Get a little inspiration for your next hairstyle with our tribal braids photo guide. See 30 unique braided styles you can try, plus a list of things to consider before you opt for new gorgeous but time-consuming braids.
Considering Tribal Braids?
When you’ve had it up to *here* with your hair, you’re probably thinking of getting braids as a way to get your hair out of the way and make it easier to manage. But tribal braided styles are so much more than that.
Steeped in historical significance and rooted in a mix of powerful meaning and practicality, tribal braids are still worn by women of African descent today.
And while they do make it easier to style and manage your hair on a day-to-day basis, when you rock tribal braids in the modern world, it’s bigger than that. You’re linking yourself to centuries of tradition by sporting the same kinds of woven hairstyles your ancestors wore.
Wearing tribal braids in our modern world means showing the colorful tapestry of your cultural roots with pride. And if you’re looking for unique ways to weave and pattern your braids, you’ve come to the right spot.
We’ve compiled some examples of tribal braids you can wear on a daily basis, for special occasions, or just for a night of fun. There are styles that cover your whole head, some that work a few small braids into other styles, and some that require extensions to pull off.
After you browse through the different braided styles we found, you’ll want to think about a few things before you decide on your next style.
What Are Tribal Braids?
Tribal braids are plaits done in a “template” design or pattern according to the area or tribe they originated in. Examples of tribal braids include Ghana braids, which have their origins in pre-500 BCE Africa and have been depicted in ancient hieroglyphics.
Senegalese twists originated in the West African country of Senegal centuries ago, and Fulani feed-in braids have roots in the Sahel region of Africa among the Fula people. Tribal braids have never been “just” hairstyles.
They have steep cultural significance and meaning rooted in the relationships, hierarchy, and daily life of ancient African tribes. Women used their intricate and unique braid styles to communicate and represent their tribe, values, and beliefs with others.
Trinkets, shells, coral, beads, and rings were commonly tied into braids to personalize the style and add a touch of local flavor and possibly indicate the tribe the wearer belonged to. Today’s tribal braids take features and characteristics from multiple braid styles and types.
So while we still see some of the historical tribal styles, like Fulani and Ghana braids, we’re also seeing tons of new braid styles rooted in these old favorites. In our photo guide, you’ll get to see 30 examples of the different ways you can wear tribal braids today. Let’s take a look!
30 Tribal Braids to Try
We found tribal braids with interesting patterns and historically-rooted plaiting styles to share with you below. See which kind of braid you’ll be rocking next in our photo guide!
1. Teal Lemonade Tribal Braids With Ponytail
Beyoncé made lemonade braids famous and added an air of sophistication to intricate braids done in different directions. Carry Queen Bey’s torch when you rock these teal lemonade braids that transition into a wrapped and elegant high ponytail.
2. Micro Faux Locs
Faux locs are a quick way to get the look of locs without the years of commitment. This option looks neater and more uniform than natural locs and can be taken out when you’re ready for a change!
3. Curvy Ghana Braids
You’ll never wear basic cornrows again once you see how a more intricate braid pattern livens up the style! This complex pattern makes this style appropriate for any occasion from casual to formal.
4. Box Braids With Big Bun
What takes basic box braids to the next level? Fun henna colors and a big, high bun on top! This look is perfect for special events and occasions where you want to make a statement.
5. Big Senegalese Twists
Put a little “twist” on your Senegalese twists by making them much bigger! This eye-catching style pays homage to ancient tribal styles worn by Senegalese women.
6. Pyramid Micro-Cornrows
A spiral-like triangle design in the sides of these cornrows makes them stand out. The front and back are braided straight back and all the braids are gathered into a cute, high ponytail.
7. Long Half-Up Locs
One of the best parts about locs and box braids is how versatile they are for styling. You can treat the braided strands much like you would your unbraided hair. We love how natural locs look in this half-up style!
Read Next: Natural Hairstyles
8. Straight-Back Cornrows
We never get tired of the classics, and these straight-back cornrows are a perfect example. They’re the perfect base for any hairstyle you’d normally wear and keep your mane protected and perfectly styled.
9. Natural Box Braids
Parting your hair off into small, square sections to create long, easy-to-style box braids is a favorite look for a reason. This go-anywhere style keeps your hair protected and looking its best.
10. Curly Faux Tribal Braids
Why not open up your hairstyle possibilities with curly braid extensions? This allows you to change up your look no matter where you are in the hair growth process. We love the curly look of these faux braids!
11. Braids to Locs With Side Bangs
If your locs are natural and short, you can always style them into side bangs in the front! This style transitions basic cornrows into locs for a unique look.
12. Fulani Half-Hanging Tribal Braids
With tribal braids, you’ll find that some are attached to the head (like cornrows or lemonade braids) while others dangle off from a rooted point (like box braids or locs). This Fulani braid style is a cute mashup of cornrows and box braids that are attached to the head at first, then the ends hang freely.
13. Two-Strand Twist Tribal Braids
Two-strand twists are cute, easy to do, and last for a long time. These side-parted twists mimic a rope texture and work for any kind of occasion.
Read Next: Twist Out Hairstyle
14. Micro Box Braids With Ponytail
A high ponytail is the perfect go-to style for micro box braids. The interesting braids turn a basic ponytail into a certified updo.
15. Ghana Braids With Wrapped Ponytail
Thick Ghana braids are just thick cornrows with extensions. Here, the braids are done straight back and gathered with the extensions in a ponytail. The elastic is covered by wrapping it with some of the extensions for a more polished look.
