Thursday, May 14

Throwback Thursday: Cornrows

Most of our Throwback Thursdays focused on something that you rarely or never see anymore. However, the subject of today’s Throwback Thursday is something that many argue is still relevant right now: the cornrow.


Cornrows have been a staple of Black society since well before we got off the boat. In fact, you can still find the hairstyle worn by many Sub-Saharan Africans. Throughout slavery, cornrows and braids were the only style of hair that slaves could have. I know you didn’t think they were walking around with Press and Curls and Even All Overs. If slaves wanted to express any sort of creativity in their hairstyles, it had to come out through their cornrows. Everyone has seen this picture of Harriet Tubman what appears to be cornrows back in the 19th Century.


After slavery, with most Black women trying to get their hair to look as white/straight as possible with perms, straight combs, etc., the cornrow lost most of its popularity in our society. Even Black men were too busy wearing their Conks to even consider braiding their hair. You remember that scene from Malcolm X when he puts that lie in his hair and has to dip his head in a toilet because it burns so bad? That’s what all of our granddaddies and grandmamas were doing back in the day. But all of that changed in 1963 when an actress by the name of Cicely Tyson donned a beautiful set of cornrows on the popular TV series East Side/West Side.Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Black is beautiful movement kept all African Americans in a natural hairstyle. This is when the cornrow really saw a reemergence in Black and American culture.

Cicily Tyson

In 1979, we were all taken by surprise when this chick named Bo Derek taught white people that they can do it too. In the movie 10, there is an infamous scene in which Bo Derek runs along the beach with some blond cornrows in her head.

Bo Derek

I think this was a wake-up call for Blacks to give it a rest. The popular hairstyle lost much if its fervor until the late 1990’s, when every video ho and superstar in the game started wearing cornrows. Whenever I think of a female rockin some braids, I always remember this line “I’m a sucker for cornrows and manicured toes/Fendi Capri pants and Parasucos” from Nelly’s “E.I.” In fact, y’all can even look at the video below…

Almost every female in the video is rocking some cornrows. And they all look bad (in a good way) as hell too…

The other thought that comes to mind is Alicia Keys. I remember when Diary came out, and Alicia was really trying to let go of the braids. But instead letting all of her long tresses of biracial hair flow, she had half of her hair in braids and the other half in cornrows? PressPlay below to watch her get her braids done in “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?”

Of course most of our female KiDDuNoters will think of Mario in “Braid My Hair” or R. Kelly in the sex tape or any video that he’s had out since like 2000. You might even think About Charlie Wilson in his infamous top hat and cornrows, but I digress…

If you ask anyone older about cornrows, they will most likely confirm that they have become as faddy as Guess Jeans and Sweater Vests: every now and then they go hard as hell, and every now and then they are out of style. Regardless of whether you still rock braids or not, you can’t disregard the importance that the style has played in our history as African Americans trying to find a place in this country. I commend anyone that rocks natural hair, even if you rock a bunch of weave in your braids so you can look like Bo Derek. Now that Trey Songs, Omarion, Carmello Anthony, Bow Wow, and Mario among others have all cut off their braids, many people ask are cornrows still relevant?

I think so, but as long as they're not worn like this:


WillyTee for