In the past, hair braids were basically a ladies’ thing. Nowadays, boys have embraced the culture. According to traditional African beliefs, plaiting was a symbol of the Black movement to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonialism, thus a symbol for “Africanism.” Though in some parts of the world, the culture would be more associated with Rastafarians.
You might think that most guys who plait their hair are in showbiz because the entertainment industry has no hairstyle prohibition. But funnily enough, that’s not the case; even ordinary men sport braids.
Today, the vogue is commonly identified with the ‘dot.com generation’ who are always ready to swallow whatever their celeb role models (musicians, footballers, basketballers, and film stars) introduce.
Jean-Marie Sindikubyabo, 40, a pharmacist, says it is absurd to see a mature man wearing braids. Such men can hardly earn any respect from African societies. It is also hard for them to secure reasonable jobs.
Local news journalist, Christian Nzamwita, 23, said he believes in modernity, but doesn’t like the idea of men behaving like women.
“I don’t like the way men and boys behave these days. It’s quite hard to differentiate between a man and a woman because they all do the same styles,” says Nzamwita. But like it or not, the habit is slowly but surely spreading.
There are lots of ways to braid your hair, says Chantelle Mukamugeni, a hairdresser in Kabeza, one of Kigali’s suburbs. You will find long braids, others will bear beads, while others just knot them at the back of the head.
For Sylvia Kamikazi, who is obsessed with braiding, there are many reasons why people plait hair. Some people plait to protect their hair from the rain. According to Kamikazi, when it rains hair, especially treated hair, gets spoiled, thus calling for constant treatment.
Hair is plaited in order to be protected and grow well and faster. Those that wish to grow longer hair will plait it. As braids of various kinds have come back into fashion, many people, especially the youth, have been spotted sporting a single braid worn headband-style across the top of the head. Longer tie-up braids, famously worn by young ladies, are also common amongst the fellas these days.
Charles Habineza, who has an afro, says that it’s the desire to imitate male celebrities’ style, like musicians, footballers, basketball players, and film stars, who tend to changes their hairstyles as often as they do their attire. People, especially the youth, will plait the hairstyle to look like their role model celebrities.
Many young men seem excited by the attention-attracting new trend. Cyber café assistant Erik Bigabo, 27, said he would like to “experiment” with hair plaiting someday.
Stylist Jean Baptist Gasore, a hairdresser in Nyamirambo, who has braids, agreed that men’s hair plaiting is becoming more and more popular.
Jackson Kamanzi says, “I suppose the culture of plaiting hair holds meanings since our forefathers used to practice it, it is thus accepted and acknowledged.”
Kamanzi, whose hair is plaited, says, “I just shrug when people ask me why I plaited my hair; I just say I like it.”