11 Best Box Braids Hairstyles for Men in 2021
Box braids not only serve as a protective style for natural hair, but also a statement hairstyle.
They originated from various parts of Africa over 5000 years ago, but have resurfaced in popularity as a fashion trend during the 90s, particularly for black women. This is largely credited to Poetic Justice, a 1993 movie where Janet Jackson’s character sports this now iconic box braids style.
This hairstyle consists of dividing hair into multiple sections and braiding each section into single plaits, starting from the scalp. These braids are often parted into squared, box-like sections, which is what explains the name.
With its recent revival in the 2010s, both women and men can be seen wearing this hairstyle. Today, it has been an upcoming look in men’s hairstyles.
Read further to learn more about this awesome braided hairstyle and how you can achieve amazing box braids.
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1. Box Braids on Natural Hair
Since box braids have been traditionally a practice in African cultures, they are best suited for coily, tightly curled, natural hair textures.
These textures of hair tend to hold braided hairstyles better than looser textures of hair, since natural hair tends to coil and lock into itself. This is also beneficial if human or synthetic hair is added into the braid, in either classic or feed-in box braids.
Braided hairstyles like box braids are also beneficial for natural hair, as it allows hair to remain in a style for a longer period of time so that less tension is placed on it through brushing, casual tugging, and getting caught in the environment.
2. Box Braids on Curly Hair
Curly hair is slightly looser than natural hair, but still has some of the benefits with holding in braids. To make sure braids are secured, using styling gel can help control stray curly hairs to stay in place while braiding the hair.
Controlling the bulkier shape of curly hair can give the appearance of a much sleeker braided hairstyle, especially when artificial or natural human hair is added when braiding the hair. Curly hair on the hairline can be either shaved off or controlled with gel as well.
3. Box Braids on Straight to Wavy Hair
Smoother textures like straight and wavy hair may not be the most common hair type to wear box braids, but they are still achievable nonetheless. Both braiding the hair by itself or adding in hair as it’s braided are viable options.
Since these hair textures tend to be looser, it is crucial to take steps in securing the braided hairstyle so it can last longer. Aside from applying gel when braiding, using small hair elastics at the ends of each braid is a straightforward way of securing braids as well. There is also the option of braiding the hair as far down to the ends as possible.
Long hair that tapers off at the ends tends to last longer, since smaller, more intricate braids take longer to unravel. This can be finished off by thoroughly saturating the ends of the braids with hairspray to seal everything together.
4. Short Box Braids
One may be concerned that they cannot achieve box braids if they have short hair, but isn’t always true! If you have hair that is at least three to four inches long, depending on hair texture, it is possible to achieve this with the hair alone.
Anything that is under six inches after being braided is considered short. With extra short hair, smaller sections of box braids are easier to attain, as the hair is pulled across a narrower area of the scalp for the braid.
5. Long Box Braids
Length can add a more dramatic effect when wearing box braids. This is not only limited to those with long hair, but also achievable to those with short hair, where human or synthetic hair can be incorporated into the person’s hair and braided down in a way that stays attached, which is a common practice for those seeking to add more volume and create the illusion of long braids. In contrast, long hair presents both the possibilities of braiding the hair alone or adding hair extensions while braiding.
6. Box Braids With Hair Extensions
Hair extensions in box braids are not only an effective way to add length and bulk to your braids, but are also an opportunity to integrate different colors and materials into the hairstyle as well. This can be done by using both natural and artificial colors of hair extensions, or even combining colored yarn into the mix.
Rather than various damaging color processes, hair can easily be made to appear colored when braiding in colors different than your natural hair color, furthering the protectiveness of the hairstyle. This can be done by using an installment of hair starting at the beginning of the box braid, or feeding in hair at intervals earlier in the braiding process to make added hair look more blended with the person’s actual hair.
Feed-in box braids are also a healthier option, since classic box braids produce a knot where the braids start at the scalp, which aggravates tension and can result in hair loss.
7. Large/wide-sectioned Box Braids
Not only thickness, but sections of box braids can be broadened by drawing wider sections in the hair. This draws more attention to the scalp with a more dramatic approach to sectioning, providing more leeway to show off intricate and varying shapes with each hair section.
This also makes the braiding process go a lot faster as there are less braids to do when sections are larger. This is most compatible with long hair, since hair needs to be snatched from a larger area of the head.
A popular alternative to box-shaped sections are triangular-shaped sections for this braided hairstyle. As the name suggests, each braid is grasped from an area of the scalp in the shape of a triangle, creating a more dynamic effect. This is also helpful when sectioning hair on more angular parts of the scalp, such as hair between the temples and ears.
If one is going for a symmetrical braided hairstyle, it is important to plan out the sectioning first. A helpful tip is to first divide the hair with horizontal lines across the head before dividing these sections into smaller, alternating, triangular sections.
8. Box Braids with Fade Undercut
Fade haircuts also feature shaved sides and back, but are slightly more dramatic than taper cuts, as they fade directly into the skin and blur the hairlines. There are also varying types of fade undercuts to choose from, from low to high fades, temple fades, burst fades, and drop fades.
The shorter length of a fade also leaves more room for customized cut designs. Higher precision also means that they are higher maintenance, as the shortest hair of the fade begins to grow over the skin within a couple weeks.
9. Box Braid Ponytail
When it comes to styling your box braids, a ponytail is a simple choice that can get hair out of your face, but also still display your braids and undercut if you have one.
Shorter lengths of braids and higher ponytails allow for a more playful look with more bounce, while lower and longer ponytails look more laid back and relaxed. For tighter ponytails, using a classic hair elastic is best, but for giving your hair a break, spiral “phone cord” hair ties are the top recommendation, as they sit loosely on the hair and don’t leave strong dents that elastic ties do. Minimizing tension on the scalp is especially important when wearing tight braids.
10. Box Braids with Hair Jewelry
A popular way of spicing up box braids is by accessorizing them with hair jewelry. One of the most common forms of hair jewelry are beads. The clip-on versions of these are easiest to acquire and apply.
They are essentially a loop with a latched opening on its side that can be pulled open and clicked back together on the desired location of a braid. There is a lot of freedom with placements, where it can be kept minimal with just a few on the front box braids, worn on every other braid, placing several on a single braid, or other placements.
11. Box Braids with Color
Color is always a dimension to be considered when adding to a hairstyle. This can include more subtle styles, such as coloring the ends of your braids a few shades lighter than your natural hair color, or more dramatic, non-natural colors that may take over your whole head.
This can be achieved by coloring your hair before braiding it into box braids, or by using colorful hair extensions. These can be incorporated by starting right at the scalp, or in the form of feed-in braids, where it is styled by slowly adding pieces of colored hair while braiding, creating an ombre effect in your box braids.
As mentioned earlier in this article, other materials can also be braided into the hair. Colorful yarn is a popular choice when it comes to non-hair material that is integrated in box braids.
Box Braids vs. Dreadlocks and Cornrows
To someone who is not as familiar with box braids, they can often be confused with dreadlocks or cornrows.
Dreads use the method of teasing, tangling, and coiling the hair into locks that become more defined as they are worn. On the other hand, cornrows are created by braiding hair in rows or patterns tightly against the scalp, instead of single braids.
However, some hairstyles combine cornrows with box braids. The name should also not be confused with “boxer braids”, a term that became prevalent in the mid-2010s, when wearing two underhand braids became a trendy braid style and rebranded with this term, even though they are simply two cornrows, or Dutch braids.