Stunning, functional, and super versatile—whether you’re new to cornrows or you’ve been wearing them forever, these classic braids are true game-changers when you’re looking to keep your hair gorgeous and protected. Alicia Fuentes, texture expert at Maggie Rose Salon, says it’s because cornrows keep natural hair “tucked away from day-to-day styling, heat tools, and the elements.” Wearing cornrows also “prevents constant manipulation of your hair and keeps your hair detangled,” she adds.
Quick history lesson: Although they’ve been seen everywhere from the red carpet to everyday wear, cornrows date back thousands (yup, thousands!) of years to Africa in 3000 B.C. “The intricacies of styles depicted what tribe someone belonged to while also displaying creative and festive energy,” says Fuentes. Cornrows are still worn today in West Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan where the styles differ between areas and tell unique stories and details about the wearer.
Ready to try cornrows for yourself? While they may take a little time to perfect, with care they can look fresh for weeks. “If braids are done with your natural hair, I would recommend [leaving them in] no more than two weeks,” says Fuentes. If extensions are fed into your natural hair, she suggests up to four. Continue reading for 30 amazing cornrow styles—from jumbo cornrows to braided buns—that you’ll want to wear on repeat.
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Classic cornrows were super popular in the 90s and are still turning heads today. Case in point: Zendaya’s gorgeous, glam version that cascades well past her waist. Zendaya paired it with a cool, graphic eye for instant Cleopatra vibes that solidify her status as queen of the red carpet.
Zoë Kravtiz took one of her signature styles and gave it a cool, “I woke up like this” effect with loose ends that reflect her low-maintenance and undeniably gorgeous aesthetic. Toss your hair every which way—there are no bad angles. Tip: Run a nourishing hair oil through the ends to keep them soft, smooth, and protected.
Something about Yara Shahidi’s adorable updo gives us instant Bring It On vibes (and you bet we’re here for it). Secure your ends at the nape of your neck or bring it up into a low bun for a hairstyle that will score 10s across the board.
We can count on Ciara to shake things up every time she hits the red carpet. Her classic long cornrows are sleek as ever. The twist? Her styled edges that are equal parts fun, glam, and gorgeous. To get yours as perfect as Ciara’s use a clean spoolie or small toothbrush and an edge control product to smooth yours into your favorite shape or position.
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A little casual, a lot romantic—Jourdan Dunn’s side-swept hairstyle adds a little glam to your everyday look. It’s easy to wear and looks just as beautiful in a low or high pony or over one shoulder like Jourdan.
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[Insert your favorite Spice Girls’ lyrics here] and it’s bound to be filled with as much girl power as Mel B’s ultra curly, rockabilly-inspired look. Add a fun hair accessory like her “LOVE” clip and you’ll make a statement wherever you go.
Regina King continues to reign the red carpet in this ultra-cool, half-up hairstyle. Her hair is secured midway down the back of her head which allows the ends to flow freely for a look that’s effortless, edgy, and always party-ready.
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Once we set eyes on this stunning updo, we knew it had to make our list. Each braid is formed at an angle and expertly curved to create a mesmerizing winding effect. It's then twisted into a super high top knot that’s modern, chic, and fit for any occasion.
Gabrielle Union makes our list more than once (you’ll see as you continue your scroll) for her effortlessly beautiful looks, including these gorgeous braids with loose ends that are nothing short of pure romance. Add threads of silver gems like Gabby in the form of rhinestones or pearls and it’ll be your turn to shine.
We love Janella Monae for her signature style. She shakes things up with a 90s Janet Jackson-inspired look by adding a chic hat atop her gorgeous, waist-length braids. Monae topped it all off with a bold, bright red lip for a cool, sexy vibe we love.
Can you say ponytail goals? Rihanna’s straight back braids start at the crown and give way to a flowing, voluminous, mid-height ponytail. Her ponytail has smaller braids woven throughout to create dimension and texture.
Zendaya’s no stranger to sporting braided cornrows and experimenting with protective, natural hairstyles. If you want to prolong the length of your braids, Fuentes says it’s crucial to keep your hair hydrated. “In the morning, spray a nourishing hair milk or leave-in all over your hair, including the ends. At night, use oils with vitamin E or jojoba and sleep with a satin cap or pillowcase to help keep the moisture locked in,” she says.
Danai Gurira ruled the red carpet in her Nefertiti-style braids, which were complemented with a gilded hairband. Her romantic take on cornrows is a great way to incorporate trendy headbands into your braided styles.
Erica Ash opted for a tribal African style with her Fulani braids, which were accented by large, wooden beads. “Fulani braids are typically styled in unique patterns of thin-to-medium tight braids and often incorporate accessories and beads,” says Fuentes.
Gabrielle Union wings again by keeping it classic and cool with long cornrows that reach down to her waist. Her hairstylist wove in hair extensions to help her achieve the Rapunzel-like length.
Jourdan Dunn’s style hails from the Ethiopian and Eritrean tribes. “Albaso braids are a great twist (no pun intended) to traditional cornrows,” says Fuentes. “It’s a mix between large cornrows braided over rolled hair and small cornrows.” The braids often stop halfway, leaving the rest of the tresses out in their natural state. In this case, Dunn’s Albaso braids stopped right after the crown.
Issa Rae’s jumbo braid added volume as the braid began at the crown and wrapped around, giving way to a beautiful side braid.
Alicia Keys proves that cornrows on short hair are just as chic as long with her straight-back braids that meet at the nape of her neck.
Lupita Nyong’o is no stranger to braided hairstyles, and her latest look was beyond cool. She complimented her braids with braided bangs, which served up total ‘80s vibes.
Megalyn Echikunwoke opted for a Bantu knot updo, rocking cornrows with Bantu braids on the side. Bonus: After enjoying your bantu knots, take them down and let your natural texture show with a bantu knot-out.
Keke Palmer’s mega pony has cornrows gather on the top of her head and cascade down her back. Braids were also used to fasten her ponytail.
Zazie Beetz’s curly updo lets her natural hair shine with curly hair woven into a crown braid to mimic a headband.
Tessa Thompson went for a fun, 90s futuristic style with box braids and two space buns on each side.
Tracee Ellis Ross parted her hair in the middle to create two French braids, which start at the crown before opening up to thicker braids on each side. This romantic, classic style is so easy to recreate at home.
Marsai Martin sported small cornrows with loose ends. She also wove ribbon through her crown braid to add a romantic touch to her overall look.
Amandla Stenberg’s waterfall ponytail added a bold burst of color to her ensemble thanks to the blue extensions woven into her cornrows for a fun, fashion-forward twist. Simply feed in faux hair in any color to recreate these cornrow braids.
Has braiding hair ever looked so intricate? Storm Reid took her cornrows to the next level by using the small braids to create two chunky braids that hung on each side in cute pigtail braids. Her subtle baby hairs were slicked down and were the perfect compliment to her style.
Tired of wearing your hair down? Why not pull your cornrows back into a high, braided ponytail? Laura Harrier’s waist-length braids were worn over one shoulder to create a statement look that you can easily recreate at home.
Jordyn Woods pulled her box braids back in a half-up, half-down hairstyle that served up serious ‘90s vibes as her hair cascaded around her giving way to loose ends. She added to the retro hairstyle by fastening the style with an animal-print scrunchie.
Tia Mowry paired cornrows on one side of her scalp with box braids for a dramatic, side swept hairstyle that complemented her long cornrows perfectly. Her technique added volume and texture to her braided hairstyle and accentuated her gorgeous cheekbones.
From big cornrows to goddess braids and even single braids, these braid styles serve up serious inspiration that are perfect for any occasion.
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