Embrace your inner cool girl with cornrows

How many people remember their first hairstyle in nursery school? It must have either been cornrows or thread, right? We have come full circle with our embrace of traditional hairstyles recently. With the various styles of trending braids, our creativity has returned to our African roots, and we are here for it. Whether your hair is natural or relaxed, cornrows are the number one hairstyle we look to. We rock them underneath our wigs or alone, and they are beautiful. 

My first and foremost hair choice is cornrows, aka ‘all-back’, and I’ve been rocking this hairstyle since childhood. It is a versatile and practical choice that I hold dear. They are also a breeze to create, take a short time, and are difficult to mess up. The delicate way they frame my face and their lightness makes them my top pick, especially in this humid Nigerian weather. They are also affordable which is a relief with the growing cost of hair in the country.

Cornrows are the go-to hairstyle
Image: Ayra Starr via Instagram

Many of us have transitioned into confidently styling our African hairstyles to contemporary events. Denise, our Social editor, recently shared a photo of herself sporting cornrows, expressing, ‘I have cornrows on at the moment, and if you told me ten years ago that I’d wear cornrows to an event, I would tell you that you were unserious.’ Beyond their timeless aesthetic appeal, they also act as a protective style, shielding our natural hair from environmental factors and reducing manipulation.

In my book, no other hairstyle deserves the top spot more than cornrows. They are an unrivalled favourite, and here’s all you need to know about them.

The rich history of cornrows

The history of cornrows
Image: Pinterest

Cornrows originated from ancient Africa, where intricate braiding styles served more than ordinary personal grooming purposes. These styles conveyed cultural meanings such as age, social status, ethnicity, and religious beliefs. 

Hairstyling tradition also played a vital role in communal bonding as elders passed down braiding techniques through generations, fostering a sense of tradition and connection. Boomers & millennials grew up with this tradition, and their high school days were full of creative takes on the “all back” style. They will always love their cornrows. Now, the genZ are putting their sophisticated takes on the hairstyle too!

In the 20th century, cornrows gained more visibility and recognition as an integral part of African American culture. The hairstyle has become a powerful symbol of pride, unity, and resistance against societal norms. Influential figures and style stars like Ayra Starr, Temi Otedola, Zendaya, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, and Justine Skye constantly make cornrows like cool girl hairstyles. This has led to their increased use in pop culture, and it is a political and cultural statement.

Get inspired by these cornrow styles

One of the beauties of cornrows lies in their versatility. From classic straight-back styles to more intricate patterns, the possibilities are endless. Here are some inspirations to consider for your next cornrow adventure:

Stitched braids
Image: Noreen Lux via Pinterest

Stitched: Delicate and precise, stitch cornrows offer a refined and elegant look. They are made by having horizontal lines from the front to the back and then stitching them up in vertical cornrows.

How to add jewellery to your cornrows
Image: Vernon Francois via Instagram

Adorned with beads and jewellery: Accessorising is the key to elevating cornrows. Infuse a touch of glamour by adding beads or jewellery for a playful and stylish vibe.

Alternating braids style
Image: AishaBeau via Pinterest

Alternating: Play with dimensions by alternating between thin and thick braids to add depth and texture to your hairstyle.

Pigtails braids
Image: Tropix Braids via Instagram

Pigtails: This style of cornrows give you a playful charm. They’re also exciting and easy to maintain.

Mini cornrows
Image: Chloe Kitembo via Pinterest

Micro cornrows: If you have a little time, micro cornrows are a great choice. They give a sophisticated and detailed look.

Patterned cornrows
Image: Shani Crowe via Instagram

Patterned: From the classic symmetry of centre-parted braids to gracefully curved styles and unique wavy patterns, you can experiment with various creative cornrow designs.

How to maintain cornrows
Image: Yara Shahidi via Pinterest

How to maintain cornrows

One of the main attractions of this style is their low maintenance. The following tips will keep them looking fresh and vibrant:

Keep your scalp moisturised: Use a light oil or moisturizer to keep your scalp hydrated to prevent dryness and itching.

Gentle removal: Avoid unnecessary hair breakage by gently taking out your cornrows. Also, use a detangling spray or conditioner to ease the process.

Regular washing: Despite being a low-maintenance style, washing your hair gently and regularly is essential. It prevents product buildup and maintains overall scalp health.

Whether it’s the cultural heritage behind cornrows, their adaptability, or the sheer convenience they offer, there’s no denying the appeal of this elegant and practical hairstyle. Which of the types of cornrows is your favourite?


  • Omotola Saba

    Hi, Omotola here, the human form of the 100 Emoji and the fashion and beauty writer at Marie Claire Nigeria. She started writing for fun and merged it with her love for fashion, and beauty. She's mostly at home, picking up yet another new hobby, scrolling through pinterest, laughing with her family or at dad jokes, or sleeping.

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