16. Partial Cornrows With Beads
This is a fun throwback style for women and a great look for young girls who want to add a little fun to their braids! Half cornrows are finished off with colorful beads in this casual style.
17. Half-Up Hanging Twists
Similar to box braids, hanging twists are rooted on the head and hang freely. But unlike box braids, these hanging twists feature just 2 strands for a rope-like texture. When you take them down, you’ll have gorgeous and lasting curls.
18. Diagonal Stitch-In Tribal Braids
Diagonal cornrow braids are done using the stitch-in technique where a horizontal section of hair is braided against the head to create a raised row. Isn’t the diagonal pattern beautiful?
19. Cornrows & Senegalese Twists
Half-and-half styles like this are always unique and give your look a bold edge. Straight-back cornrows on the left side contrast with skinny, Senegalese twists on the right side for a truly one of a kind ‘do.
20. Chevron Cornrows
The cool zig-zag effect here is achieved by braiding the cornrows into nesting chevrons with an upward point. If you love cornrows for their versatility but want something a little different, this pattern is perfect.
21. Braided Locs
Dreadlocks can be more versatile than you realize. Small locs like the ones pictured here can be molded into any style you like, and this French braid twist on top is one of our favorite options.
Read Next: How to Free Form Dreads
22. Side Cornrows
If you don’t have the patience or desire for braids that cover your head, try adding in a tribal touch with a few cornrows on each side. Leave one braid hanging free near the ear to mimic face-framing pieces.
23. Sideways Half-Hanging Tribal Braids
To shake things up a bit with your braids, try braids done horizontally instead of vertically! These braids run across the head instead of straight back and hang freely at the sides.
24. Knotless Feed-In Ghana Braids
Feed-in braids weave synthetic hair into the plait without knotting for a seamless and natural look. It’s perfect in these intricately-patterned Ghana braids!
25. Intricate and Accessorized Plaits
Trinkets, rings, and beads are beautiful when tied into intricate cornrows like you see here. The braids curve toward the back and intersect into a high ponytail.
26. Spider Cornrow Braids
Intricate designs and patterns like this require skill and experience to do. If you’ve got an expert braider, these spider-like cornrows would make a great style for spooky season.
27. Faux Hawk Cornrows
Previously-twisted hair creates the precise curls in the loose hair along the faux hawk. Vertical cornrows begin at the bottom and lead up to the faux hawk for an edgy and bold look.
28. Complex Crown Tribal Braids
Cornrows that are thickest around the outside edges (where a crown would sit on the head) create a feminine look that steals the spotlight. The pattern has a clean middle part and skinny braids feed into the main crown braids along the sides.
29. Feed-In Micro Braids
Synthetic extensions are fed into tiny micro braids at the roots to create a look that isn’t obviously braided at first. This super-versatile braid can be worn in almost any hairstyle.
30. Cornrow Dutch Braids With Shaved Undercut
Shaved sides offer an edgy highlight to the thick Dutch braids at the top of this style. Bleached synthetic or natural hair brings the eyes up. You get the benefits of a short haircut (cooler, lightweight) and a longer haircut (more styling possibilities) with this look.
Things to Consider
Choosing the right type of tribal braided style for you can be a challenge. It’s easier if you know what to expect and things you should consider before you commit to any new type of braid. Here’s what you should keep in mind before you book your braid appointment.
- Time and Availability: The more intricate a braided style is, the longer it will take to complete. And if you’ve ever gotten braids before, you know the process can be hours long and take the better part of your day. So ensure you’re willing to commit to a few hours of sitting in the stylist’s chair if you want intricate braids – and make sure your stylist is going to have the availability to get your braids done when you want them.
- Discomfort: Getting tightly-woven braids can be quite uncomfortable if you’ve got a sensitive scalp. If this is your first time getting braids or if you typically struggle with the pain of your hair being repeatedly tugged on, you need to know going in that the process of braiding is going to be a little uncomfortable at times. The tightness of the braids is what keeps them in place!
- Your Braider’s Skill Level: Not all braiders are capable of creating the intricately knotted and woven braid masterpieces we see online. So make sure you’re considering your braider’s actual skill level when you bring him or her photos of the braids you want. Choosing a more basic style may be the best choice if you’re working with a beginning braider.
- Daily Styling Preferences: Choosing your braids means thinking about how you typically like to style your hair daily. If you don’t mind putting in a little work in the mornings, you might like a partially braided style with extensions of your natural hair loose at the ends. If you want braids that make styling unnecessary, opt for full tribal braids that weave every hair in and leave no hair hanging loose.
- Part Preferences: Your natural part can be switched up with your braid layout, but you’ll need to communicate this clearly to your braider. If you want braids with a middle part, say so. If you prefer a side part or just want everything braided straight back, let your braider know. The direction your braids are woven in is difficult to change after the fact, so speak up before your braider begins to ensure you like the way your hair parts when it’s all done.
- Protective Styles: If you’re getting braids to help protect your hair, encourage healthy new growth, and prevent breakage from heat-styling and rough handling, you need braids that encompass every hair on your head. Don’t opt for styles with loose ends if protection is the main goal.
Tribal braids may have originated in ancient African tribes and communities, but they’re still going strong in the modern world we live in today. There are many benefits to proudly rocking a tribal braided style today from increased hair protection to better manageability.
And there’s no denying that these intricately woven styles are visually stunning and open the door for compliments. We encourage you to proudly wear your tribal braids with a unique twist. Just make sure you know what to ask for so you end up with the style and pattern you want!