Invisible braids are a kind of hairstyle in which strands of hair are braided so small that they appear as single strands of hair. Not to be confused with micro braids, which are quite similar, they are usually difficult to see for an untrained eye. In the defense of traditional braids, which are usually much thicker and easier to see, this particular style is usually only woven for about an inch starting at the scalp and then left free. This is probably why it is difficult for people to identify them.
This type of cosmetic accessorizing usually requires a visit to the salon because it can take upwards of five hours to complete, even under the care of an experienced professional. Also, this technique typically employs additional human hair that is woven in with yours, which helps to give the appearance of more body as well. Sometimes your own hair isn’t long enough or not thick enough to do this on your own anyway. Sometimes, you might wish to use hair of another, complementary color for a unique style.
The braiding of hair is actually an ancient tradition. Cornrows are perhaps the most well-known style of African American braiding, and they seem to have origins that date back as far as 500 B.C. At least, that is the evidence that is depicted in hieroglyphs and statues from early Africa, Nigeria, and Egyptian civilizations. The most famous example of cornrows, though, are on the back of the head of the Sphinx in Egypt.
Cornrows and braids were more than just hairstyles, at least in Ancient times. In the earliest civilizations, these styling options were used to distinguish one tribe or family from another. It was also very common to find shells or beads woven in too, which is a practice that is still used today.
Obviously, there are many more braiding and cornrow styles used today. Many of the designs you see in salons and barber shops are either in honor of or inspired by traditional designs. You can find these designs in pictures from both hairstyling magazines to history books! The need and interest for these intricate works of art continue to grow due in large part to the success of more and more African Americans, especially in high profile positions and industries like professional sports and entertainment. As their presence continues to develop, so does a stronger and more well-rounded, deeply-connected black identity.