What is a ‘Russian’ braid?

Legion Media
Russian women still like to wear this ancient hairstyle. It had a sacred meaning in the past, but now they use it as a powerful charm.

The braid is a traditional female hairstyle in Russia. It had a sacred meaning for women and was also a sign of her status. In old times, one look at the hairstyle was enough to understand if a woman was single, engaged or married (read more about this here). But what kind of braid is called  “Russian” and how does it differ from other hairstyles?

What a Russian braid looks like

Russian women call the ‘Russian braid’ the simplest braid, made from three same-length strands that you can make in just a couple minutes. The left and right strands are alternately twisted with the middle one and the end of the braid is fixed with a ribbon. Historically, Russian women have always covered their heads and, on old portraits, women are depicted wearing a headscarf or kokoshnik with one or two braids looking out underneath. Single ladies used to wear one braid, engaged - a braid with a ribbon; and married - two braids. Women also often wrapped braids around their head and fixed them under a scarf. 

A woman in a Russian dress; Konstantin Makovsky. Cup of honey, 1890s.

Today, there are no such links between the relationships and the hairs and women do any number and kind of braids they want. Russian braids are worn at fashion shows, on the street and at work. Braids became the hairstyle of women in uniform, as it looks formal and comfortable. 

An ornithologist in the Moscow airport.

The braids, tied up with a rubber band not only at the bottom, but also at the top for strength, are very often worn by Russian athletes, especially tennis, basketball and volleyball players. This is a very easy hairstyle for activities! 

A Russian volleyball player Anna Malova.

Hairstyles for festive occasions can also be based on braids. At modern fashion shows, Russian stylists often make difficult braids for their models that look folky, but sophisticated.

A model during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Moscow.

And, on the street, you can often see a Russian woman with a small braid with only part of her hair.

‘A wheat ear’

This ancient technique, known in the world as the ‘French braid’ and, in Russia, as ‘a wheat ear’, is also very popular in Russia. It’s made from the top of the head, adding to each next strand some hairs from the sides. In this way, a hairstyle resembles a “wheat ear” from above.

Moscow Fashion Week.

This hairstyle has many variations, too. For example, you can make an “ear” on top, leaving the “tail” at the bottom, or braid the head around or even make several braids. 

At the Moscow International Film Festival.

The “inverted” French braid, when the braid is made “from the bottom to the top”, is called a ‘Dutch’ braid. It takes a certain skill, so Russian girls do not do it every day.

‘Fish tail’

This original braid consists of two strands, instead of three, and resembles a “fish tail”. Several “fish tails” arranged in a complex hairstyle are called ‘Greek’ braids.  A ‘fish tail’ with wide strands is called an ‘English’ braid in Russian. It’s quite ironic, however,  that the English themselves call the ‘English’ a ‘Russian’ basic braid! 

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