But it didn't stop at just two plaits for most of us. If you grew up in America, I think you probably wore "corn rows." In the Caribbean we called them "cane rows," as in sugar cane. Regardless of the name, the style spoke to our shared ancestry - hair-braiding techniques were passed down from Africa, survived the intentional cultural separation of slavery and remains part of our legacy today. And the techniques have become even more intricate, complex and beautiful with time and with practice.Although so many of us grew up familiar with the practice, that certainly does not mean that hair braiding is instinctual. It takes practice, patience and love -- especially if you're dealing with a tender-headed child. Now we know that just plain "grease" isn't good for our hair -- a combination of natural hair oils works well, as does Oyin's Burnt Sugar hair pomade, which is made with castor oil, soy wax, and cocoa butter as well as coconut, mango seed, olive, hempseed, and broccoli seed oils.
Now that you've got your products, how can you master your technique? There are a number of YouTube experts who offer incredible, free tutorials online for a variety of braiding styles (involving artificial hair, or otherwise).
Expert Village is a channel devoted to the mastery of everything from planting a tree to poledancing, but there are some truly incredible videos on cornrows, reverse French braids, and a braided headband - a trend which looks particularly pretty with natural hair. Braids By Sabrina's channel (AKA The Braid Shop) offers videos that primarily feature artificial hair, and their speed and technique is just incredible to behold.
If you're seeking a hair braiding DVD, I recommend you visit Kristen Lock's website - her Tree Braids 101 and Cornrows 101 videos are both excellent.
What are your hair braiding memories? Do you have any advice to offer hair braiding newbies?