It's not up for debate: Box braids will never go out of style. In fact, they've been around since 3500 BCE, worn by the African women of Namibia and the Nile Valley. The style carries a strong, deeply rooted cultural context and tumultuous history as one of the very first natural styles worn by women of color. Box braids really made their way back onto the scene in the early '90s when they were donned by R&B icon Janet Jackson in the film Poetic Justice. It would be false to say they're "having a moment in Hollywood" because box braids have been around for decades and are here to stay.
"Box braids transformed the modern world's sense of community,” celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims says. "Braiding studios located in African American communities such as Harlem, New York, are the perfect example. Getting your hair braided in this salon environment builds unity and embraces a historical culture." I have to agree. Last year, I swapped my straight hair for four months of box braids, and it felt like an empowering act of rebellion against societal standards of beauty. The beauty in box braids is the freedom to wear them however you see fit. "Expressions and styles have changed, but braiding patterns have remained the same," explains Sims. "In today's culture, braids are adorned, worn, and praised in many different ways. Men and women who wouldn't have worn them previously now embrace them. Women are approaching the braiding style in different ways, from clean lines to braids that are organic and messy. Women are taking on a fresh approach to coolness."
This protective style will save your hair in the midst of harsh weather conditions and preserve your time if you're into no-fuss styles. Ahead, be inspired by celebs and influencers rocking large box braids in fresh ways. And keep scrolling for a few of my must-have hair products to keep my braids looking so fresh and so clean, clean.
Bring the iconic '90s style back and go shorter like Jourdan Dunn. Adorn your braids with gold cuffs and wire to add swagger.
Box braids look just as elegant pulled up into a loose bun like this style by the one and only Lacy Redway.
Add dimension to your box braids by braiding them into large, straight-back cornrows like these by Mr. Vernon François on Elaine Welteroth.
Large box braids look even more vibrant when they're rainbow-colored and roped into a chic updo like Amandla Stenberg's.
Stenberg is proof that box braids with a bit of color are super fun. Chop them off for a bob style.
Large box braids are Gabrielle Union's pre-vacay style of choice, topped off with Afrocentric beads on the ends.
Keke Palmer, our resident hair chameleon, is a braid queen. She spiced up traditional box braids with a cornrow design. This is major inspo for protective styles.
Actress and singer Herizen Guardiola looks so effortless wearing her lived-in box braids with frayed ends. Fresh braids look just as good as the ones you've had for a while.
Jhené Aiko usually wears smaller box braids, but she donned this playful style a few weeks ago, and let's just say she's serving serious baby-hair goals.
Teyana Taylor's orange braids are straight-up fire.
Jordyn Woods looks like a golden goddess in her pulled-back box braids.
Millennial-favorite singer Jorja Smith is always wearing box braids, which means this is and always will be a cool-girl style.
Smith in this high box-braid ponytail paired with a scrunchie is such a vintage vibe.
Sza's large box braids look even cooler with this lavender bandanna and colorful rubber bands securing her frayed ends.
Sanaa Lathan is a true vision with this three-dimensional braided style featuring cornrows and front and back box braids.
Influencer and content creator Micaéla Verrelien took her braids to the next level with three ponytails, a scrunchie, and gold wire. Excuse us while we go re-create this style now.
To keep your braids in the best shape. Shop the below products I depend on when my hair is box-braided up.
Investing in a silk pillowcase will keep your braids and scalp extra moisturized overnight.
If you're into that slicked, fresh braids look this gel will smooth down all flyaways in seconds.
In order for your braids to look natural, it's important to smooth down your edges with a hydrating pomade that'll nourish weak strands like this one.
Tying your hair down at night with a silk bonnet like this gem or a head wrap is a non-negotiable to preserve the look of your box braids.
Most textured girls have heard of this cult-favorite eco styling gel that'll catch frizz and add shine like no other.
Next up: Learn a history lesson on the origins of braids.