I’m a bit of a braid (or plait, for some) fiend. Of course I rocked braids growing up, but I stopped mid-high school. I started up again in adulthood after going natural and was hesitant at first because my hair was just a few inches long and I didn’t want to look like Coolio.

Vintage Coolio…

Since then I’ve become sold on braids for their convenience, ease of installation and maintenance, and length retaining power. This is thanks to a consistent braid regimen.

The other thing I love about braids is the opportunity for creative expression. I recently tried Fulani-inspired braids and I have to say, I’m hooked.

A bit of background first. The Fula people are an ethnic group dispersed throughout West Africa, primarily in Nigeria, Guinea and Mali. About a third of them are nomadic. The Fula have a fascinating culture, and one vibrant feature of it is their intricate hairstyles.

A Fula Woman

Alicia Keys rocked Fulani-inspired braids back in the day, but they’ve had a recent resurgence. Three features of Fulani hairstyling that women in America have adopted is 1. the incorporation of beads, cowrie shells and other hair jewelry 2. placing a center braid or roll down the middle of the head and a wrap braid around the periphery of the hairline and 3. forward facing cornrows by the ears.

I wanted to give Fulani-inspired braids a try so I went to my trusted Crown Heights braider with a photo in hand. I wanted to try the center braid, forward facing cornrows and beads. The back of my hair would be in individual braids, and I wouldn’t be using any extensions.

I was a little nervous about incorporating beads. It’s been a good two decades — give our take a few years — since I rocked beads in my hair. I was nervous about looking childish, but I didn’t have to worry.

View from the chair…

And at home. (Please excuse my struggly hairline… post partum shedding.)

To say that I’m feeling myself with this hairstyle would be an understatement. My beads swing when I walk or bike around Brooklyn, the style has kept incredibly well (I’m 3 weeks in, done a couple moisturizing conditioning treatments, and it still looks great!) and I haven’t seen anyone with a similar style. (Well I did see a white girl with something similar… which was kind of depressing… but that’s not a conversation for right now.)

If I do try this again I think I will go bolder — do the wrap braid around my hairline, incorporate different bead colors and a few cowrie shells, and put a bead at the end of the individual braids in the back.

If you are thinking of trying Fulani-inspired styles I say YES GO FOR IT!

Have you tried Fulani-inspired braids? What was your experience and would you recommend them?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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25 Comments on "[Pics] I Tried Fulani-Inspired Braids on My Own Hair and I’m Hooked"

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[…] I keep my hair in braids (using my own hair) for 4 to 6 weeks at a time, with up to 1 month of wash and go’s in between, depending on the humidity. This Brooklyn humidity is on ten, so I’ve been doing my braiding seshes back to back. My ends were smooth, soft, retaining moisture incredibly well and honestly, felt like butta. All I really needed was a search and destroy Instead, I decided to do a full on, ‘whole head’ trim. […]

Vanessa

Long live the beads and cowries. Love the cornrows. It’s beautiful. Thanks for posting your lovely pics.

Kay

I’m getting some Fulani braids today. I’m so excited. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my hair. I hope this work. Your hair is beautiful. It does not look juvenile.

The Blessed Queen

I Love how we are embracing our African culture through this awesome styles! Our black is beautiful and i think this is a perfect style for summer! I made it on my natural hair and i must say it came out perfect!! God tons of compliments and even asked to take pictures of my hair so they can go get it done!!

This was a interesting article and i love how they did your braids!

Tia

I would really like to know who your trusted crown heights braider is. I once had a trusted braider whom i followed all around downtown Brooklyn. She passed away in March and now for the summer i have no one to go to to get my summer hairstyle of box braids.PLEASE HELP. BTW, Fulani braids are AWEDOME

Amber
Sooooo….I have a question. Why do you feel that it’s “depressing” that you saw a white girl with similar braids? Isn’t that the same kind of racism that whites always get accused of? If a white girl said “oh, I would never rock those braids because they are too black”, wouldn’t you accuse her of racism and separatism? It’s also a paradox because black women have adopted “white” hairstyles for the longest time through the means of relaxing, coloring various shades (even blonde), and using fake hair. I can understand why you would feel THAT is depressing, since black women… Read more »
lis

Thank you Amber….agree totally….and yes racism is still alive and cultural appropriation does happen but I agree most of it is petty…..but what always astonishes me are the number of Black women always so outraged over petty stuff (I’ve even come across black women castigating whites for using shea butter or black soap which strikes me as mean spirited bullying and what powerless people do)…..writing essays but I have never seen them take on the rappers or the black males on youtube saying and upholding and perpetuating? the most vile racist and sexist things about Black women…Why is that?….

Rspct_ur_Eldrs
Because the so-called adherents of multiculturalism do not believe in it. At least to a degree that it goes both ways. This multiculturalism bullocks doesn’t allow free exchange of culture for everyone but creates exclusivity and segregation which is an irony in itself. Take for example, the mother that scolded her daughter for coming home with henna was castigated by the media and called a “white supremacist.” But it’s the same people who would claim Cultural Appropriation if the mother and taken a selfie of her daughter proudly displaying her henna on social media. Who sets these rules for society… Read more »
Justice
There are so many cultures that have been stolen and suppresses for centuries. White women are revered as trendy and black women are treated as ghetto for the same thing that has been going on for years .The problem that I have is people not knowing where it all comes from or worse knowing and assuming that makes it ok for them to borrow a part of a peoples existence. You’d never catch me wearing a lava lava sporting traditional Samoan tattoos out to the club. I’m sure you’d never wear a Native American headdress out to a concert. We… Read more »
Morgan

Beautiful braids! The last woman in your post actually appears to be Touareg 🙂 . She is dressed in traditional Touareg Indigo veil and dress, and wearing makeup typical of this particular ethnic group. Like the Fulani/Peul, they are (traditionally) pastoral nomads found in Sahelian West Africa, and have their own unique braiding styles, but they are separate ethnic groups with distinct culture and customs. Thank you for your post!

Paula

You look very nice in those braids, Leila. Very nice.

Boluwatife

How did your hair get this long. I’ve been natural for along time and my hair hasn’t gotten to shoulder level. I love your hair

Melissa S.

Beautiful!

Kendra

you look gorgeous!

Mesha

It was really gorgeous on you, would love to see the second style!

Melanie Konstantinidis
Melanie Konstantinidis

I love it. So interesting the way the braids come foward instead of back

Dee b

Love it. I think cowries are so pretty!

TWA4now

Wow so pretty and strong!!!!

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