Kim Kardashian showing off her cornr – excuse me, “boxer braids.” Photo: @kimkardashian
Everything old eventually becomes new again, but when “old” trends that never really went away in the first place are heralded as something new and hip, it can be eyeroll inducing. And exasperation reached a fever pitch this weekend when MTV UK tweeted out a story they did on Kim Kardashian’s cornrows – or, what they and people on Instagram are calling boxer braids.
The hairstyle is being called a “new favorite” look for the celeb set, which of course, sparked plenty of blacklash from people who realize the look is indeed a classic. Debates on whether this is cultural appropriation or not aside, the real mystery here is how “boxer braids” are any different from Dutch braids or cornrows. MTV UK’s included step-by-step tutorial on how to recreate the look left us wondering. “You’re basically going to be doing a French plait on each side,” they write. Hmm, okay. So far, so not new. The Daily Mail asked hairstylist Marta Nunes to further explain the trend. “You start the same by dividing the hair in two and starting with a triangular section at the hairline. You divide your triangle into three even pieces of hair. Here is where the difference begins. With a French plait you tuck strands of hair under the plait. With a Dutch braid you take it over; you reverse it so the braid is on the outside rather than on the inside.”
Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care, a website founded by a white woman who adopted a black child, offers haircare tips for those unfamiliar with styling extremely curly and kinky hair. One post explains the difference between Dutch braids and cornrows, and the difference is so small, that it’s hard to tell when you take a glance. The two look pretty much identical, compared to a French braid vs. a Dutch braid, which look more obviously different.
It seems the only major difference between boxer braids, a set of two Dutch braids, or several large cornrows is really the name only. Last year, strobing took over as a big trend in makeup, making headlines and sparking many stories showing women and men how to make sure their strobing was extra fleeky. The only problem was this “strobing” trend was really just highlighting… a lot – nothing particularly new and novel.
Taking old trends and repackaging them as something new is an unremarkable phenomenon in our culture. But “boxer braids” just seem like a bit of a reach. The Daily Mail says the name came from the cornrows female boxers wear during fights, citing these women as the “first” to wear the hairstyle and recalling Hilary Swank’s character in Million Dollar Baby as an example. But the fact remains that female boxers were far from the first women to wear their hair in cornrows and/or Dutch braids. Women and young girls all over the world have been doing it all for centuries – and still do today. Why not call the hairstyle by the perfectly good name it already has?