Celebrating the Iconic History of Black Hair

For some of us, when October rolls around, Black History Month can often be a chance to remember the age old stories of enslavement, pain and endurance. But this 2019, we want to focus on celebrating the five most iconic melanated styles that are great in any decade:


Think Cicely Tyson, Destiny’s Child era Beyonce, Brandy and Alicia Keys. Cornrows have been a mainstay for black women over centuries and if you were to trace the history of the style back to its origins in Africa, Cornrows often denoted the tribe you belonged to. From as far back as 3000 BC cornrows were being used amongst both men and women alike. While Cornrows are often the star of a lot of contemporary controversy when it comes to appropriation, there’s no denying this classic style’s practicality, protectiveness and pomp. Cornrows can be as intricate and as elaborate as your stylist can imagine, criss-cross, weaving or fishtail patterns can all be embellished with caps, corals, or shells for that haute couture flourish.

The ‘Fro

Is there a style in history more political than the Afro? The natural way our hair emerges from our scalp has become far more than just a style, over the years and decades throughout the diaspora, the Afro has come to signal strength, a fight and a struggle for equality. Today, the age of social media, we have World Afro Day to celebrate the many textures, patterns and shapes our ‘fros come in, fearless and visible the Afro is our intellectual property as Colin Kaepernick has shown.

High Top Fade

The High Top is a style that comes back around almost generationally. With its origins in the military from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s to ‘80’s New York when Hip-Hop was in its infancy and B Boy’s chose this style to complete their looks, the fade is that truly seminal style that just emanates cool. Each barber has their own technique to achieve the ultimate crispness for their client but time and time again we just keep coming back for more aggressive lines and shapely perfection. From Grace Jones to the Fresh Prince this one is here to stay.

Pixie cut

Rihanna, Kelly Rowland and Halle Berry have all taken turns making this style a must have and this close cut makes the list for its minimum maintenance and its maximum face serving ability. Dating way back to the ‘30’s when American entertainer Josephine Baker brought her light on to the scene, the pixie is often defined by its short back and sides and long top that can be styled in a multitude of ways. Both the Pixie cut and the ‘Big Chop’ serve black women as looks for new chapters in life. When nothing seems to go right, we often go left and cut it all off.

Bantu Knots

Said to have originated centuries ago with the Zulu tribes of South Africa, Bantu Knots consist of coiled buns sectioned throughout the hair. The word itself was used to encapsulate the 300 to 600 ethnic groups within southern Africa that spoke the Bantu language, according to the South Africa History Organization (SAHO). Things get more interesting when we take in the 100 million people who speak variations of the ‘Bantu’ language - it’s by no means a monolith. The word itself has a deep and sometimes convoluted history among central and southern Africans with colonisation often lending a hand to distort its original meaning. The style, however, is a favourite among women of all ages wanting a protective way to wear their natural hair with minimal fuss.

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