The History of Cornrows & My Relationship With It

For many black women and women of color, their relationship with their hair is deeply personal one. Some may say superficial or frivolous without understanding the real impact or history behind a woman’s head of kinky coils or neatly braided cornrows.

I love to celebrate my history which is why I’m about to give you a mini history lesson.

I have roots that reach from Africa to Europe and parts of Asia that were planted in the northern rainforests of South America. I’m a first-generation American meaning every older generation in my family came from a tiny country called Guyana, which sits on top of Brazil, a country where Britain ruled for many years before Guyana finally gained their independence.

With that being said, my hair dates further back than my early days as an infant in Brooklyn, New York or even my parents’ days as young adults in Georgetown, Guyana, but rather as early as 500 B.C. when slaves headed for America were forced to present themselves with a look that was seen as “neat and clean” by plantation owners thus creating a look that resembled rows of corn.

I remember growing up and my mom would cornrow my hair just so my hair wouldn’t have to be “done” every single day. Let me tell you, dealing with afro-textured hair everyday is not easy.

Dress: Pretty Little Thing// Shoes: Pretty Little Thing


Braids were never in mainstream media, even though they date so far back in history. The first time cornrows were even portrayed on television was in 1962 when actress Cicely Tyson wore them on show called East Side, West Side.

Because of this lack of representation, women with cornrows were being discriminated against and told their braids were “unkempt” and “unprofessional”, which from my photos we can all see that that’s not necessarily the case.

Through all of the discrimination, cultural appropriation, white-washing and sometimes the ignorance of mainstream media, I’m proud of this history and I stand by what has made me who I am today.

Braids have become more of a symbol of empowerment, identity and hope. It’s become an art form, a way for women and men to express themselves and even a way of life for women of color who want to be financially stable and even entrepreneurs.



Just take a moment to see the beauty in cultures and try to understand what makes it what it is. Stand up for who you are because at the end of the day that’s all you have.

I can’t wait for you all to see my next braided look!

“Wear your hair like the crown you never take off”


Tristen Zaryn

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