Black Women Answer Is It OK for White People to Wear Cornrows

Photo Credit: Instagram

Cornrows aren’t anything new. A lot of us grew up wearing them or currently wear them as a protective style. I know I do. I’m quick to style my hair in two Goddess or Crown Braids.

Recently, they’ve been renamed by the cultural appropriating as “Boxer braids” and some have even gone as far as to call them “KKW Signature Braids“.

A whole slew of celebrities have worn them. Just to name a few, Kim Kardashian West, Khloé Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin and Miley Cyrus. But really the list goes on and on. Remember, Justin Timberlake in the early 2000s?

People were act like cornrows were some new, exciting trendy hairstyle. We’ve seen the same for bantu knots.

Then there was that video posted by Cosmopolitan with a woman braiding her hair into small, straight cornrows. “You’ve NEVER seen a braid like this before,” the video exclaimed. asks 

Would you say that wearing cornrows is technically cultural appropriation?

Here were some of the responses…

“It is cultural appropriation, but I think the question I’m getting to is, ‘Is cultural appropriation the highest form of flattery?'” Danielle Kwateng-Clark, a senior editor at StyleBlazer, said in an interview. “So many people are meshing. Cultures are so close to each other, we’re getting to a point where cultural appropriation is changing. Is it [cultural appropriation], yes. Is it a huge problem? I don’t know. It’s a big question mark right now.”

For Jessica Andrews, the digital fashion editor at Teen Vogue, on the other hand, it is outright cultural appropriation for a white person to wear cornrows, especially when worn by a person who isn’t outspoken about things like police brutality and black history.

“When you don’t value black lives, but rush to copy black hairstyles, it’s a problem,” Andrews said. “Black culture has become increasingly popular — from our hairstyles to our music — but many sit idly by while police disproportionately target and kill black men and women at alarming rates. That’s the very definition of cultural appropriation but also, erasure. Black hairstyles are now considered ‘cool.’ Black people? Not so much.”

For Genevieve Ascencio, the vice president of digital at Factory PR, the style on a white person does lean into cultural appropriation, especially because of how much effort it takes for a white person to put their hair into cornrows. It’s a lot of effort for a look that ultimately isn’t theirs.

“I have a hard time that every single instance is cultural appropriation, but it is more difficult to do cornrows on a white person than on a black person,” Ascencio said. “It’s not simple, it doesn’t stay very long and you have to do some teasing. You have to get the hair to not be as slippery. It’s like, what are you trying to achieve?”

I asked the Natural Hair Rules Community on Our Facebook Page. Below are some of the responses. I would love your feedback. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

I would love your feedback. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


11 thoughts on “Black Women Answer Is It OK for White People to Wear Cornrows

  1. Susan

    I am a white mom raising a 11 yr old black daughter, and I am constantly educating myself to be the best possible parent for her. She loves her beautiful TWA, and I hope she continues to be proud of her hair. I have trouble wrapping my brain around cultural appropriation. I feel like it is not a negative thing. Am I wrong? Thx so much 😊

  2. Dee mass


    There is definitely an issue with cultural appropriation when you understand the context of what is being “assumed” (stolen) and how many times over many years the originators were devalued for the same (eg, having a larger lip, rear, curves, darker skin, etc.). As the mom of a “black child”, I feel it’s important that you acknowledge that it is a problem so in the event your child asks you about it, you can answer her appropriately. Now…that being said, to me, there is a fine line between cultural assumption and cultural appropriation. One is “I like how that looks! I’m going to try that, but let’s remember to know where it came from” and the other is “I’m going to pretend I created this. (See cornrows being called KKW braids…🙄).

  3. Mimi

    I know this going to get a little crazy when I post my thoughts.. If you look back on your family history we all have different cultures if you got a little black in you of course you black you just look more white or like they said brown paper bag. White people have black in them but you tell them they do maybe they will leave us alone we all mix with colors we can wear how ever you like the fact is how you carry your life some may not agreed with me but if you carry your self well all these negative reviews about our culture I really don’t care because deep down we got we got a little colors in us be proud of yourself. I ain’t got negative we wear all type of hair style that fact is they just want to be different like us black is beautiful from different shape and sizes

