Skip Nav
Margot Robbie
The Team Behind Margot Robbie's Mind-Blowing Transformation Into Queen Elizabeth Spills the Tea
Makeup
Take Note — These Are the Best Beauty Products of 2018, According to Our Editors
Nails
Get Holographic Nails in No Time With This Step-by-Step Guide
Gifts For Women
A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Skincare Gifts You Can Give This Year
Beauty Trends
The Hands-Down Best Skincare Products Editors Are Loving This Month

The History of the French Braid

Why, Exactly, Is It Called a French Braid?

French braids are popular the world over, but they certainly aren't emblematic of France. It's unclear what about them, really, is so Gallic. As it turns out, "French" braids aren't French at all. So who's really responsible for the technique? The style's history is much cooler (and longer) than you might imagine.

If we're looking for the origins of modern-day French braids, Eurasia isn't even the right continent. Instead, the place to start is North Africa. People have been wearing the three-strand gathered plait for thousands of years, and the earliest evidence of the style comes to us from the Tassili n'Ajjer mountain range in Algeria. There, rock art depicting women wearing rowed braids dates back almost 6,000 years. In the millenia following, the style also appeared in early Greek art, particularly iconic kouros statues, on Celtic warriors and lasses, and as part of the elaborate updos worn by courtly women of the Sung Dynasty.

It appears, really, that there are very few cultures unaware of French braids, making their unusual moniker even more puzzling. How could something so universal be named after a single country? Wisely, the French themselves don't even claim the style as their own.

ADVERTISEMENT

So why are Americans so confused? We can trace the origins of this particular misnomer back to an 1871 short story from Arthur's Home Magazine in which a rather misogynistic husband tells his wife to "hurry up and put on that new cashmere I sent you, and do up your hair in that new French braid."

Perhaps because France has always been so immediately connected to fashion and high living to people on this side of the Atlantic, any "fancy" braid would have registered as Continental. Just like fries and a host of other things, our love affair with the French is writ large on our delicacies and refinements.

In short, although you can feel free to keep calling it a French braid, the hairstyle is actually one of humanity's oldest and most popular hair inventions, just as much in use now as it was in ancient Sparta. They aren't from Paris, but whatever you call them, gathered braids are unquestionably as timeless and chic as the City of Lights.

From Our Partners
Ashley Tisdale Pink Hair 2018
Mary Queen of Scots Hair and Makeup Interview
Shawn Mendes Braiding Camila Cabello's Hair
Best Hair Accessories
Glitter Hair
Cardi B Rainbow Hair December 2018
Best Beauty Products at Gyms
Best Travel Hair Tools According to Hairstylists
Blake Lively's Best Curly Hair Photos
Mulan Hair Comb
Biggest Beauty Moments of 2018
Biggest Celebrity Hair Changes in 2018
From Our Partners
Latest Beauty
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds