In the past, hairstyles played a significant role in communicating values, culture, and morals. There was always a reason why a particular hairstyle was plaited. Before the advent of civilization, both men and women plaited their hair for different reasons that were understandable, even to a young child.
For instance, if a woman wants to communicate love to her spouse, she would plait a hairstyle called “koju soko” (meaning face your husband). This hairstyle, however, sends a message to the husband (which everyone around them also understands) that his wife is either about to make a request or to please him.
On the other hand, the Sango family, especially the males, do a hairstyle called “kolese” (legless or without legs), which indicates that such people are from the Sango family- communicates the significance of the identity.
However, these hairstyles serve purposes other than aesthetic appeal and beautification. They can be used for religious purposes, as a mark of identity, age, political authority, ceremonies, occupations, or even to convey a woman’s mood and denote marital status.
In the Yoruba culture, humans are referred to as “omo adari hurun” (a specie that grows hair on the head) because of their hair, which is a very important aspect of Yoruba culture. The Yoruba believed that improper hair grooming was an indication of disease as well as anti-social or deviant behaviour.
When compared to other body parts, the head and the hair that covers it both hold a prominent position. Thus, the biological and spiritual functions of a person’s head are at the foundation of hair culture and tradition.
It is worthy of note to state that intricately crafted hairstyles, such as Irun Kiko, which involves knotting hair with thread; Irun Didi, which involves plaiting hair as is customary; and Irun Biba, which involves casual braiding, are popular among Yoruba women. Also, Yoruba hairstyles include the handcrafted Olowo and the Olowu (made with thread).
In this piece, I will be explaining the different traditional hairstyles and what they communicate.
From the borders of the scalp to the middle, the Shuku hairstyle is plaited. It is occasionally used with the koroba style to create designs that are more interesting. Shuku was traditionally only given to brides, princesses, queens, and other respectable rulers’ spouses. Shuku, though, can now be worn by any member of society in modern times.
The hairstyle is expertly interlaced from the crown of the head to the front, back, and sides. Typically, the tips are decorated with beads and tied into knots. And this hairstyle is usually seen on princesses and Olori (king’s wife).
Kolese (legless or without legs)
Each knot in this pattern starts at the front and extends to the back of the head, close to the neck. Other names for it include “all back” and “corn rows.”
Although both men and women plait this hairstyle, it is primarily plaited by royalty and powerful people in the community. Aaso Waporo has nine knots, each divided by three spherical patches of hair.
With a central hair patch tied into a knot and hanging to the left side of the head, this is comparable to the Aaso Waporo. Most warriors and hunters wear Aaso Olode.
Only the Ifa priest uses this style. Aaso Onifa, a little circle of hair worn on special occasions, is located in the front or middle of the scalp. Ifa priests occasionally let their hair grow and plait it in the back.
Patewo, which in English means “clap your hands,” is a style that imitates clapping hands. The hair is divided vertically down the center to create the style. The hair is then braided from the partition to each side of the hair. Patewo may be incorporated into fantastic designs by combining it with different hairstyles.
Ipako elede begins with styling from the back but ends with styling from the front. The non-linear contours of the head are followed when scaling the braids. By repeatedly using the units in an extraordinary type of fractal geometry, the Onidiri (hair stylist, weaver, or hair dresser), follows a major middle model.
This fashion has mystical overtones. The hair is nurtured to become dreadlocks, and the person can choose to embellish it with cowries or beads. The hairstyle is typically thought of as a divine gift.
Koju soko/Koyin sale (Face your husband/Back your concubine)
These styles indicate the love of a woman for her husband. Most of the time, these hairstyles are even used as farce among Yoruba people (to make fun of themselves). However, koyin sale is the opposite of koju soko (even the hairstyles depict this). Koju soko is plaiting the hair “all front,” while koyin sale is “all back.”
However, in modern times, observations affirm that hairstyles are no longer a means of communication, but mere beautification. Some hairstyles exist as a result of civilization; for instance, people now use attachments of different colours, they now fix weave-ons and even men are seen on dreads with different colours.