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Braided looks might be on trend, but in reality, braids have been part of style and culture for thousands of years across the globe. Historically speaking, braids originated among African tribes as a sign of a woman’s tribe, status, and social standing. Many of these braids were highly adorned, with silver coins or bits of amber woven in among the braids. Sometimes these pieces became heirlooms through the generations, worn by woman after woman. Hairstyles themselves passed from parent to child as their own type of family legacy.
While there have been many other types of braids since, tribal braids remain one of the most common braid styles around the world.
Today’s tribal braid fashions combine the beauty of historical braids with modern trends. Braids also serve a practical purpose as they are woven and then left in, from a few weeks up to three or four months at a time. While the braids require care and conditioning to keep them shiny and from frizzing, this more permanent hairstyle gives your natural hair a break, adds length, and flat out looks amazing.
If you are looking for your next braid look, you have come to the right place. We have put together forty amazing styles perfect for anyone looking to add flair to their style. No matter if you want to go for a more basic braid hairstyle or something more elaborate, we can promise you will find something to fit your personal style.
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Are Tribal Braids Damaging?
Tribal braids are a popular style, especially because they’re protective and last a while. However, they can be damaging if they’re not done right.
Tribal braids that are tight and pulled at the roots can damage your hair follicles and cause traction alopecia. Your hair should still be able to move around in the braids when you shake or flip your head. If the braid doesn’t let your hair move, it’s too tight.
Also, tribal braids use a lot of extensions. Make sure that you’re using clean extensions that won’t make your scalp itchy or cause breakouts. If your scalp is irritated, you may want to see a dermatologist for further advice on how to prevent future itching or acne.
Are Tribal and Fulani braids the same thing?
No, tribal braids and Fulani braids are not the same. It is common for people to confuse the two, because they have a similar look, but there are differences.
Fulani braids are braided into cornrows and then wrapped in extensions that have been added to create more volume and texture. The braids can be as thin or thick as you want them to be, but they should always begin at the center part or slightly off-center.
Tribal braids are essentially cornrows that have been combined with Fulani braiding techniques. It is the addition of the Fulani braiding technique that makes them different from regular cornrows. Both styles can be combined with beads, but this is not necessary to create either style.
What is the origin of Tribal Braids?
There are many different braiding traditions and techniques among African tribes. Each tribe has a signature braid that identifies it as belonging to that tribe. The size, shape, and style of the braids vary from tribe to tribe. The tools used to create the braids also differ: some tribes use their fingers, some use bones or wood, and some use metal tools.
For example, the Himba tribe from Namibia uses bone or wood combs to keep their hair in place as they braid. They start by shampooing their hair with a mixture of roots and herbs for cleansing, then comb it out with a tool such as an animal bone or wood comb. Then they separate their hair into sections using their fingers and begin braiding, starting at the scalp and working down to the ends of each section. After they’ve finished braiding all of their hair into sections, they coat each section with butterfat to moisturize it and help protect the scalp against sunburn and dust.
Tribal braiding is a technique that is designed to be less damaging to hair than other braiding styles. This is achieved by using plaits instead of individual braids and by not pulling tight or working the hair too much during the braiding process.
Do Tribal Braids Hurt?
They are traditionally worn by African women as a symbol of love, prosperity, and heritage. They can be worn to represent many things, such as luck or protection from evil spirits. A common myth about tribal braids is that they hurt when being put in; however, this is not true at all! In fact, it feels like any other braid—you might feel some tugging or pulling if your hair isn’t properly detangled beforehand. The average time it takes to get tribal braids done is 2-3 hours (it will take longer if you have longer hair), so make sure you have some snacks with you!
Can I Do My Own Tribal Braids?
How Much Do Tribal Braids Cost at a Salon?
The price of tribal braids could be anywhere from $250 to $500. The price greatly depends on the size, length and thickness of your hair. Also, the type of braids you want to get can determine the final cost. If you are looking for something simple, then you should expect a basic price. If you want something more intricate and complex, then that will cost a lot more. A good rule of thumb is that it will take about one hour for each braid to be done, so if you have long hair with a lot of layers or extensions, it could take all day!
The best thing to do is go in for a consultation so they can give you an accurate estimate based on how difficult it would be for them to complete the look.
Best Tribal Braids
Long Tribal Braids: Swirl Pattern
Long braids are big right now, and are a perfect option if you are looking to add length as well as style. The swirl pattern at the top is funk and funky, ideal if you are looking for something unique in your braid style. Adding a little bit of red color at the ends is just the right bit of flair to round out the whole look.
Half Up, Half Down Style
These side part tribal braids use a bit of a thicker weave, which gives a volumized look. The look is completed by pulling two of the braids back, perfect for everyday wear or a professional setting. A great example of how braids can function much like other haircuts and styles.
