Braids are one of those win-win styles: low-maintenance, effortlessly cool, and statement-making. But let's get this straight: Braids are not "the next best thing" or the "new coolest hair trend to try." Braids go way, way back, and have been deeply rooted in the cultural history of the African diaspora for decades. In fact, the origin of braids dates back to 3,500 B.C. The options are endless with gorgeous cornrow hairstyles—any design you dream up, you can achieve. It just takes a skilled stylist, patience (braids can take hours to complete), and inspiration.
I've got you on the inspiration front. In fact, I have a whole album on IG dubbed "Braidspo," dedicated to the braided styles I've been eyeing. Also, the timing is right with summer being around the corner; braids are protective styles that won't require any heat styling that'll ensue damage or breakage. Keep scrolling for the cornrow styles you need to try asap.
This Beautifully Adorned Plait
There's a plait and then there's a Kerry Washington-style-plait—we're here for the latter, done by the incredible Tym Wallace. Dress-up this braid with hair jewelry, like hoops and cuffs, to turn this simple style into a full-on fashion statement.
These Cowrie Shell Hair Rings
There's so much I can say about this unique look. The geometrically-designed braids, cowrie shells and frayed ends all make for a powerful style, created by the one and only Lacy Redway for Vogue.
These Curvacious Cornrows
True artistry is the only way to describe Shani Crowe, a boundary-breaking braid stylist who will captivate you with her work. These mixed patterns shows that you shouldn't be afraid of defying uniformity.
These Fulani Braids
This braided style was birthed in West Africa by those of Fulani descent. To this day, the timeless style is rocked so beautifully with beads and a signature center part.
These Cornrowed Box Braids
Yes, it's yours truly wearing box braids reimagined by Magic Fingers Studio, based in Brooklyn. If you're looking for a fun way to edge-up classic box braids, add cornrows in whatever design your heart desires in the front.
These Rainbow Braids
With cornrows, there's no such thing as safe. Why pick one color when you can wear 'em all? See, this "taste the rainbow" style is everything.
These Waist-Length Cornrows
With length, the limit does not exist. Let Gabrielle Union's pool photo serve as all the inspiration you need to wear your braids as long as you want (swipe to the second pic for proof).
These Forward-Facing Braids
Forgo earrings altogether and let beads do the damn thing instead. Try Alicia Keys' face-framing beaded style and let the compliments roll in.
This Half Cornrow Crown
You don't have to choose between cornrows and a fro; this liberating style does both. Simply braid your hair halfway down, stopping at the crown of your head. And then let the rest of your hair roam freely.
These Clean Cornrows
R&B songstress Jorja Smith stuns in simple straight-backs. This uncomplicated style lets your facial features be front-and-center.
These Cornrowed Puff Balls
If you want a fun way to play with textures, try Model Ebonee Davis' cornrowed puff balls done by hair artist @NizzTexturedHair.
These Alternating Plaits
Figuring out the size of your braids is no easy feat. Instead of dealing with the daunting decision, try both small and large cornrows. Like Jourdan Dunn, alternate between thick plaits and narrow cornrows.
This Solo Braid
Your natural texture is absolutely beautiful on its own, but if you're looking for an easy way to pizazz your afro puff, adding simply one cornrow to your style will do the trick. This look, created by celebrity hairstylist Nikki Nelms on model Chavi St. Hill for Refinery29, is all the proof you need that a standalone cornrow will impart a gorgeous shape and structure to your hair.
These Curved Goddess Braids
Ever-talented hairstylist Koni Bennett remixed classic cornrows on Jordyn Woods with a swirly style. Curving the direction of your braids adds another stylistic element to your design.
This Braided Topknot
And to prove the above point even more, curvy braids are in, and the limit does not exist on how many directions your braids can go in. Like this braided topknot, try alternating parts with forward-facing and side braids.
These Accessorized Straight-Backs
Do yourself a favor and swipe through this entire photo album. Leave it to celebrity stylist Vernon François to transform simple straight-back cornrows into a masterpiece. If you're in the mood for a little extra, trick-out your braids by tacking on gold or hair cuffs.
These Beaded Plaits
Actress Indya Moore elevated her plaits with peek-a-boo braids swooping in on both sides. To make this style even more you, slide-on a few beads of your choice on the ends of your braids.
These Zig-Zag Parts
An incredibly easy way to dress up straight-back braids? With fancy parts, like this zig-zag design. Use a tiny, rat-tail comb to get the cleanest-looking split.
These Baby-Pink Braids
Hair hack: With braids, you can try a bold color without fully committing. All you have to do is use colored extensions. These pink box braids coupled with cornrows in the front, plus a side of baby hair, are such a vibe.
These Gorgeously Beaded Braids
Words don't do this style justice. This one truly takes my breath away, and is my personal favorite of the bunch. Every part of this—from the braided topknot to the beaded design—is unbelievably beautiful.
These Simple Straight-Backs
From thick to tiny, cornrows look good in every size. Case in point: the photo above. It's the perfect protective style for events like music festivals, when you don't feel like fussing with your hair.
This Braided Halo
A halo crown looks even better with braids. A few single cornrows in the front of your hair, adorned with beads and cuffs, is what transforms this from a look into a lewk.
These Cornrow Accent Braids
I know, it's hard to take your eyes off these epic bubble ponytails, but just try for a sec to focus on the cornrow accent braids topped with beads. This simple detail makes such an impact on the style.
Everything About This Braided Gorgeousness
There's so much beauty in this picture, it's hard to focus on one thing. This photo proves that baby hair is your best friend when it comes to braids. Slicking down your wispy flyaways in an intentional design makes the style so photogenic.
This Hoop-Embellished Braid
A single braid can do so much for your style. This simple cornrow is taken up several notches with the addition of hoop accent jewelry. Pick one side for your accent braid, and let your hair hang on the other to create the illusion of a frohawk.
This Elegant Braided Bun
Celebrity hairstylist Vernon François is a texture expert, so of course he knows how to create a sophisticated braided bun. This style suits any occasion.
This Half-Braided Style
Looking for the perfect way to add drama to your fro? Braids.
This Braided Frohawk
Leave it to Yara Shahidi to wear not a regular mohawk, but a cool frohawk, created by the blessed hands of Lacy Redway. This geometric design is everything.
This Braided Short Style
Who says cornrows aren't for short hair? If this is wrong, I don't want to be right. Add this look to your mood board. It's created by the talented Felicia Leatherwood, who is also Issa Rae's go-to stylist.
These Elegant, Medium-Sized Braids
Tracee Ellis Ross is a goddess in braids. You're welcome for this hairgasm.
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