French plaits, like most braiding techniques, have their roots in African culture – and like most traditional African hair techniques, they have been replicated and rebranded by westerners. Where does the French bit come in? Legend has it the name stems from an 1871 short story in American women’s weekly, Arthur’s Home Magazine. In the piece, a husband tells his wife to “hurry up and put on that new cashmere I sent you, and do up your hair in that new French braid.” Casual aggro husband aside, the name no doubt refers to the fact that Paris was seen as the birthplace of trends, so he was presumably just referring to a fashionable way of plaiting the hair – with no actual French heritage. 

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