Crochet braids, also sometimes called "latch hook braids," are a hairstyle and hair technique that basically involves crocheting braided hair extensions into the existing hair on a person’s head. The style can be used by pretty much anyone, but it’s usually designed for — and also most common amongst — those in the black community. People of African and Caribbean descent often have hair that is kinky and thick, and most braids mimic this look. The braids can be attached to hair that has been braided, twisted, or styled into cornrows, and in most cases they’re pretty easy to affix; some people go to salons and have the procedure done professionally, but the attachment can also be done at home in most instances. The braids give the look of longer hair with very little effort. In most cases they’ll stay attached for quite some time so long as they’re properly cared for, and they are a popular way for people to change their look and hairstyle without much cost or long-term commitment.
The idea behind crochet braids is usually pretty simple. Braiding or weaving long segments of hair can take a lot of time, particularly for thick ethnic hair. The look of multiple tiny braids is often really desirable, though; among other things, the style can reduce frizz and lead to a very polished and tidy look with basically no effort, at least not on a day-to-day basis. People with shorter hair may also want to experiment with longer locks, whether semi-permanently or for a special event. These sorts of extensions allow for maximum flexibility, since they’re far easier to attach then more permanent options. In most cases they cost less, too.
How They’re Attached
Braids are often sold in packets, often organized by style and color. Some popular braid styles include twist braids, French braids, and cornrow braids. People interested in these products usually start by arranging the hair they have into one of these styles. Then, using a crochet hook, they attach the braids to the end of the natural hair, with the goal of creating a continuous strand. This process is where the style gets its name. The extensions aren't actually crocheted, but the hook is an instrumental part of getting them attached to a person's natural hair.
Many salons and hair studios specialize in this look, and stylists can often give personalized advice to clients when it comes to product differences and length considerations. In some places it’s also common for groups of people, usually women, to get together and braid each others’ hair, often in the setting of a party or other casual get-together. The braids can usually be attached individually, too, but this is often the most difficult route. It’s usually a challenge to work precisely on the back of one’s own head, and even with a number of mirrors the arms tend to grow tired well before the project is done.
Different Looks and Effects
There are two main effects women commonly use these braids to achieve. Color is one; many braids are designed to match a person’s natural hair color, but choosing something in a complementary shade or mixing and matching can be an easy way to give the appearance of highlights or other more intensive color treatments. Unnatural colors like pink and green can sometimes also be incorporated. The look in these cases is akin to a dye job, but with far less permanency.
Length, of course, is also an important consideration. Very long braids can be woven in and then cut to the desired length, or used to temporarily lengthen hair that is otherwise short.
Upkeep and Maintenance
Crochet braids are a popular choice not only because they can help create a quick, fashionable hairstyle, but also because they're a low-cost and low-maintenance way to change a hairstyle. Once the braids are woven in, daily hair-care requirements are typically greatly reduced. They don’t need to be washed regularly, and don’t usually require any special treatments like oils, either.
What’s more, these types of braids don't usually cost much, particularly when compared to some of the other popular extension options. They don't require hair glue, caps or any of the other things that extensions sometimes require. The result is a style that is very easy on the scalp. People who have a sensitive scalp or who want to give their scalp a rest from more intense hairstyles may use these braids for awhile for that reason.