Every Sunday before school my mother would sit me down and braid my hair in cornrows. I would wear the simple, straight-back braids for a full week, until the next wash day rolled around. My story is similar to many young Black girls, but even though cornrows have been around for centuries — way before hair colour fads and insane Instagram styles became a thing — the classic braided look continues to evolve.
Cornrows are frequently misconstrued, misrepresented, and appropriated on runways, in magazines, and IRL, but when done right the style is both fashion-forward and culturally significant. And thanks to tons of talented hair braiders and stylists, there are endless iterations with intricate patterns, bright colours, and fun accessories.
The great thing about cornrows is that — no matter how you style 'em — they're super practical. You can wear your braids for weeks with minimal styling, protecting the hair from damage and maximizing growth. If you want your next protective style to involve cornrows, there are many different designs to consider. Ahead, we've rounded up some of our favourites to take to your stylist or DIY if you've got the skills.