Weaves

Who Invented the Hair Weave?

Published By: Kennedy

Last Updated: November 12, 2021

Although it cannot be said specifically who invented the hair weave, there are places we know of and people who have contributed to its creation.  

Over time, it has evolved into what we know it to be today. 

Who Invented the Hair Weave and Sew-In?

The invention of the weave was not actually created by a single person, rather many people collectively over time. 

A weave is composed of hair pieces, or artificial hair extensions, that are fixed onto human hair by different methods- such as gluing, sewing, or clipping. 

The weave is not a recent innovation, it was created long ago in ancient Egypt. It was then that Egyptians worked on mastering ways to attach artificial hair to their heads.

It was after this time period that more people invented new ways to weave hair. Eventually, the weave evolved into the modern day sew-in, which is often confused as the entirety of a weave.

The inventor of the sew-in weave is Christiana Jenkins, who improved upon the process of weaving hair – but the weave is not her invention.

The Invention of the Weave 

The weave has been existing since the ancient times. Let’s look at it’s history from different cultures.

Ancient Egyptians 

Worn by both men and women, the invention of hair weaves can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt.

If you look at pictures of hieroglyphics and statues from that period, you will see the very popular images of the hairpieces they wore. These can be described as early wigs and weaves. 

People who were of a higher class, and could afford real human hair, tended to wear wigs the most. Due to a very hot climate, they would shave their head completely, but wear a wig in public. 

However, those who could not afford an entire wig would use hair extensions, which is similar to the present day hair weave. 

These extensions would rarely be made of human hair – because of how expensive it was and difficult to acquire – so many people would create them out of animal hair or plant fibers instead.

Sometimes wealthy Egyptians would add these extensions to their wigs, giving them a more luxurious and voluminous look. The making of a wig was very similar to attaching a weave to the head. Both techniques require attaching hair wefts to a base – whether it be a cap, net, or the natural hair. 

Hair was not the only adornment that would be attached, those who could afford it would also add items like gold, silver, ribbons, or beads. 

After around 1150 BC, extensions with color became popular. Some of the common colors for extensions in Egypt were indigo, bright blue, green, and yellow. 

These hair pieces could also be attached in different ways. For example, Cleopatra was said to have worn weaves made out of human hair and dyed sheep wool that were attached by knotting it to her natural hair. Another way of attaching to the head would be brading. 

The French

After the ancient periods, the popularity of wigs and hair extensions took a major decline. It was not until the 16th and 17th century in early France, that they were worn more regularly. 

At this time, hair pieces were usually worn by men as a symbol of status. 

A popular style among French men was to wear their hair in locks, with one lock hanging lower than the rest. That longest lock would more than likely be achieved with adding false hair. 

Weaves were also used in order to cover thinning hair in those times. King Louis XIII wore wigs and hair pieces to cover his hair loss, and soon, others followed his example.

 Some men would wear a headpiece called a tour, which was achieved by sewing hair wefts to a skull cap- very similar to today’s weave technique. 

There were women that also started wearing hair pieces, especially when their hair started to thin. Marie Antoinette was famous for her elaborate, piled-high hairstyles, which inspired other women at the time to make their hair bigger using extensions.

Christina Jenkins – Patented Inventor of the Modern Day Sew-In  

Today the most popular weaving technique is done by sewing the hair tracks onto hair that has been cornrowed. [1]

This type of weave is called a sew-in. Many people mistakenly use this term interchangeably with a weave, but there are different methods besides sewing to attach a weave to the head – such as gluing or clipping. 

An African-American woman named Christina Jenkins is credited for being the inventor of the sew-in, although little is known about her.

Before the sew-in, women were mainly attaching their weaves by pinning them to their hair with hair pins and grips. Christina Jenkins created a better weft – what the hair is attached to – so women could attach the extensions more securely on their head. 

Christina Jenkins was born in Louisiana on December 25 1920. Just 10 years prior to the transformative hair movement by Madame CJ Walker, who popularized the hair straightening device amongst the African-American community in 1910. It was due to the innovations of Walker that black women acquired new ways to both grow their hair using “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower” and elongate it using her hot comb. [2]

During this time segregation was still in effect in the United States, and the amount of African-American people acquiring higher education was very low.

 She graduated with a degree in science from Leland College. After she graduated, she married a famous jazz pianist named Herman (Duke) Jenkins, whom she met in Galveston Texas.  

Duke formed the group the Duke Jenkins Orchestra, and relocated with Christina to Chicago. In Chicago, Christina started to work for a hair manufacturing company, during which time she started to explore the possibilities of better ways to attach commercial hair to natural hair.

 She succeeded by creating a detailed way to sew tracks of the weave onto the head rather than pinning them. She did this by using a device called a weaving frame. 

In 1951, she applied for a patent for her ‘HairWeeve’ technique and it was approved in 1952.

 After she received her patent she traveled across Europe teaching her new method, until she opened her own salon called Christina’s HairWeeve Penthouse Salon. 

Popularization in the United States

It wasn’t until the 1960s that women in Western countries were trying to achieve big, elaborate hairstyles that required the use of hair extensions.

These hair pieces were mainly popularized by the Carita sisters, famous hairdressers in Paris. They set the trends of these hairpiece-based hairstyles. 

Soon, celebrities in the Western world also started to wear hair extensions regularly, such as singer/actress Diana Ross. Due to her fame and superstar status, many women in America set a demand for weaves and wigs as well – especially those within the African-American community.

 Other celebrities that popularized weaves in the 1900’s are singers Dolly Parton, and Tina Turner. 

Many of these hair pieces were starting to be created in Asia and shipped to the United States, especially those made with human hair. Similar to the issue in ancient Egypt, not everyone could afford human hair – hence the creation of synthetic hair extensions. Synthetic hair, which was made from thin plastic fibers, became the most common material sold.

Wrap-Up

The hair weave was accomplished by a series of innovative advancements by people all over the world. 

It is fascinating to learn how all of these techniques came together over time. History truly does repeat itself!

Kennedy

I have always had a love for writing and have been blogging for about 3 years now. I have a passion for teaching what I have learned over the years, especially about hair. I have had almost every hairstyle - typical of a cosmetologist’s daughter- including the big chop in 2015. With all the knowledge I have gained, I feel it is my duty to help others on their healthy hair journey. I believe education can be fun, and I strive to make it fun to learn about beautiful black hair.

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