Cornrows, also known as track braids or flat braids are braids that lay against the scalp. Made through a process of braiding and picking up hair along a row, they may be created using the person’s own hair, or through the use of hair extensions.
They are said to have originated in Africa, and have the longest history there, but have also been depicted in art from ancient Greece as well as representations of Celtic women with elaborately braided styles on Roman coins.
In Yoruba art, the rows symbolize civilization, order, and agriculture. A woman with fine and complex cornrows and braids is seen as well cared for and from a strong family, as some styles take four to eight hours or more to complete.
They have been a constant in Africa for aeons, but in the US they were worn almost exclusively by Garvey-ists and those in “back to Africa” movements until the Black is Beautiful trend in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
They then enjoyed a somewhat brief phase of mainstream popularity in western cultures during the 1970’s when Bo Derek wore them for a role in the movie 10. The trend was refreshed in the late 1990’s and took off worldwide in 2000 when they, along with dreadlocks became a more often seen style on the Paris runways.