Tribal braids are the official name for hair braids that have been adorned with different patterns, designs, textures, and even accessories. These braids are a part of the African American culture and history and offer a beautiful view of the importance of telling a story with hair. We can’t get enough of all the creative styles and inspiration below.
The Significance of Tribal Braids
Braids are significant in the African culture as they do more than just present a fashion statement. Throughout time, each tribe in Africa has had their own type of braids and braided hairstyles. In fact, each design can tell other tribes about the wearer’s age, community, marital status, social position, religion, power, and even wealth. In other words, these designs aren’t just hairdos. They are cultural representations of that person’s entire life and they tell other tribe members exactly who that other person is.
Some of the significant types of braided designs that these tribes participate in include:
- Some tribes cover the braids with scarves and decorative leaves.
- They may arrange the patterns in a cone shape and decorate them with bone needles.
- Certain tribes color their braids with red colors made from earth grown plants.
- A few tribes color their braids with many different colors, including yellow and red, then add various herbs to the design.
As you can probably guess, one of the most popular types of tribal braids is the cornrow braids; as with many other types, they are passed down from generation to generation in these African cultures. Current day tribal braids have evolved to the point where the style has taken on such polished and elaborate outcomes. Hairstylists all over the world are sought after time and time again for their abilities to craft this skill.
Braids Are Not Just for Women
It isn’t just women who love braids of all types. In many African cultures, men and boys also get braids, including the decorative kind. Many boys who are “coming of age” get braids of a certain type. In fact, one of the many traditions in that part of the world says that boys should never get their hair cut before they reach puberty. There are also certain “rules” among the various tribes and these include:
- Hair should not be combed or braided in the open.
- If hair is caught in a brush, it should be burned so it isn’t used in black magic spells.
- If you thank your groomer, that is considered unlucky.
- Pregnant women are not allowed to braid each other’s hair.
- Two people cannot braid someone’s hair at the same time; it is believed that one of the groomers might die if you do this.
- When you have your hair cut, it should be done on a full moon day in order to grow longer.
- Women are not allowed to cut men’s hair.
So as you can see, tribal braids are about far more than just a hairstyle we have come to admire. There is a cultural significance to each design. If you’d like to view some of the more popular designs of braids, keep going because below are 30 of the most attractive ones ever designed.
1. Tri-Braid Cornrow Design
If you look at this design at the top of the wearer’s head, you’ll notice that the braids go in three different angles. The middle of the head goes straight up and down, and the two sides go at angles pointing outwards. It is really one design but it’s made to look like three because the hair has been sectioned off in three different areas.
In this design, there is a horizontal section in the middle of the head with one horizontal braid running through the middle and numerous vertical braids on both the top and bottom of that horizontal one. The design encompasses just a small portion of the head but it is certain to stand out because of the perfect combination of both horizontal and vertical braids.
Straight From the Middle Cornrow Braids
These tribal braids have a pattern that you can see as you face the wearer head-on. On each side of the head, there are braids that go up towards the middle of the head but stop there, then turn back and go down on the sides of the head. The top of the head looks as if it has two small circular shapes of braids.
Two-Patterned Tribal Braid Design
This is an eye-catching pattern that consists of several rows of braids that alternate with diamond- or wedge-shaped designs going the other way. The braids are facing one direction and the other design is facing the opposite way so it is definitely a head-turning look.
Box Section Extension Braids
This one is similar to regular braids except that each braid has a “base” that resembles a square. These are called box braids and are very popular. If you look at the person’s head, you see a perfect sea of squares, each with a long braid coming out of it. The square blocks add a nice touch to the entire design.
Gorgeous Side Braids
This is a somewhat complicated design that involves long braids every few inches apart and some intricate designs in between each braid. Some wearers, in fact, simply put two large braids on the top of their heads so that the design parts cover a wider area than the braids do but you can personalize it to get what you want instead.
A Swirled Look with Colorful Cornrows
Before you put most of that hair back into a ponytail, take the small braids on top and arrange them in a swirl pattern that starts at the forehead and goes all the way back to where the ponytail begins. This is a pretty basic design but you can personalize the swirls and make them your own so that no two wearers have the same look.
Beautiful Big Braides
These tribal braids consist of two main braids that hang down each side of the face, but each of those braids start at the top part of your head near the forehead so that they look as though they are “outlining” the entire head. In
between the two braids, you can do anything you want but make sure that each braid starts at the very top front part of your head and goes all the way down to its desired length.
Bold Braided Hair
This is another fairly common look that involves thin braided strips that only sit about an inch apart and start at the forehead and side of your face, then go down to the length you want them to be.
There are no fancy designs, just lots of thin to medium braids that look amazing.
Bunches of Small Box Braids
These are box braids that start about an inch or so from the part in the center of your hair. The section that runs from the part itself to where the braids start have different designs, including star-like patterns that make the top of the head truly eye-catching. The fancier the design, the better it looks.
Beautiful Big Knotless Box Braids
These are similar to the box braids mentioned earlier where each braid comes out of a square design, only this time you make it triangles instead of squares. If you look at the top of the wearer’s head, you’ll see dozens of perfect triangles, each with a braid coming out of it that starts in the middle of the triangle. A perfect style for the ladies who want a bold new look.
