks to social media, is causing our culture to be appropriated daily.
Whether we're spending upwards of ten hours in our stylists' chair getting box braids as a protective style or cornrowing our hair in our home bathrooms, there are many styles we can try when we want to change it up. Here are twenty braided hairstyles to think about the next time you're ready to try a new do.
When we talk about braided styles for black women, we usually think of options that require an extended trip to your favorite braider. But, Fatou Diedhiou shows us that we can remix even the puff with braids. See her tutorial here.
Classic box braids are always a good idea. Ashley Blaine shows us that you can rock them with dipped or non-dipped ends.
Kelly Rowland’s braided jumbo ponytails are on my list of styles to try. These braids work on all hair types. Just grab a little gel and a bundle of Kanekalon hair.
Danai Gurira is the queen of versatility. Her braided lob is a low-maintenance style that requires little time in your stylist's chair.
Amanda Seales’ golden top knot is a braided up-do that won't weigh you down like traditional box braids and will pair well with professional work attire or tops with high necks.
Famed hair artist Shani Crowe shows us that even traditional hairstyles like Fulani braids can have a twist—literally.
Bozoma Saint John is not just a badass in the boardroom, but the change-makers hair is always defying the hair norms of corporate America. Her braided bun is a great style to wear to a summer wedding or for your next job interview.
Rihanna’s Guava Island braids are another excellent option for all hair types and can be done on your natural hair (depending on the texture) without adding extensions.
Take a cue to from hair icon Tracee Ellis Ross and add length to your go-to cornrows. The longer, the better!
Chloe x Halle are always showcasing the versatility of locs, and their braided coils with a touch of neon intermixed are a stunning representation.
Gabrielle Union's side-parted braids frame the face and are an excellent protective style for beach weather.
Okay, so these are twists, but we added this cropped, side-swept do because this look can be achieved with braids as well.
If you're ready to trade in your natural hair color for pastels, use Kersti's colorful shoulder-length box braids as your guide.
If you missed Tessa Thompson's whip braid at the Met Gala, head over to Google to catch a glimpse. A whip braid might not work in certain areas of the real world, but this braided crown works for any occasion.
A simple set of cornrows is always a good look. Zoe Kravitz's sleek braids will look great with any beauty look you pair it with. My personal favorite is a bright red lip and dewy skin.
Beyoncé's Formation hair era was noteworthy (and made me even more of a stan). One of my favorite looks was the middle-parted Fulani braids with the textured ends.
We enjoy braided looks that can be done in the comfort of our own homes, and Osmia's braided up-do is one of those. You may need the help of a couple of mirrors angled in the right directions or a best friend that is patient and good with parts.
Crown braids can be achieved on any hair texture, but Ciara's goddess braid is ideal for ladies with a few days old silk press, relaxed hair, or a sew-in. Don't be afraid to frame the face with loose pieces of hair to add texture.
Since Serena stepped foot on the world stage, she has rocked braids with pride. Her Teen Vogue cover was no different as it was the first time a cover star wore braids. You can wear Serena's cornrowed crown with the back of your hair pulled up or down.
If Kelly Rowland's double ponytails weren't your style, these jumbo braids are a way to split the difference while playing up the jumbo braid trend.
Next up: How to grow natural hair fast.