Cornrow hairstyles for black hair are a form of traditional African hair braiding, whereby the hair is braided very close to the scalp. Styles can be linear, in parallel rows, or alternatively, can be seen in complex geometric and curved patterns. Cornrows can be adorned with beads. The style is favored for its easy maintenance. It can be left in for weeks at a time, with careful washing and and oiling of the hair and scalp.
Traditionally, cornrows are braided by starting at the forehead and braiding straight back to the nape of the neck. The hair is pulled close to the scalp with quick and specific hand movements. These movements result in continuous rows of hair that resemble rows of corn in cornfields, hence the name. Such rows of braid are usually finished by continuing the three-strand braid to the ends of the hair and securing them with clips or hair elastics. Traditional cornrows can also be given a bit of twist by decorating braids with beads placed at the ends of the hair or woven into the braids at intervals along the length.
There are thousands of examples of geometric cornrows that show the imagination and creative flair of the designer. These styles are done using a similar method to that used for traditional cornrows, but instead of braiding the hair in parallel lines, you braid in shapes of your choice. The shape can be anything from circles and swirls to letters and numbers. These cornrows can be as extreme and daring as the model wishes, and the wearer can choose to have something completely unique and original.
Braiding the hair towards the crown of the head allows for a more creative style. A good example of a cornrow up-do is the cornrow Mohawk, designed after the partially shaved Mohawk hairstyle. Braiding the hair close to the head creates a partially shaven look, without requiring the wearer to shave the sides of his or her head. To achieve the "faux-hawk," start at the bottom of the hairline and braid upward from the back and sides of the head. Stop braiding the back just under the crown and stop braiding the sides about two inches from the top center of the head on either side. Leave only about a two- to three-inch strip of unbraided hair at the top of the head.
Extensions and Tree Braiding
Hair extensions can be woven into cornrows for people who do not want to expose their hair to other harsher procedures. This also adds many more options to the styles from which a person can choose. Having extensions woven into cornrows is said to be less painful then other methods as well. Tree braiding is a style of braiding whereby real or synthetic hair is woven into the cornrow braid, simulating the look of longer hair. Unlike traditional cornrow hair extensions, which look clearly like braids, tree braiding the hair extends out each twist and turn of the actual braid. Eventually the artificial hair falls over the cornrows, covering up the actual braids, and giving a natural looking long hairstyle.