Half Up Swirl Tribal Braids
Almost a combination of our first two styles, this look use fun parts and color weaves to accent the cool braided style. These side part tribal braids are also a mid-length, ideal if you are looking for something low maintenance and good for everyday wear.
Classic Tribal Braids with Red Weave
Pops of red elevate this classic braid style. The part helps frame the face with the braids and give the look a point of interest. These braids are easy to take care of and give the scalp plenty of chance to breathe.
Long Tribal Braids: Classic
Versatility is the name of the game with this braid style. Once you have these braids, you can style your hair any way you would like. The size and length of the braids are perfect for a half up style, ponytail, topknot, or just down.
Two Layer Tribal Braids
Tribal braids get a cool twist with this layered look. Especially since you are planning to have these braids in for a while, a fun way to add a twist to your style is through a different weave at the beginning of your braids. Finish off these braids with a color pop or a natural color accent to give one more touch of flair.
Love a bit of glitz and glamour? Add gold to your braids for that extra shine and style. Particularly if you are fond of gold jewelry to accent your outfit, these bits of gold are perfect for you.
Fan Part Tribal Braids
Rather than using the braids themselves, this style incorporates the part as the focal point. The fan design draws attention to the face, which of course is the point of any good hairstyle. From the fan, the braids form a gorgeous curtain that frame the face.
Single Braid Part: Silver
Another cool part style, the single braid down the center creates a different look than other middle part tribal braids. The fine silver wrap is both a traditional style and current trend, seen in the oldest tribal braids as well as modern looks.
Single Braid Part: Gold
This same part style incorporates different adornments and shows the flexibility of middle part tribal braids. In this instance, gold wrappings and a fun ornament amp up the tribal braids. Whatever you want to add to your braids, you can make your look personal and true to you.
Long Gold Tribal Braids
If you are a fan of long tribal braids, this is the perfect style. These luxurious braids stretch all the way down to the thigh, and the pops of gold add to the whole effect. When else will you be able to have hair this long and keep its style?
Funky Side Part Tribal Braids
These cool, long tribal braids are made complete by a funky side part that reflects the fade style. If you like the look of a fade but aren’t quite ready to make the commitment to shaving your head, these braids give the illusion of that style. On the left, the braids are finished with blonde ends for a fun summertime look.
ZigZag Tribal Braids
A fun zigzag design, almost reminiscent of a zebra print, sets this look apart from other middle part tribal braid hairstyles. This is the perfect example of how you can use a part to make your style unique, but potentially leave the braids natural. In this case, the style gets another twist with the wrap for a half up style.
Starlight, Star Bright
If you are looking for a distinctive look, using a shape in your part is a great choice. In this instance, a star shape takes these middle part tribal braids to a whole new level. The shape, accented by the blonde braids among the red, gives this style a personal edge.
Just because you have braids doesn’t mean you can’t style your hair. This gorgeous and functional up do is perfect for any occasion: the gym, work, a formal event, wherever you want! Whether you are in a comfy tee or a killer gown, this braided knot takes tribal braid hairstyles to new heights.
Named for the look of the braid at its root, box braids are one of the most popular tribal braid hairstyles. A cool and trendy look, these functional braids are perfect for anyone of any age. As seen here, smoothing the fine hairs near the root helps to personalize the style.
Natural Ends Ponytail
If you are someone who needs to wear your hair up most of the time, you might want to consider this style of tribal braids. Using the braids as the wrap for the rest of the hair is a cool twist on the typical ponytail. The addition of the curls at the ends give a natural yet stylish look.
Long Box Braids with Beads
Beads are an excellent classic when it comes to braids. Beads add texture and color to any braid style. In this case, long box braids get this playful addition in the form of clear beads.
Classy Box Braids
Simple long box braids are a classy and sophisticated tribal braid hairstyle. Long braids are the perfect choice if you want something more versatile that can take on any style. The box braid look gives the style more flair.
If you want a quirky and cool tribal braid hairstyle outside the norm, then this look is for you. Beads, bling, and different braid thicknesses make this fun and eclectic style. Looking to try something new? Go for this topknot look.
Jumbo Tassel Braids
Let your inner queen free with this Cleopatra inspired look! A unique braided hairstyle, these jumbo tribal braids have cool gold accents that set the style apart. The different ends have a tassel-like texture, which speaks to an ancient Egyptian hairstyle.
If you are a fan of multiple styles and textures in your hairstyle, these two layer tribal braids are perfect for you. The braids in the top layer provide structure and smoothness, while the natural hair underneath adds a softer backdrop. The knot gives the whole look height and another point of interest.
Traditional Tribal Braids: Wooden Beads
For those looking to go with a more traditional style, this look speaks to the historical trend of finishing braids with wooden beads. Beads add texture, fun, and rhythm to any braided hairstyle. Choose whatever beads fit your personal taste, the possibilities are endless!
Two-tone Beaded Braids
Another beaded style, this is a shorter tribal braid hairstyle that uses two different colors woven into the braids. This look shows the versatility of beads as well as the cool look of both hair colors worked onto one style.
Middle Part Jumbo Braids
Are you looking for something simple? Jumbo braids with a classic middle part are ideal for a clean, uncomplicated braid look. Easy to manage and maintain, these middle part tribal braids are great if you want to avoid the fuss of a more complex style.
Middle Part Tribal Braids: Z Edition
If you want to have a simpler braid style but still add pizzazz to your look, a funky z part is a fantastic option! Especially if you work in a profession where beads and other adornments aren’t practical, a cool part sets your look apart (no pun intended).
Long Braids, Cool Bling
A classic long tribal braids style gets a shiny upgrade with gold and silver ornaments. In this look, the bling frames the face and sets off the cool shape of the braids. Smoothing the baby hairs at the root adds another layer to the style.
Kids Tribal Braids: Gold Wrap
Who says these glitzy braid styles are just for adults? Much like in traditional cultures, kids tribal braids are meant to mimic or replicate the parent’s look as part of a multi-generational bond. Simple gold wrap or fun metal swirls are a fun way to give your mini-me some glam in her hairstyle.
Two-tone Middle Part Tribal Braids
A classic look, a basic middle part works well with these two-toned tribal braids. Whether you want a natural look as pictured, or go bold with a splash of color, multiple hues is on trend in braids.
Side Part Kids Tribal Braids
One look at this cutie and you’ll be dying for your little one to have the same beaded braid style! The side part is extra sweet in this instance, with a pretty swoop to frame and even prettier face. While the beads pictured are clear, let your kiddo get creative with the colors for a look that’s all her own.
Faux-nytail Beaded Braids
If your super active all-star wants a style that is pulled back all the time, this is the braided style you have been wanting. The braids meet at the back of the head like a conventional ponytail, but lack the issue of coming loose or falling down. Leaving shorter braids in the front allows for a face frame when desired.
Fade Side Part Tribal Braids
Fitting with the fade trend, these side part kids tribal braids are a perfect way to achieve the same look and still have the long term convenience of braids. Especially if you don’t want to be fussing with doing your child’s hair every day, these fun, decorative braids are ideal.
Curly End Ponytail
This look is great if you have a young teen who wants a cool and unique style. The curls at the end give a natural look, and the swirls on the scalp are fun and funky. Perfect for someone with attitude or bounce.
Curly Tribal Braids
If you are looking for a natural style that will stay in place long term, then these are the braids for you. The added length gives a sense of luxury and glamour, while the curls add texture and volume.
Middle Part Tribal Braids: Contrast Wrap
These braids use a classic middle part style, but the single wrap stands out with a pop. In this case, the white is a bright contrast against the braid, but any bright color could achieve the same effect. Using one single wrap also makes a statement and draws the eye.
Red Swirl Braids
Looking to make an impact with your style? Choose a bright color like red for your braids. With the addition of the funky swirled part, you are sure to have the coolest, unique hairstyle in the room.
Subtle Two Layer Tribal Braids
Another cool way to add drama to your braids is through layering at the roots. In this look, there are two layers at the root to go with a classic braid style. If you can’t go crazy with color or beads, a layered look is the way to go.
Jumbo Tribal Braids, Tiny Accents
While the jumbo braids are the star of this show, the tiny braid accents lift this look entirely. A braid down the center completes the whole braid design. This is an additional style for someone sticking with natural colors but wanting to add a twist.
Red Box Braids
This look has it all: the box braid, red color, beads, and length. These tribal braids show how multiple styles combine together to make one unique hairstyle. If you like drama in your look, this is the one for you.
Three Layer Tribal Braids
These braids take the layered look another step further. A combination of jumbo and smaller braids, layering in this way gives the parts a cool triangular pattern. Swinging the jumbo braids over the shoulder is fun and quirky.
Whether you are trying to get in touch with your roots with a traditional style or looking for something more modern, there are hundreds of different tribal braid hairstyles out there. Maybe you will find a design that you would want to pass on through the generations in your family, just like the original creators of these intricate looks. Add beads and bling, or go for a more simplistic style, braids are a great long-lasting hairstyle that is worth the expense.
 Allen, Maya. “The Fascinating History of Braids You Never Knew About.” Byrdie (Blog). October 24, 2019. https://www.byrdie.com/history-of-braids.
 Dirshe, Siraad. “Respect Our Roots: A Brief History of Our Braids.” Essence, June 27, 2018. https://www.essence.com/hair/respect-our-roots-brief-history-our-braids-cultural-appropriation/
“Fulani Braids.” Ebena (Blog). https://ebena.net/style/tribal-braids/6685.