  4. ShaNequa

    Ok let’s get this straight. No, it is not ok for white ppl to wear cornrows or Bantu knots. Just like I don’t think its ok for brothas and sistahs to become blondes on purpose. Yes, there are ppl of color whom have natural blonde or red hair (I was a red-head by birth) but to go change your natural hair color to something fake is beyond crazy to me. As far as white folks calling this “cultural appropriation” that’s their excuse to try to be and become something they are not. As a kid growing up, my mama used to put my hair in braids all the time. I loved it! Especially as a light skinned little black girl. Some would make fun of my hairstyles and others would compliment. Point is, white folks don’t like themselves and the way God created them to be. If they did, they wouldn’t be out here try to change themselves into looking and being something they are not and wasn’t created to be. White folks have continuously stolen from us. Our style, music, heritage and even our history. Now they want to make their flat behinds look like ours. Their breasts, lips and now their hair! C’mon now…when are we as a ppl going to say enough is enough and start checking these ppl?! Be happy with how God made u!! By changing the way u look, u just saying that He made a mistake or did something wrong. God makes NO makes and does NO wrong. This goes for white and black folks alike. I’m proud to say I’m a black woman and like how God has made me. I’m not perfect but I am blessed. Love my ppl and culture. Btw, I’m now what ppl would consider a brunette (brown hair with tents of my natural red and blonde hair). I’ve never dyed my hair. It just changed colors over the years. Y’all be blessed.

  5. Bev Evans

    Well, black people have been relaxing their hair to make it straight for quite some time and while black people originally wore cornrows and it is a part of our culture, no race owns a hairstyle. My point is everyone should be able to express themselves in whatever way they choose because it really doesn’t concerned anyone except them. If there is something that you don’t like, then don’t do it, but I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell someone what they should or should not do.. I realize that everyone has an opinion, that’s just mine.

  6. MHH

    Sure, it’s OK for white people to wear braids. Black women perm their hair to make it straight and wear weaves to make their hair longer than it really is, so, why not! I just hope I don’t see anyone changing the name of the braids…the name of the braids are what it is and that’s that. Also, on a moral note. It would be nice to see people who are appreciating the Black culture to say something against racism and police brutality. Many singers, actors, and reality stars are sporting the look, singing the music and making money on the characteristics of Black folks, it just would be nice to hear them say something about preserving not only the culture, but the people.

  7. Elizabeth Ouma

    Oh em gee!!! Why does it have to be appropriation! Why can’t it just be diversification? You’re gonna say a white person can’t wear cornrows then where do blacks come off straightening their hair??? And what oh what is a poor lil biracial girl supposed to do??? Imitation is the highest form of flattery so get over it already all you naysayers.

  8. Christine Wiley

    Ok o obviously this girl don’t know her history. Back in the y black people wasn’t allowed to wear there natrual hair because white people didn’t approve so to get a job we had to look appreciate by their standards. To them our hair is nasty. So when we did our hair in cornrows or knots we were told that it wasn’t appreciate but now that we express it with no regards to what they think now all of a sudden it’s cool and new. So yeah it is a problem and it is culture appropriation and if you were mixed with black you was considered just that BLACK and you would ware your hair the same as any black person. The only people who made the difference was whites.

  9. Elizabeth Ouma

    I’m sorry but I could not understand your reply. How does one look appreciate?
    The key to your argument is “history” and “back in the day”. If you are still ruminating in the past and basing your biases on history maybe an understanding of mimicry if not done as mockery but truly an -appreciation- and love of the style is the highest compliment one can ever hope to gain.

  10. Cynthia Hill

    If only more of us were actually concerned about cultural identity. How can we protest an thing about hair when so many have gravitated to wigs and weaves? As a group I am not sure we have ever identified with anything other than European, Indian or really anyone but who we are. I find it sad. My profile pic is an Afro from college days. Now I do locs. I find it sad.

  11. Kiesha

    The biggest reason why it is cultural appropriation is because Black ppl are ridiculed for having them. Our culture is called ugly and unprofessional, children get expelled over them. But when anyone else does it, it’s the greatest thing and THEY created it. If White people are the ones setting the standard for beauty and it’s only accessible when they deem it so, that is a huge problem. And btw, they’ve been stealing our style, body type, music and dance for centuries. Not just today. I’ll make it easy, if they say it’s ugly for us but then it’s OK when they do it, than guess what…


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