Tribal braids date back 5000 years and have their roots in Africa. Tribal braids employ different techniques and braiding styles.
Tribal braids were traditionally used to indicate everything from a person’s place of origin, tribe, and marital status to their status in the community, wealth, and religion, among other things.
Tribal braids nowadays, on the other hand, are more about paying tribute to the personal heritage and expressing style and personality.
While they may have been around for centuries, tribal braids are still hugely popular today because they are convenient, low-maintenance, and come in an endless variety of styles that are only limited by your imagination.
We put together 16 Tribal Braid Hairstyles that we love. Tribal braids are so versatile we have only scratched the surface of styling options. But these should give you a glimpse of the seemingly limitless possibilities of Tribal Braids.
#1. Fulani Tribal Braids
Originating from the Fula people of West Africa, the signature Fulani style uses a central braid, which is traditionally decorated with rings and beads. The rest of the hair is divided in half, creating a horizontal divider line between front and back.
There are several cornrows that are braided on the front half that go from the top, down, and angled back to the center dividing line and dropdown. There are one or two small cornrows above the ear, braided from the center dividing line of the head, back to front, creating braided tendrils that cascade down at the temple, over and in front of the ear.
A thicker braid is wrapped over the top of the head, which is most often left out of the more modern-day “Fulani braided styles”.
And lastly, the rest of the hair on the back half of the head is braided in box braids and can either be worn down or up. The braids are usually adorned with shells, beads or other jewelry.
The Fulani braids are significant in that most popular tribal braid styles today are inspired by them and have some elements of Fulani braids incorporated into them.
#2. Fulani Tribal Braids with Bun & Beads
Using thinner braids to form an intricate pattern adds a whole other layer of interest, especially when half of the braids are gathered together to make a bun.
The pairing of the beads with the bun and braid pattern makes this a textured style that we absolutely love.
#3. Ghana Braids
The classic cornrows we all know and love actually have their roots in Ghana. The beauty of the Ghana braids is their versatility. You can go as thin or chunky as you like. They leave you the option of going the traditional straight back or introducing a part for a different look.
This is a middle-parted style with multi-layered smaller braids. There is a reason this classic look will never go out of style.
#4. Side Swept Ghana Braids
A different take on the standard Ghana braids has this style changing direction. With the cornrows on one side braided front to back, the top of the head is braided from side to side creating this unique side-swept look.
#5. Thick & Thin Tribal Braids
Pairing chunkier Ghana braids with really thin ones gives this braid style a super sporty look.
#6. Patterned Braids
Who said braids have to be straight? Certainly not us!
Though it takes a very skilled braiding artist to pull off a pattern that does not consist of only straight lines, you don’t need to conform to rows.
#7. Senegalese Twist
This puts a Senegalese twist on the tribal braid by being… well a twist! Like braids, twists can be made as thin or as chunky as you want and styled in just as many ways.
#8. Box Braids
This is one of the most popular braided styles. It’s done by parting the hair into square (box) sections that are then braided.
It’s one of the easiest styles to achieve and one of the reasons it’s so popular.
#9. Triangle Box Braids
This is the standard box braid, except it’s not a box – it’s a triangle! Each of the braid sections uses a clean part in the shape of a triangle, giving the standard box braid a very different look.
#10. Braided Ponytail With Cuffs
The best thing about tribal braids is that you have options. They look equally amazing worn down or in an updo, or in a ponytail, as is the case here. Cuffs are the perfect accompaniment to braided hairstyles.
They are an understated, beautifully elegant way to add a little bling without making your braids look like a gaudy keychain.
#11. Braids Instead of Dreads
This is a very modern twist on the tribal braids for the e-girl crowd. This style uses braids as a much more polished-looking alternative to dreadlocks, while still keeping it casual and fun.
The added splash of color makes this faux-dreadlock style ready for the beach, or the skate park. Braids are a lot less damaging to your hair than deadlocks.
#12. Tribal Faux-Hawk
This is a fun way to wear tribal braids that keeps the bulk of the hair pretty much out of your way. There are different ways you can create a tribal faux-hawk.
As in the image below, Ghana braids on both sides of the head are braided towards the center of the head, letting the ends of the braids hang towards the back.
You can also have the braids feed into a single, chunky braid down the middle.
#13. Tribal Braids To Loose Strands
This is like the tribal mullet, except that when you see photos of yourself 20 years from now, you will not be cringing. This is everything the mullet ever wanted to be, but never managed to get there. Tidy and clean in the front with, dare we say, party in the back. But this party is an upscale cocktail party, not a tailgate.
You have options with this style. Cornrows braided back and clipped while the rest of the hair is loose, or like in the image below, it’s a mix of braids and loose strands. We love a good cuff. They’re the perfect way to adorn and cap off the braid.
#14. Ombre Tribal Braids
Add a flair to your tribal braids with a flash of color. There are no rules when it comes to hair color! So let your personality shine through. This gorgeous ombre hair look can be achieved in a couple of different ways.
You can either dye the hair or if you don’t have the length (or don’t want to dye your hair) but love the look, you can get yarn extensions weaved in.
The braiding yarn comes in just about every color in the rainbow, so you can go as subtle or bold as you like.
#15. Multi-colored Braids
Adding some visual interest by incorporating color to some of the braids takes this look to the next level. This look is achieved by weaving colored yarn into the hair.
#16. Short Tribal Braids
Though many of the styles featured here are for long hair, many of which have incorporated extensions, you don’t need long hair to rock tribal braids.
Got baby hair? No problem!
Just integrate them into your style by taming those shorter pieces with a little styling product into curls for a super feminine touch.