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Hair today, braided tomorrow

There’s a new-found freedom in male grooming, as braided hairstyles allow variety, creative expression, and so much swag

Image: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

Creative expression doesn’t have a gender, and neither does the desire to look and feel good. For years, the idea of men taking care of themselves had negative connotations, and rigid ideas of masculinity put men in a box.

Thankfully, the world has come a long way since then, and gents now have the freedom to groom however they want and experiment with different hairstyles and aesthetics.

During lockdown, many men decided to let it “all hang out”, growing out their beards and hair. For most of 2020 and 2021, with less frequent trips to barbers and hairdressers, others were shaving it all off, trying out the low-maintenance buzz cut, or dabbling in different colourways and hair dyes.

They had the freedom to try out all the haircuts, beard lengths, hair colours, and trends that they always wanted to experiment with, without fear of public judgment. Now, the new mood is all about experimentation, as this year men are choosing to grow their hair out, venturing into the territory of relaxing, braids, and twists. Not only do braids allow for more variety when styling hair, but this is also a great protective style to minimise the mechanical stress and traction from everyday combing.

Even men who are already bald and used to rocking a chiskop are experimenting with lace-front wig pieces with which barbers can create trending cuts such as waves, frohawks or high-top fades — the options are truly endless.

Image: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

Braided Up

Life’s too short to rock the same hairstyle, so why not turn heads with braided hairstyles for every comfort level?

  1. Cornrows: If you are new to braiding, keep things simple and low maintenance with cornrows. Giving a nod to the 1990s and 2000s hip-hop era, these will not challenge your comfort zone too much. Go for a full head of cornrows that are braided straight to the back. Feeling a little more adventurous? Try incorporating different cornrow designs, such as zig-zags, or vary the sizes of the cornrows.
  2. Kris Kross braids: Taking its inspiration from hip-hop duo Kris Kross, this style is not only versatile but also adds an element of nostalgic cool. With the sides of the head trimmed quite short and the top braided into ear-length box braids or styled into two-strand twists, this is definitely for those who are more experimental. Have your hairdresser braid with hair extensions to give your hair more length and add accessories such as beads or gold braid cuffs.
  3. Bubble braids: Calling all risk takers! This style is for the gents with longer afros who enjoy incorporating hair extensions and have a lot of confidence. Made to mimic braids, this style uses hair elastics to tie down a section of hair at intervals, giving the same look and feel as box braids but in half the time.

Need-to-know braiding tips

Keep these handy tips in your back pocket to ensure your braided hairstyle stays in tip-top condition. 

  1. Scalp care is key, so don’t neglect the health of your hair and scalp when your hair is braided. Regularly use an oil or scalp-care product to ensure the scalp remains hydrated and dandruff is kept at bay. When applying scalp products, massage the product into your skin as it helps to increase blood flow, promote hair growth, and soothe any tightness.  
  2. Add a leave-in conditioner to help keep hair and scalp hydrated, especially since the scalp is exposed when hair is braided. Use a lightweight leave-in spray conditioner to hydrate and nourish the hair, but don’t use too much as it may cause build-up.
  3. Tight is never good, so don’t let your hairdresser pull your hair too tight when braiding, as it will cause discomfort, itchiness, and small bumps on the scalp. Rather ask them to reduce the tension — or change hairdressers.
Image: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

4. Refresh the appearance of your braids and combat frizz by applying an anti-frizz mousse to the top of the head and spreading it through all the braids. Wear a durag or silk headscarf when letting your hair dry.

5. Keep edges looking fresh by going to your barber for regular trims or having a pair of hair clippers on hand to perform a quick line-up at home. Especially if you have a braided high fade or braids with an undercut, keeping the sides and edges short and groomed will help your hairstyle look fresh for longer.

6. Four to six weeks is the maximum time braids should be kept in, as dirt and product build-up can cause breakage and knotting when removing them. Once removed, give hair and scalp extra love with a hot-oil treatment and protein masque to rehydrate the hair, or massage with a scalp-calming tea-tea oil.