Braid hairstyles have come and gone over time, but one style that endures is the popular tribal braids. Essentially, tribal braids combine different cornrow patterns around the head, originating with those of African descent to carry cultural meaning. What we often see today is a modern take on classic tribal braiding.
Tribal braids are sometimes confused with Fulani braids that come specifically from the Fulani tribe. Typically, Fulani braids feature cornrow patterns with individual braids, while tribal braids primarily utilize cornrow patterns. Also, Fulani braids tend to be smaller and more accessorized compared to tribal braids.
A key benefit of tribal braids is their versatility, they can be dressed up or down for any occasion. The braids are usually created using hair extensions and come in various colors, allowing you to customize the look. You can accessorize tribal braids with beads, ties, strings or pins. They can also be customized to any length or size you want.
Tribal braids last two to four weeks with proper care. Be sure to oil your scalp weekly, wrap your hair at night, and apply mousse to reduce frizz. Avoid over-manipulating the braids.
This article explores 32 of the most popular tribal braid styles, with tips on caring for and accessorizing this gorgeous, long-lasting look.
1. Fulani Tribal Braids
Fulani tribal braids involve combining different patterns of cornrow braids with individual braids. The hair is divided into two sections from ear to ear, with cornrows usually made in the top section and individual braids in the back section. The cornrow braids at the top often have a single braid down the center while the remaining cornrows are braided on both sides. Some additional cornrow braids can also be added on the sides to enhance the hairstyle. Fulani braids are typically small in size and feature intricate, beautiful patterns.
2. Lemonade Tribal Braids
Lemonade tribal braids put a spin on regular lemonade braids. Instead of braiding all the hair to one side of the head, the lemonade tribal braids are made halfway across the head, with individual braids at the back. The individual braids can be knotless or made with knots. Some designs can be incorporated into the cornrow section to elevate the look further.
3. Tribal Braids With Beads
If you want to add a sparkle to your tribal braids, consider incorporating some beads at the ends. There are many different styles and colors of beads you can use to spice up your tribal braids. The beads are usually added to the ends of the braids with a bead feeder, crochet pin or hair pin, then secured with small elastic bands. Discover our article on braided hairstyles with beads for more styles like this.
4. Tribal Braids With Heart Design
This hairstyle is created by adding heart-shaped designs into the tribal braids. A heart design looks creative, and adding it to tribal braids can give the hairstyle a unique look. The heart can be positioned on both sides of the head or in the center. Wherever you decide to place the braids, it will look gorgeous – you’ll be showing love with your hair!
5. Middle Part Tribal Braids
Middle part tribal braids are the most common variation of tribal braids. This basic, classic look is what most people opt for when getting tribal braids. Middle part tribal braids involve creating a part at the center of the head and braiding tribal braids around it. You can even incorporate a design into the central part, as long as you keep it positioned in the middle.
6. Side Part Tribal Braids
Side part tribal braids involve creating a part on the side of the head and making tribal braids on each side. The side part can be a straight line or a C-cut parting style. Making tribal braids with a side part does not limit styling options – you can still style them in various creative ways. Find additional inspiration in our guide to side part braid styles.
7. Bohemian Tribal Braids
Bohemian tribal braids are created by adding loose curled strands to the braids. The curls can be incorporated while the braids are being made or attached afterwards using a crochet pin. Bohemian braids give a unique look and make the hair more voluminous. You can also explore different colors by using curls in a contrasting shade to the tribal braids.
8. 2 Layer Tribal Braids
Two layer tribal braids are a great hairstyle choice for both adults and children. The process of making two layer braids starts with dividing the hair into two sections from ear to ear. Then, one layer of cornrow braids is made towards the neck, and another layer of cornrows is made on top of the bottom section. These two layer tribal braids can be done in different sizes, lengths and colors.
9. Small Tribal Braids
Small tribal braids involve creating small parts and braiding small sized tribal braids on each part with thin pieces of hair. One benefit of getting small braids is that they last longer than the larger-sized ones. The only downside is that getting small tribal braids put in and taking them out can be more time-consuming.
10. Medium Tribal Braids
If you’re not really feeling either big or small tribal braids, medium ones could be just right for you. The way it works is you part out medium-sized sections of hair, then start braiding while adding in little bits of extra hair as you go. What counts as “medium” is kinda up to the stylist and what you think looks good – but usually, it means braids that are in between skinny and thick. They’re not huge and chunky or tiny and slender, just right in the middle. The following medium braids hairstyles article is a great starting point for more inspiration for medium-sized braids.