Extra Long Box Tribal Braids
These gorgeous, healthy and extra long box braids are ideal if you are looking to add some length this season to your style. Long hair itself, not required. Each box braid is partnered with extra hair to create the length desired. Can be created with multicolored hair as well making extra long ombre or colored braids.
Braids and Beaded Bun
This design is fairly simple because in addition to having some braids with cool beads, you are lifting the hair into a creative bun and styling the sides with extra long braids. Placing a strip of beaded braids right in the center adds for some extra attention. The beads make a statement even without being all over the hair. A few added pieces really take this look to the next level.
Fall Maze Braids
This is another design found only on the top of the head. It begins at the forehead but this time, the lines of braids will twist and turn a little bit, resembling a maze a bit.
They can twist and turn as much as you like and take on any pattern that you think is attractive. They will command attention everywhere you go.
The Braided Bun
When you’re braiding the top part of your hair with this pattern, you’ll end up with four to six rows that resemble combs that are lying flat down on your head. Each design is wide, in other words, and they cover the entire head until you get to the point where you want to begin the actual braids.
Once the braids have been made, you can grab the back end and start twisting upward until all the braids are piled high in a beautiful braided bun.
A Tri-Color Look
For these braids, you’ll leave the top portion of the hair your own hair color, then you’ll either color the braids or clip some decorations on them starting around the chin area. This way, the top part of your hair is dark and the bottom section is in numerous colors. For the colors, try silver and gold for an extra-sassy look.
The Perfect Pair of Tribal Braids
For this design, you’re placing braids all through the head but instead of all of the braids being the same width, you’ll actually switch between thick and thin braids. In other words, you’ll have one braid that is wide, then one that is thin, then you just start the pattern over again. Start the design at the forehead and go all the way down as far as you can go for the best look.
Glorious Tribal Braids with Natural Hair
This one is a bit fancy and may need a hairdresser for it to look right. If you’re looking at the wearer head-on, you’ll notice some horizontal rows of braids at the top middle section of the head leading to an afro-like design that covers the rest of the head all the way to the back. But make sure that you save enough of the hair to make a few stray thin braids so that they can show up in unexpected places in the head area.
Braids for Short Hair
Just because you have short hair doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some tribal braids yourself. With this design, make some interesting patterns with the hair on the top front section of your hair. Braid them in different directions so they’re noticeable, then let the rest of your hair remain short and afro-like throughout your head.
All-Over Head Design
This design involves large spaces in between each braid but there’s a special section in the middle of the head. In this area, you’ll create five different braids that each come out of a star-like design. When you’re done finishing each individual braid, take those five braids and tie them together so that they resemble a star when you’re done.
Medium Tribal Braid Designs
This one involves your basic braiding pattern but they are found in two different directions. On the top of your head, you have the braids going down as you normally would but the braids in the back of your head look a little different. For those braids, you place them in a horizontal position instead of going up and down vertically. This way, the two patterns complement one another.
Patterns, Patterns Everywhere
This is one of the more complex designs that no one will be able to forget. It consists of three or four rows of braids on either side of the head, one single braid in the very middle, and then star or triangle designs in the two spaces between the middle of the head and either side. You can get a very fancy look when you’re done and it’s a fun design as well.
One-Sided Braid Design
With this design, only one half of your hair is braided. The braids curve around to the other side of your head where the braids are put together in a ponytail.
In other words, one side of your head will be filled with braids only and no hanging hair, and the other side will consist of a very large ponytail that hangs down on that side.
Big Bold Braids
This is a gorgeous look for young and older women. Her gray hair is parted into several very large section and lose braids made. Extensions can be added for a thicker look or even to add color. The braids go all the way to the back of the head and then are neatly wrapped around one another into a low bun. Its clean and classic looking.
If you like jumbo designs that resemble large plots of land, you’ll love this design. At the top of your head, make braids that are pulled from large rectangular-shaped blocks that will certainly get noticed.
If you want to add a special touch, place one long braid around the front facial area from ear to ear.
The Swirled Look
While most of the braids will hang down with this design, you’ll do something a little different with the top. Make braids as you normally would but swirl them all the way around on the top of your head. It makes for an interesting look and it’s super fun to wear.
A Basic But Not-So-Basic Look
This one is a little different in several ways. You’ll make the braids that hang down on either side as you do with a regular design but you’ll do two things differently. First, make sure that there’s a braid that runs right down the center part of your hair; second, add some wisp curls to the very front of the design, right at the top of your forehead.
Big Faux Locs Bun
To start this design, simply braid the top front part of your hair as you do in other designs. The difference is that when you’re started with all of your braids, you’ll want to place several faux locs over or attached to the braids to secure them in place.
You can leave them down or wrap them up in a gorgeous top bun. Add a few loose wisps of hair on the front top section of your hair right where your forehead starts. Those wisps of hair will call attention to the entire design.
Awesome Middle Two-Braid Cornrow
For this style, you’ll braid the hair regularly or with designs on either side of the head. Rather than leaving it that way or putting a single braid in the middle down the part of the hair, you’ll put two strands of hair in the middle instead. The dual strands will make this hairstyle stand out even more.
The Zig-Zag Gypsy Style
Finally, here is yet another one with thin braids on either side of the head but the center near the part of the hair is a little unique. With this one, you’ll want the very center of your head along the part line to have a zig-zag look. It may take a hairdresser to do this one right but that zig-zag shape is going to be a head-turner every time that you leave the house.