Hello, I am 33 and I braid my hair. I don't usually worry about age when it comes to my personal style: for me, clothing and style choices arise more from personal comfort and happiness than anything else. I did think about hair-related ageism this morning when I was braiding my hair.
Hair braiding has been around for thousands of years in different cultures all over the world. It has had the function of keeping hair clean (Renaissance Europe) and socializing among women (Africa). Braided wigs were worn by royalty in ancient Egypt, and in the Native American Hopi tribe, only married women braided their hair. Braids are practical, and they have long served as different types of social markers.
These days we in the Western world tend to associate braid-wearing white women with little girls. Women in their early 20s can still get away with braids, but once women enter serious employment, braids become very difficult to pull off. It seems to me that African-American tradition of hair braiding carries with it the notion of empowerment and appreciation of culture, but as a white, 30-something woman, my braids mark innocence, softness and playfulness instead, as if those were the character traits that were reserved to (female) children. I know this not because I have been told that only little girls wear braids, but because it is an unpleasant gut-feeling, like the one that instinctively dismisses the idea of wearing a pink suit to a job interview. Infantilization of women is everywhere, from hair braids to grown-up women wearing pink.
Anya asked me to do a braiding tutorial, but since my own skills are so limited, do check out video tutorials for braiding your bangs here. To be honest, I don't really know what I do when I braid my hair; I use random techniques to get to a completely unplanned end-result. The one today is a basic French braid. I am actually wearing three braids in total: there is a half regular, half French one (meaning that one side is gathered, the other not) on the left side, and a third braid on the back of my head. So screw you, hair-ageism. Braiding is fun.
Sweater: men's All Saints
Denim shorts: Benetton sample sale
Boots: John Fluevog