Braided hair is hair that has been woven together in a way that pulls the hair away from the face. The style is usually worn by women in Western cultures, but became popular among men in the 1980s and 1990s. The hair may be worn in one thick plait, in two worn on either side of the head, or in many small ones all over the head.
Hairstyles that incorporate braids go in and out of fashion, but they have been used since ancient times to dress the hair. In order to braid hair, the section of hair is divided into three even parts. These parts are then woven together in an overlapping pattern until all or most of the hair has been dressed. The woven hair is usually held in place by a barrette, elastic band, or other kind of closure.
There are many different kinds of braided hairstyles. One classic European version is the French braid, in which all of the hair is gathered into a single braid that begins high up on the head, near the crown. Sometimes the end of the plait is tucked up under the rest of the hairstyle so that hair seems to fold in on itself.
In hot and tropical regions, it is common for women to wear their hair in numerous braids that are woven quite tightly and are often close to the head, right along the scalp. This hairstyle is sometimes called “cornrows” because the hair are sectioned in long straight lines along the scalp.
One of the benefits of this style is that the hair can be kept long without overheating the wearer. This is because the hair is woven so tightly that it does not create a kind of insulation on the head, and air can get to the scalp. Also, if a person wearing cornrows sweats, the sweat can evaporate from the exposed sections of the scalp. It is common for people wearing cornrows to keep them in for weeks at a time with minimal washing or shampooing of the hair.
In recent years, braids have been used as a way to add extensions into the hair. Extensions can be woven directly into the hair or sewn to thin, tight lines of braids that are placed close to the scalp and hidden under other layers of hair. The extensions may be made of a synthetic material or of human hair that has been previously harvested and prepared for this purpose.