11. Half Up Half Down Tribal Braids
Half up half down tribal braids is a simple and unique hairstyle that combines braids going halfway up and braids going down to the neck. The hair is divided in two, with the top section having tribal cornrow braids swept up into an updo. The bottom section is braided into vertical cornrows facing the nape of the neck. The top updo section can then be styled into a bun or left as a ponytail. Here are more half-up half-down braid hairstyles to get you inspired.
12. 3 Layered Tribal Braids
Three layered tribal braids allow you to wear cornrow braids in a unique way. The process starts by sectioning the hair into three layers using horizontal parts. Then, cornrow braids are made vertically on each section. Overlapping the cornrows over one another creates a layered effect. A center or side part can also be incorporated into the three layered tribal braids.
13. Large Tribal Braids
If you don’t have the patience for smaller braids, you can opt for large tribal braids – they look just as beautiful. Large tribal braids refer to braids that are made thick or chunky in size. The braiding hair is gradually fed in until the desired large size is achieved. To keep everything proportional and not too bulky, it’s advisable to create large parts for these tribal braids. The plus side of large tribal braids is that they don’t take as much time to install or take out.
14. Side Part 3 Layer Tribal Braids
Side part three layer tribal braids is a variation that involves creating cornrow braids on three sections of hair while incorporating a side part at the top layer. The side part can go on either the left or right side of the head. Making a side part means one side of hair will be fuller since the hair on each side is unequal. If you have a round or oval face shape, adding a side part into your tribal braids is a great idea – it will complement your features beautifully.
15. Bob Tribal Braids With Beads
Bob tribal braids are created by making tribal braids that stop around the jaw or neck area with slightly curved or bumped ends. Adding beads is a great way to elevate bob braids styles. Since the braids are short and already have a natural bump at the ends, you can likely skip dipping them in hot water and just steam the ends instead. The beads add accent and style to the chopped look of the bob braids beautifully.
16. Tribal Braids With Design
Tribal braids tend to be a simple hairstyle, but you can spice them up with some creative designs. You can maintain any basic tribal braid look while incorporating cool patterns. The designs are usually placed in the top layer of braids since that’s the most visible section. From spirals and zig zags to criss crosses, there are endless options for expressing your creativity with braid designs. The sky’s the limit for putting your personal stamp on this classic style.
17. Freestyle Tribal Braids
With freestyle tribal braids, you have unlimited freedom to part and design the braids however you want. Freestyle braids involve incorporating different parting styles and designs into the braiding. This gives you space to freely express yourself and get creative with your tribal braids hairstyle. The world is your oyster for putting your own spin on these braids.
18. Short Tribal Braids
Short braids are very convenient for people who don’t like hair touching their body. Short tribal braids refer to any tribal braids style made in a short length. These can be sealed with elastic bands or by burning the tips. Short tribal braids are easy to maintain, and you can still style them in different creative ways, even given their cropped length.
19. Feed In Tribal Braids
Feed in braids involve gradually adding pieces of braiding hair underneath the braids as they are created. The braids start very slim, becoming thicker as they progress. With feed in tribal braids, the tracks of added hair remain invisible, creating natural looking, flat braids that resemble your own hair without extensions showing.
20. Tribal Braids With Knotless In The Back
Another great way to get tribal braids is by combining them with some knotless braids in the back. This style is made by creating individual knotless braids underneath the top layer of tribal braids. The knotless method starts with braiding the natural hair and gradually feeding in small pieces of added hair. Incorporating knotless braids into tribal braids allows for more versatility and immediate styling flexibility.
21. Red Tribal Braids
If you want your tribal braids to look fiery and fierce, we recommend getting them done in red. When we talk about “red tribal braids,” we’re referring to tribal braids made with red braiding hair. We choose red because it’s such a vibrant, bold color that really suits the style of tribal braids. And the great thing is, there are so many different shades of red out there for you to choose from to best match your preferences and skin tone. Explore our article on red braids hairstyles for more fiery inspiration
22. Tribal Twist Braids
Tribal twist braids give you the best of both worlds by combining braids and twists in one style. These braids usually start with cornrows braided close to the scalp. Then, once the braids get to the length you want, the stylist transitions into twisting the hair. It’s important that the twists are done tightly from where the braid ends so they don’t unravel. The added twists give the braids a unique touch and added texture.
