Mexican braids are deeply rooted in cultural history, all the way back to the ancient Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, Toltecs, and Teotihuacan that once inhabited Mesoamérica.
Back then, they served as a status symbol, with more elaborate braided styles reserved only for those who had earned the right to wear them. Over time, though, these complicated twists became practical, everyday wear to help keep long, thick locks out of the way.
What Are Mexican Braids?
Traditionally, Mexican women tend to keep their hair long, which can cause significant annoyances in the hot, subtropical weather.
Mexican braids try to keep those luscious locks tucked away off of the shoulders, neck, and back to keep their hair from interrupting their daily activities, many of which take place outdoors,
This practical approach to hair care also made low chignons a popular option, and many women accent the coil with braids at the base. You’ll also see many Mexican braids done up with ribbons, an additional measure taken to keep unruly tresses in place.
These ribbons are on full display during Cinco de Mayo celebrations when women of all ages adorn their hair in colors specific to their state’s cultural tradition or the colors of the Mexican flag– Red, white, and green.
Mexican Hairstyles Throughout History
With such a rich tapestry of cultures informing the hairstyle traditions of modern Mexico, it’s vital to understand how these ancestral roots have evolved.
In the ancient Mayan civilizations, men would wear their hair short on the sides and top, then leave the back in a long braid that hung down the back. Women also let their hair grow long but would braid it into elaborate twists, then tuck them into a headdress or turban.
The Aztecs used their hair to communicate their social class, age, and relationship status. While unmarried women kept their hair long and loose, those with husbands adorned their braided hair in an assortment of feathers, flowers, and strips of cloth.
We know a lot less about the hairstyle choices of the Olmecs, Toltecs, and Teotihuacan, as most of their art depicts people wearing helmets or headdresses that covered most of their hair.
However, there are cases of Olmec statues featuring several hair twists that some archaeologists theorize are stylized representations of braids.
The ancestors of these civilizations still thrive in Mexico today, and with them come centuries of hair tradition that we see today, most notably the practice of wearing hair in braids adorned with ribbons.
Mexican Braids Inspiration: 10 Ways to Rock the Trend
The women of Mexico wear their braids in a variety of ways, from a simple, single braid down the back to elaborate floral displays adorning a thick crown braid. Check out these 10 Mexican braids hairstyles to inspire your new ‘do.
1. Radiant Ribbon Braids
Add a splash of color to braids by including multicolored ribbons in the plait. You can use many techniques to personalize the look, mixing up the number and hues of ribbons to accent any outfit, traditional or otherwise.
To pull off this look, double-knot a ribbon at the root of one, two, or all three strands of your braid, then interweave them as usual. Ensure that the ribbon stays on top of the strand as you twist. Otherwise, the upper sections of the braid will cover it up.
2. Modern Space Buns
While not a culturally important braid, space buns accented with upside-down braids are perfect for keeping flyaways under control and off the nape of your neck.
If you have particularly long or thick hair, try braiding each of the strands into micro braids, then weave them together into the larger braid.
Another tip for ladies with lots of hair is to shape your space buns using bobby pins and hair ties, then add cute, matching scrunchies to each for extra hold and a pop of color.
3. Side Pancake Braid
Pancake braids are perfect for extra thick hair because it purposefully embraces the unruliness to create an iconic “I woke up like this” look that doesn’t look too overdone.
To rock this look, create one large braid over your shoulder, then starting from the bottom, gently tug on each section to loosen and flatten it. You can use this technique on any type of plait for a more carefree feel.
4. Looped Ribbon Braids
Particularly popular with little girls, looped ribbon braids are majorly cute for a girl’s night out. Start with low pigtails, tying them off near the top of your ear.
Tie a thin ribbon with metallic or glitter accents to two strands, then do a simple braid to the ends of your hair.
Carefully trim the ribbon so it’s the same length as the rest of your hair. Then, loop the braid up, tucking it under the ponytail holder at the base of the braid. Secure with bobby pins, and you’re all set!
5. Braid-Wrapped Bun
Containing masses of thick hair in a bun can be quite a hassle, but adding a braid around the base helps deal with the extra length while still looking chic.
Sweep all your hair up into a ponytail at the crown, then use a rolled sock or hair donut to create the foundation of the bun. Spread your hair around the bun form, so it’s completely covered, then use a large ponytail holder to secure it.
