8 braids you can do without being culturally offensive

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my mom parting my hair with comb at the centre of  my head before braiding my long black hair into two elbow-length plaits. It’s nice to know that I have something in common with North West, although her braids are probably not being done by mommy, Kim Kardashian-West. More likely, it’s being handled by Kardashian hairstylist Jen Atkin, but you get my point.

When Atkin posted the adorable Instagram of mother-daughter with two side-Dutch braids combined into one, the look seemed easy and daytime appropriate. As if the duo were school kids at recess playing with each other’s hair. Mother and daughter also breathed new life into fashion’s ongoing fascination with braids—only these ones are sculptured and close to the scalp, but able to circumvent the cornrow controversy that Kim and Kylie faced last summer when both embraced the Afrocentric hair-do. Hunger Games actress Amanda Sternberg invoked the powerful #whitegirlsdoitbetter hashtag to call attention to the appropriation of black features and culture. (It sucks to be a WOC and watch as Caucasian women get ANY kind of attention, let alone praise, for sporting a fashion trend so intimately linked to their culture all along, but I digress.)

It’s worth flagging some differences between braids; the French Braid is done underhand and appears flat at the surface of the head; Dutch braids are done overhand to create a chunky, statement look. Cornrows are very similar to Dutch braids but according to blogger Azizi Powell: “With Dutch braids only some of each portion of the hair is braided, but with cornrows all of each portion of the hair is braided to the middle of each braid.”  

To get a good Dutch braid, we hit up hairstylist and braid pro Sandra Yang of JudyInc in Toronto for tips: “For Dutch braids, part hair with a rat tail comb because you want the part to be perfectly straight and in two sections,” says Yang. “Depending on the texture of hair (if it’s slippery or not) I would use a spray bottle of water or a styling spray like root boost just to wet the hair at root.” 

“Now time to commence your braid. Grab three even sections from your previously sectioned hair and start at your hair line. Remember to braid over instead of under to give height for your Dutch braid. No need to really worry about perfection of height because you can pull and loosen the braid to create balance.”

Got that? Right, then. Without further ado, the latest crop of statement making braids that won’t get you into trouble.