23. Zig Zag Tribal Braids
Zig zag tribal braids allow you to upgrade from the usual straight part. As the name suggests, these braids feature a zig-zag part that resembles the letter Z. Creating the zig-zag look requires patience to ensure the parts are properly aligned and visually striking. The main draw of this style is the unique parted pattern. However, one downside is that the zig-zag becomes less defined as the braids age. So to keep the integrity of the look, maintenance is key.
24. Burgundy Tribal Braids
If you want a bold color that’s not as bright as red, consider burgundy colored braids. Burgundy is a deep, rich shade of red that embodies class. The process for burgundy tribal braids follows that of any tribal braid style, simply using burgundy braiding extensions instead of a standard color. The deep tone of burgundy is ideal for creating tribal braids that feel elevated and polished.
25. Ombre Tribal Braids
Ombre braids allow you to weave different colors into your tribal braids. These braids are created using ombre braiding extensions, which fade between two or more tones. You can find pre-made ombre hair in various color combinations to achieve this look. Or, you can custom-create your own ombre effect by feeding in colors one after the other as you braid. Doing it this way takes more time than using pre-made ombre hair, but produces equally beautiful results. Either way, ombre tribal braids incorporate dimension and visual interest through the blended color tones. This style is perfect if you want braids that transition gracefully between different shades.
26. Stitch Tribal Braids
Stitch braids feature a unique look created by making repeated, horizontal braid lines that resemble sewing stitches. To achieve very defined, neat-looking stitches, it helps to slick down the hair on both sides before braiding. Bigger parting sections also help the braid “stitches” stand out more. The stitching effect adds visual interest and texture not often seen in regular tribal braid styles.
27. Peekaboo Tribal Braids
Since tribal braids already have an inherent layered look, it’s a natural fit to incorporate a “peekaboo” effect. Peekaboo tribal braids are created by braiding a different color on the cornrow base underneath the top layer(s). This secondary color then subtly peeks through, revealing hints of contrast. It’s best to combine highly contrasting colors to achieve the perfect peekaboo braids. That way, you get pleasant little surprises of color popping through.
28. Honey Blonde Tribal Braids
Honey blonde tribal braids offer a warm blonde tone for those wanting to go lighter without too much brightness. While some brands sell pre-mixed honey blonde braiding hair, it can be hard to find. If you can’t access a custom blend, you can create the perfect honey tone by mixing colors 613, 33, and 27 or 4. Adding in those darker shades helps soften the very light platinum blonde. Illuminate your style further with ideas from our article on blonde braids hairstyles.
29. Tribal Braids With Bangs
You can take your tribal braids up a notch by adding bangs into the look. The process follows that of regular tribal braids, with a small section left out in the front to braid across the forehead. These braided bangs provide extra flair and style. Beads perfectly complement tribal braids with bangs, tying the whole look together. The bangs add striking face-framing dimension. This combo makes a statement and upgraded standard tribal braiding.
30. Ginger Tribal Braids
Ginger tribal braids are created using ginger-toned braiding extensions, featuring a reddish-brown color with warm undertones. Ginger is a perfect choice if you’re looking for a seasonal braid shade for fall. The best pre-made braiding hair shade to represent ginger is #350. But you can also mix in #30, orange, and #27 to achieve lighter ginger tones. Whether going for a true ginger or a softer copper, this color range adds autumnal style to tribal braids. The warm, reddish hue stands out while still feeling natural.
31. Brown Tribal Braids
Brown tribal braids are created using brown braiding extensions. Brown is a neutral color that flatters all skin tones, making it a universally favored choice. Brown braids styles can be done in shades ranging from deep chocolate to light caramel. These tones can also be blended to achieve your perfect brown shade for braids. As a classic, wearable neutral, brown tribal braids are a safe bet you can’t go wrong with.
32. Skunk Stripe Tribal Braids
Skunk stripe tribal braids feature a small section of braids in a contrasting color, resembling a skunk stripe. This bold pop of color mimics the distinctive marking. The skunk stripe effect can be created with any alternate shade you choose. But it’s best to select colors that contrast with the rest of the braids for maximum definition. This will make that section really stand out. Play around with bright or pastel tones to make the skunk stripe pop.