Protective Style Challenge; Week 40: Cotton


This month I’ve been wearing hairstyles that have traditionally been worn in Zambia for eons and jazzing them up a bit. 

Any sort of tribute to Zambian hairstyles wouldn’t be complete without giving a nod to Cotton. Cotton is so called because cotton or more accurately sewing thread is used to achieve the style; it is commonly referred to as African threading in the international natural hair community and can either be a stand alone style or used to stretch the hair instead of heat.


Usually Cotton involves winding the thread closely together on a section of hair so that the hair itself is not visible. I tried this method last year. A hairdresser painstakingly created this intricate style over 2 days and the end result was very similar to sister locs.


My challenge for this year is to create all of my hairstyles myself but I have neither the skill or patience to recreate the style I had last year so I opted for a simpler version. The hairstyle I did this week allows you to wind the cotton further apart and create threaded sections that have the appearance of two strand twists.


The length of thread that you use for your hair depends on its length. I fold my thread in half and knot the end much as I would for sewing. I then grab a small section of hair and starting at the base wind the thread around the hair. Once I get to the tip of my hair I make a knot. I make sure not to knot too tightly as it can be notoriously difficult to undo tightly knotted ends. I have approximately 18 sections on my head, shorter hair would require more sections.


You can can be quite creative about the way you join up the threaded sections of your hair and any on line search will reveal many beautiful pictures of Cotton hairstyles from various countries across Africa. Again, I’m keeping it as simple as possible during this challenge and basically just gathered all of my sections and wound thread around them to create a “tail” below my right ear.


I’ve had this hairstyle before and never would have imagined that I’d be able to recreate it with my own two hands. It only took me a morning to do and if I  didn’t have to try a different hairstyle every week I would definitely keep it as a longer term protective hairstyle. I did this style on freshly washed and conditioned hair. As part of my experiments in the use of Zambian indigenous knowledge and ingredients for hair care I deep conditioned with a mixture that included Moringa and Neem powders instead of my usual Henna treatment and I have to say that I loved the result and plan to keep experimenting with these ingredients.



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