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 now unapologetically wearing braided (and twisted) styles in spaces where they have often been 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 20 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. This style on Ebonee Davis shows that you can switch up your puffs with a smaller set of braids at the roots, leaving much of your curls to do their thing.
Classic Box Braids
Classic box braids are always a good idea. Here, Zendaya rocks a set in a subtle chocolate ombré, proving the sky's the limit for creativity with this protective style.
Braided Jumbo Ponytail
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.
Braided Top Knot
An updo like Tia Mowry's won't weigh you down like traditional box braids and will pair well with professional work attire or high-neck tops.
Fulani Braids with a Bun
Yara Shahidi shows us that even traditional hairstyles like Fulani braids have plenty of room for creativity. From the beads to the finishing afro puff, everything about this style feels fresh and absolutely stunning.
Lupita Nyong'o is a constant natural hair inspiration, with countless red carpet looks that may be just the thing to try in your everyday life. Her braided bun is a great style to wear to a summer wedding or for your next job interview.
Take a cue from actress, entrepreneur, and hair icon Tracee Ellis Ross and add length to your go-to cornrows. The longer, the better.
Chloe and Halle Bailey are always showcasing the versatility of locs. Here, a couple mini braids and a satin headband help Halle's beehive style to shine.
Gabrielle Union's side-parted braids frame her 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.
Colorful Shoulder-Length Box Braids
If you're ready to spice up your natural hair with pastels, use Amandla Stenberg'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, and 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.
Middle-Parted Fulani Braids
Beyoncé's Formation hair era was noteworthy (and made me even more of a stan). One of my favorite looks was her middle-parted Fulani braids with the textured ends.
We enjoy braided looks that can be done in the comfort of our own homes, and Skai Jackson's braided updo is one of those. You may need the help of a couple of mirrors angled in the right directions or a best friend who's patient and good with parts.
Crown braids are achievable on any hair texture, but Ciara's goddess braid is ideal for those 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 Williams stepped foot on the world stage, she has rocked braids with pride. You can wear her cornrowed crown with the back of your hair pulled up or down.
Braided Low Bun
If you're looking to keep things sleek, it doesn't get easier than braiding your hair all the way back and securing it into a low bun. We love how this look can go from day to night with a simple change of outfit.
Next up: How to grow natural hair fast.