What are Corn Rows?

Corn rows, Boxer Braids, or KKW Braids? Technically, all three are the same thing. However, when it comes to black hair, there is a tendency to rename styles that have not only been around for centuries, but styles like corn rows have cultural significance attached to them. Fashion heavy hitters like Alexander McQueen and the Kardashian/Jenner clan have been taking heat for adopting corn rows and reclaiming them as their own. Jon Reyman, co-owner of Spoke and Weal salon was quoted saying “Cornrows are moving away from urban, hip-hop to more chic and edgy;” but the only thing that has changed about the style is that a wider group of people are wearing it. Regardless of where you stand on the politics of corn rows, we’ll fill you in on some history, and give a few helpful techniques to achieving this hot style!

Corn Rows or Boxer Braids: which came first? #cornrows #bhs #hairtalk Click To Tweet

History Behind Corn Row Braids

Most historians credit the emergence of corn row hair to around 3000 B.C. in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara. The style is a traditional African style, sometimes denoting tribe and class status. The style has been unisex since the early 19th century. The term “corn row” references the beginning of African-American culture’s adoption of the braiding technique, and the rows of corn crops African slaves tended to in the South. The style may have originated in American culture as a way to protect black hair and to keep the wearer cool, but as time went on, more and more people wore corn rows as a nod to the African culture that began the style.

Corn rows resurged during the 1970’s when being black and proud was the mantra. Popular icons like Allen Iverson and Alicia Keys brought the style into the new millennium.

Do you know your corn row history? #cornrowsfortheculture #bhs #hairtalk Click To Tweet

How can I learn the technique behind corn row hair?

Although corn rows give off a very effortless vibe, the actual technique behind them takes a lot of focus and practice. If you don’t get it down at the first attempt, don’t give up hope, curl girl.

The very first step in corn rowing is deciding which patterns you would like to follow. Corn rows can range from simple protective styles to intricate designs full of personality and skill. If this is your first time attempting the style, start off simply with four to six evenly parted sections going from the crown of the head to the nape of the neck.

There are two techniques to corn row braids:

  • Overhand Technique: braids sit on the top of the scalp and have a raised appearance
  • Underhand Technique: braids are inverted and do not sit on the top of the scalp

Once you decide your pattern and technique, it’s time to braid.

Some folks braid with damp hair, and some don’t. The key here is low manipulation. Pulling hair tightly might create neat looking braids, but at the end of the day, healthy hair is always the most important thing.

If you’re stumped on how big your sections should be, it really depends on how thick and dense your hair is. Thicker hair might need to be sectioned into smaller and more workable portions, while thinner hair might look better in larger sections. After you’ve parted your hair, pin back the strands you’re not working with so you can focus on making your first row.

  • Separate the first section into three strands.
  • With two hands, take the right piece under the middle, then the left piece under the middle.
  • Continue this process until you have the beginning of a braid.
  • As you move along the section of hair, add even pieces into the middle section, braiding closer and closer to the scalp.

What happens if corn rows are left in too long?

When trying out any new style, always remember healthy hair is the ultimate goal. Corn row braids are still worn primarily as protective styles under weaved or added hair, but if the mainstream natural hair movement has taught us anything, it’s to keep an open mind and explore! As fun as that may sound, no style should stay in your hair for too long. If you’re adding hair to your own, make sure the weight is not so intense that they pull your edges away from the scalp. You can lose your edges to braids that are too heavy and too tight! No style, no matter how cute, is worth all of that! As long as you take care of your real hair by moisturizing and taking the braids down every two weeks, corn rows will be the perfect way to keep your hair stylish and healthy.

Corn Rows are…

…much more than a hairstyle. They represent a diaspora of people. Whether you wear them to pay homage to the Mother Land, or you wear them because they’re hot right now, most black women have a connection to the style that goes way beyond what the eye can see. Corn rows have been passed down from generation to generation, so calling them something other than what they do erases all that. In the words of Solange, if you’re confused on whether you should wear the style, or you’re just admiring from afar, this here is ours.

What do you think about corn rows in today’s fashion world. Share your thoughts in the comments!

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