Now, you’ll want to skip tucking the excess hair like you would with a regular bun. Instead, split the tresses hanging down into two and braid them into individual plaits. Wrap each one around the base of the braid, then secure it with bobby pins.
6. Darling Double Braids
These classic double braids never go out of style, and they’re perfect for keeping layered hair under control when you’re on the go, working out, or just hanging out around the house.
To mix things up, swap out the classic French-style braids for Dutch braids. They use the same three-section method, but instead of laying the outer sections over the middle area, you bring the piece under.
Instead of laying flat, this makes the braid “float” on top of your hair.
7. Teased Ponytail Braid
Want to spice up your hairstyling routine? This teased ponytail braid adds tons of volume to the crown, making it look purposefully messy and effortlessly chic.
You can add the perfect finishing touch by leaving out a strand of hair before you start braiding, then wrapping it around the ponytail holder at the crown of your head. Just be sure to use plenty of bobby pins to keep it in place!
8. Cute-as-Can-Be Crown Braid
Crown braids are perfect for ladies who want to feel like royalty but need something a little more subtle than a tiara dripping in diamonds. To achieve this look, you’ll want a perfectly straight part.
It might take a little more time than letting your hair fall into its natural part, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort. It’s also a super cute option for incorporating ribbons for Cinco de Mayo or any other special occasion.
9. Frida-Inspired Florals
Frida Kahlo is first and foremost one of the most influential Mexican artists of all time, but she also stands out as a hair inspiration icon. Her trademark floral accessories take the classic crown braid to a new level.
She often used a variety of fabric, beads, and other flowy, natural accessories to create showstopping styles that prominently feature in her self-portraits. Kahlo’s hair braids were more than a fashion statement, though.
They were a symbol of her indigenous Mesoamerican heritage, which also inspired her stark, symbolism-laden artwork about life during and in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution.
10. Simple, Single Braid
Last but certainly not least is the basic single braid. This style is fast, ridiculously easy, and a practical solution for staying cool in the sweltering heat.
Best of all, this fundamental plait opens infinite doors for personalization. From barrettes to bows, it’s a canvas waiting for you to make your mark.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you still wondering whether Mexican braids should be your new go-to style? These FAQs should clear up any questions.
Are braids in Mexican culture?
Braids are essential in Mexican culture as a symbol of indigenous ancestry and a practical way to keep long, thick hair out of the way during cooking and chores.
Braiding techniques are often passed down through generations of Mexican women, and mothers teach their daughters from an early age how to plait their hair.
Why do Mexican braids have ribbons?
Adding ribbons to Mexican braids started with the Mayan and Aztec cultures to communicate their social class and marital status. In modern Mexico, you can still see these influences today, as many women create elaborate, ribboned braids while dressing in traditional clothing.
How do you take care of Mexican hair?
Latina’s hair varies in texture and thickness, so there’s no “one size fits all” answer for caring for your locks. The best way to learn how to maintain your hair health is to research products and styling tips for your specific type.
What is the significance of braids?
In many cultures, braids are a vital part of identity. They act as a connection between members of the family and represent inherited knowledge passed down through generations.
A poignant example of this comes from “La Pinche Canela,” where Mexican poet Paola Klug wrote of her grandmother sharing folkloric wisdom about “braiding your pain.”
She tells her granddaughter to braid her hair anytime she experiences hurt because sadness gets trapped in the interlacing strands and keeps it from reaching the rest of her body.
How did Aztecs wear their hair?
The vast majority of indigenous tribes wore similar hairstyles. However, depending on the rank within those tribes/cultures the hair changed. Warriors distinguished themselves with elaborate hair ornaments. Officials had special cuts, and some priests had the tradition of extremely long hair.
Are Mexican Braids for You?
Beyond being a stylish, fun way to style your hair, Mexican braids are a vital piece of the cultural heritage of Mexico. They are both a practical way to keep traditionally long hair neatly arranged and a connection to ancestral lineage.
With that said, the style of braids is quite varied but typically leans toward fast and straightforward. The expectation of that rule is during important occasions or celebrations, such as quinceaneras, Cinco de Mayo, and Dia de Los Muertos.
For these special events, many women create elaborate, ribbon-woven styles that match their geographic region’s traditional dresses and colors.
When deciding whether Mexican braids are for you, the most important thing is respecting the culture. Of course, anyone can rock a braid, but be wary of adding elements that might misappropriate a heritage you’re not privy to. Happy styling!