As a teenager, I coined Fulani braids "Alicia Keys braids" without any reference to where the beautiful style was created in West Africa by the Fula. In my teens, I had no idea what the term cultural appropriation meant, but I now recognize how important it is to know and respect where beauty rituals come from even as someone of African descent. Fulani braids are now one of the most popular styles of braiding. You can see them worn on red carpets and magazine covers, which I take such great pride in. Mainly because little Black girls growing up during this time of inclusion see themselves represented everywhere.
What are Fulani braids?
Fulani braids, made popular by the Fulani people of Africa, is a style that usually incorporates the following elements: a cornrow braided down the center of the head; one or a few cornrows braided in the opposite direction toward your face just near the temples; a braid wrapped around the hairline; and often times, accessories, such as beads.
Award-winning actress Cicely Tyson was one of the first Black women to wear Fulani braids on red carpets and even on the cover of JET Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s. Alicia Keys later made the style popular as she donned them on the cover of her debut album, Songs in A Minor.
Since there are so many looks to choose from, we thought we'd round up 20 of our favorites. Our selections range from a shoulder-length bob to a braided ponytail. Keep scrolling to get a small dose of hair inspiration before you head off to see your braider when the temperatures soar.
Try on a Different Size
Like any braided look, you get to decide how small or large you like them. But, be prepared for an extended salon visit. Though these aren't quite micro, they are small and will add tension to the scalp, so be sure to care for your edges and scalp post-appointment with an aloe or castor oil-based product.
Say Yes to Length
Gabrielle Union's cascading braids are the quintessential summer protective style. Washing braids can be a bit of challenge, especially when you want to keep the frizz at bay, but Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar Root Rinse makes it easy to cleanse the scalp without disrupting your style.
If you're heading to a special event this summer and want to do something different, opt for a half-up, half-down 'do. To recreate the textured look of the hair, add a little mousse and braid the hair into a few big braids overnight.
Mix It Up
Here we see a few different hair go-to's happening. First up are the feed-in braids accented with baby hair. I can't say for sure how Romance secured her shells (my guess is hair thread and a needle), but she upped the creative ante with this look, and it's one that would be fun to try.