"…In the United States, the cornrow style regained popularity in the late sixties to the seventies as part of the Black Nationalist Movement…"
The art of cornrowing hair began in the continent of Africa, where some hair textures were and are extremely curly and thus prone to easily drying out. Cornrows were both a practical and attractive way of protecting hair against premature breakage and sun damage. Depictions of women with cornrows have been found in stone age paintings in the Tassili Plateau of the Sahara that have been dated as far back as three thousand B.C. This tradition of female styling in cornrows has remained popular throughout the continent, particularly in Western and Eastern Africa. Historically, male styling with cornrows can be traced as far back as the early nineteenth century to Ethiopia, where warriors and kings such as Tewodros II and Yohannes IV were depicted wearing cornrows. In the African Diaspora, cornrows survived for centuries in the United States and other parts of the New World as a traditional style of hair preparation. In the United States, the cornrow style regained popularity in the late sixties to the seventies as part of the Black Nationalist Movement, which encouraged African Americans to embrace hairstyles that highlighted their natural hair texture and reject straightening with lye-based relaxers. In the wake of the Black pride movement, many shops and salons sprang up across the United States delivering services exclusively, or as part of a range of options, to African Americans who preferred natural unstraightened hairstyles such as cornrows.
Though cornrowing began as a style worn exclusively by people of African heritage, its popularity has since spread to every continent and can be modified to suit the hair texture of anyone who wishes to wear cornrows. Outside the African tradition, cornrow-like hairstyles have also been seen in Greek and Roman art, and may have had a similar presence in Celtic culture.
Cornrows acquired some popularity among Caucasians in America and Europe after actress Bo Derek wore beaded cornrows in the popular 1979 comedy 10; and became widely popular once again with the spread of the hip hop culture in the nineties. In addition, cornrow hairstyles are now often offered to tourists in resort areas of the Caribbean. In the Asian tradition, mixed martial arts fighters with long hair also often sport the cornrow hairstyle during matches to protect the hair from being ripped off while grappling.
"…cornrow hairstyles in Africa also cover a wide social terrain; religion, kinship, status, age and ethnicity, along with other attributes of identity, can all be expressed in the hairstyle…"
In addition, cornrow hairstyles in Africa also cover a wide social terrain; religion, kinship, status, age and ethnicity, along with other attributes of identity, can all be expressed in hairstyle. The art of cornrowing transmits cultural values between generations, expresses bonds between friends, and establishes the role of professional practitioner. Unfortunately, gone are those days when women from all walks of life preferred to weave their hair not just for its beauty but because it was in vogue. With the emergence of the hair clip on, the hair weaves and various types of hair extensions, many women seem to feel this hairdo as outdated meant for the less classy; gradually drifting away from the magnificence of the artistry. But as we see and know in the world of fashion, past trends come back around in full force; and when the cornrow emerges again, it will be here to stay-from the runway to everyday.