Thai Braids: History of Hair Braiding in Thai & More

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Thai Braids

Did you know apart from African, several other cultures, such as the Thai have braids too?

Braids are not just a style, braiding is an art and to some people, a form of identity.

So far, we’ve seen several types of braids (box braids, knotless braids, Coi Leray …) mostly associated with the African or African-American culture but in this article we want to explore Thai braids, for a different perspective.

We want to find out whether other populations have braids as part of their ancient culture.

What are Thai Braids?

Thai braids have a very close resemblance to traditional box braids and can occur in two or three-strand braids.

Numerous sources show braids as being an ancient part of the Thai culture. [1]

The Thai braiding culture is rooted in superstitious beliefs. For instance, the braids were done to protect kids from evil spirits.

When a child reached puberty, some of these rituals involved shaving the head except for a long braid known as ‘topknot’.

For this reason, children were commonly spotted in Thai braids in 3 different styles:

  1. Mud Chook (resembling a top knot)
  2. Phom Pia (resembling box braids)
  3. Go (resembling a ponytail)

Unlike most cultures, the braids were commonly worn by boys and not girls.

Are Thai Braids Cultural Appropriation?

Thai braids have been the source of controversy online and on social media due to claims of cultural appropriation.

For instance, music artist Lisa from the music group Black Pink experienced backlash after rocking these braids.

Most people felt that this was an act of cultural appropriation that shouldn’t have happened while others did not see any wrong with it.

Cultural appropriation is defined as an instance where someone or a group adopts the trends, fashion, or style from a different culture, particularly when the adopted culture has been historically oppressed.

In this case, braids originally come from Africa which has been subjected to historical oppression including colonization and the slave trade.

This then begs the question, are Thai braids cultural appropriation?

Going by the definition, it is difficult to give a straight answer as braids were part of ancient Thai culture even before exposure to other cultures.

What’s more, other culture such as the Greeks and Vikings have had braids too, since ancient times.

Types of Thai braids

Thai braids come in different forms with the most common one being Phom pia braids as explained below.

1. Phom pia Thai braids

Phom pia braids are the most common Thai braids, also known as JookKohKlak Pia.

This hairstyle is worn by boys and will usually either start at the middle of the head or the back of the head. The braid then drops down the neck loosely.

Over time, more women began to wear phom pia braids.

These braids are a symbol of strength and wisdom among the Thai people and symbolize a connection between the ancestors and the earth.

Interestingly, phom pia braids are not worn on Wednesday traditionally as it is believed to cause bad luck.

2. Muay Thai braids

Muay Thai braids are mostly done by Muay Thai fighters to keep hair out of the way while fighting. This ensures that no hair gets caught on, stepped on, or pulled during a fight.

To achieve Muay Thai braids, section the mid part of your hair and braid it into two or three cornrows.

Afterward, gather the cornrows together with the rest of the hair that is unbraided and hold at the back with a hair tie.

The final look resembles a semi-braided ponytail. See how it looks:

3. Lisa Thai braids

These braids are coined after Lisa, one of the musical artists in the BLACKPINK group. Lisa donned these braids at the debut of her solo with her song “Lalisa”.

In this video, she wore 4 jumbo box braids of medium length done using her natural hair.

Additionally, Lisa was also spotted with red box braids extensions on a fringe hair look during her song “Money” performance video.

See the IG post below:

Thai braids vs. box braids

Thai braids closely resemble box braids. However, unlike box braids, they do not use additional braiding hair and only require the individual`s natural hair.

Phom Pia Thai braids are usually thicker than box braids. However, box braids are likely to be more durable than Thai braids.

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