In West Africa, hair-braiding is a vital aspect of the cultural tradition. Many regions wore distinctive braids as a means of tribal identification.
There were however, various other social and political functions of braids in those societies. Intricate styles were used in ceremonial rituals, such as weddings; but were also cultural and demographic sign posts pointing to different age groups, societal status, or even as designations of royalty.
Aside from Africa, many other countries and cultures have enjoyed a long cultural, political and social association with the art of hair-braiding.
Braids were around during medieval times and were worn as adornments, but were functional, as well; often a means of keeping hair cleaner between baths, keeping it out of cooking fires, and more.
For Native Americans braids were primarily adornments (particularly for women and children), but could also specify religious observances, and when worn by men were used by some tribes as preparation for war.
In nearly every part of the world, from Africa to India, Asia to the U.S., at varying periods of history braids have played some part in the cultural aesthetic.