With its incredibly rich precolonial history, and many customs reflecting the importance of appearance in Senegalese society, have transcended into modern day habits. Senegalese women and men have long embraced their natural hair’s texture and worn it braided for several reasons over the decades leading up to mass culture embracing Senegalese twist styles regardless of origin or hair type. Senegalese twist styles are an identifiable style that is known for being equal parts utilitarian and for expressing the identity of their wearer. A lot of history is woven through all individual Senegalese twist styles and their origin is as colorful as their aesthetic appeal.
Where did Senegalese Twist Styles Originate From?
Senegalese twist styles originated in Senegal, Africa and, unlike dreadlocks which feature hair extensions and were popularized by reggae singer Bob Marley, use synthetic Kanekalon hair which is widely available at hair supply stores and once woven, lasts anywhere between one and three months.
In African countries, hairdressing has always been embedded in culture throughout history and thus, distinctive hairstyles were also common identifiers for different ethnic groups and were denoting people’s distinct social status. For black women who’s hair is naturally textured, adopting Senegalese twist styles, allows them to conveniently wear their hair in a sleek and sophisticated style without any necessary styling or form of straightening, which many experiment with as well (read also: 30 best braids hairstyles for black women)
How are Senegalese Twist Achieved?
Senegalese twist styles can be achieved at home or by a professional in a salon and take approximately six hours to be completed by the stylist. The preparation of the hair prior to twisting includes moisturizing and pre-parting the hair in individual sections. Strands of Kanekalon hair are then used and progressively attached one by one to each section as it is being twisted.
Kanekalon hair is widely accessible, low maintenance due to its synthetic fabrication and comes in a variety of colors that provide the wearer with flexibility if they choose to get creative with their twists while having a preference for a more natural finish. Due to the greatly versatile look of the Senegalese twist styles, the desired look can be elevated with refinement for occasions calling for formal look while mixing in different strands of color adds attractiveness to the twist design.
Senegalese Twists are about Creativity and Identity
While some prefer to wear their hair twists free-flowing, many use Senegalese twists as a starting point for creating unique and inspiring dos. If the twists feature more than one color, create multidimensional appeal by putting half of your hair up, allowing for an intricate play on hues and keeping the twists off the face during daytime activities.
Senegalese twists are also commonly tied so as to form a voluminous ponytail, using only the existing twists to keep the up-do in place. Similarly, the Senegalese high pony tail is an excellent look for twisted hair that has tons of personality and allowing the wearer to dress them up or down depending on the occasion. Effectively create a sculptural up-do with a knotted statement top bun or gradually twist pieces together so as to create a visually enticing crown that runs around the head.
For an unique take on the traditional Senegalese twists, many will incorporate a few blonde highlights to lift the entire look, re-create the ombre trend or experiment with reddish tones and soft caramel undertones throughout the hair for a bohemian stylistic edge.
Senegalese Twists and Mainstream Culture
Twisted hairstyles carry rich cultural heritage from the West African country of Senegal and quickly, their unique appearance gained visibility through beauty and fashion campaigns, taking over Western mainstream culture and proving what a true fashion statement the style is. Many stars and style icons have recently been seen wearing the style up, down, curled, wrapped or twisted together on a wide variety of occasions.
The style originally rose to popularity in the 90’s and early 2000’s when many caucasian artists and celebrities such as Madonna, Justin Timberlake or Axel Rose, embraced the style, rapidly facing backlash from those condemning them for cultural appropriation. While twist are a style aspect related to black culture, critics depict appropriation by non-black wearers as ignorant.
In 2015, Teen Vogue beauty editor Elaine Welteroth chronicled her visit to Kigali, Rwanda as well as her hair braiding experience in the print edition on Teen Vogue, facing extensive criticism for showcasing Senegalese twists on caucasian models. Welteroth responded to accusations via Twitter, clearly connoting the ideal that being black isn’t defined by skin color, eye color or hair texture, specifically addressing the accusations by revealing that the models were mixed-race like herself.
The issue with appropriation however lies with the way many publications essentially renamed the distinctive styles, crediting white female popular figures for their popularization, neglecting the importance of educating the larger audience on the roots and political importance of twists during black liberation in the 60’s and 70’s.
Picture Of Senegalese Twist Style
1. Mohawk updo with Senegalese twists