2022 was the year y2k made its unabashed, vibrant comeback in the form of bright pastels, funky textures and glossy lids. The circular nature of fashion has always dictated that moments of the past will always make an inevitable comeback, and this year 2023 is seeing the West African girlies setting an entirely new tone to y2k as we know it, stepping it all the way up.
Every December, hoards of IJGBs (read: I Just Got Back) also known as diasporans, descend on Lagos and Accra to celebrate Detty December, known for its all encompassing nightlife. Returning to the drudgery of their very real, very depressing 9-5s in January, the internationally approved stamp of a many a veteran Detty Decemberian, whether from the UK, Ireland or United States, is on their scalp. If you don’t return to abrokyire (read: Abroad) with waist length braids, did you even detty yourself well?
@chinwe_vee IJGB signature is the knotless curly braids or tiny knotless braids and I love it for us 🏾 #naijatiktok #dettydecember #fyp #ghanatiktok ♬ original sound – Chinwe
Giving a new meaning to throwing it back, 2023 returnees have eagerly spiced up their tresses. French curls are the new style of choice, making the rounds on TikTok as a style that crosses the long, alluring braids we are used to, with the fun, flirty flow of a barrel curl.
The result is a voluptuous wave of uniform curls at the end of the hair, which can be layered with a strategic trim to create further movement and body. With french curls, the attachment for the braiding hair comes readily curled in different colours, with blondes, browns and gingers proving to be the most complementary.
@.jadelara my IJGB braids >>> #braids #nigeria #darlingempress #knotless #frenchcurl ♬ original sound – pynkuie
@titilola.m Layered French Curl Braids! Such a luxurious hairstyle on us chocolate babes! 💕 #knotlessbraids #layeredbraids #layeredfrenchcurlbraids #frenchcurlbraids #naturalhairinspo #knotlessbraidshairstyles #nigeria ♬ Marvel amber rose – marvel🦹🏽♂️
They have the same versatility as braids so can be parted freely, with the added texture making them perfect for ‘messy’ updos and the popularly beloved middle parting. As hair is often considered the crown of any African woman, the relationship between the continent and braids as a traditional style of beauty, has been somewhat switched up by french curls.
The neater and more skilled a hairstyle demands, the more beautiful it is considered. This means that being sat for hours on end at the salon as 4 women work tirelessly on your head is often well worth the reception and self assuredness of knowing that you really do look good afterwards.
The once neglected sister of the french curl is the wicked and once dreaded pick and drop. Similar to french curls, this style requires kanekalon hair to be braided halfway, before being knotted and left straight, or manually curled using flexi rods or rollers dipped in hot water. Once considered a juvenile, basic hairstyle for normies, the rise of y2k has ironically carried the pick and drop family with it, creeping back into the limelight.
@iamdodos_ Finally got the layered braids/ Moesha inspired braids #layeredbraids #moeshabraids #y2kbraids ♬ Sensual Seduction – Snoop Dogg
Pick and drop features heavily in older, Nollywood movies of the 00s, sported by the likes of Ini Edo and Oge Okoye in micro form. With the modern, West African take on y2k based on playfully honoring this old aesthetic, braids are the solid foundation of any y2k Nollywood look. Capturing the full look involves embracing wider beauty regimes of the era, including thin brows, bold lip liner and a slightly overdone pop of blush.
These beauty regimes have circled their way back into popular culture in the West through the return of the chola aesthetic, now fused with soft gothcore (think: Ashley Okoli and similar), producing a darker grungier take on y2k that everyone is now respectively mislabelling as edgy or alternative.
@mattakaa Replying to @jeonthxghs here’s me styling my layered braids! #blacktiktok #braidinspo #boxbraids #layeredboxbraids #fyp #ukblackgirl ♬ ALIEN SUPERSTAR – Beyoncé
The mainstream is out. Looking like you may have been dropped in 2023 through a time machine, is firmly in.
Trend predictors from Pinterest see no stopping in the year ahead, with the eyes of their annual trend report firmly fixed on Gemini hair as a growing avenue for Gen-Z’s DIY self-expression . They spotlight non-traditional colours and two tone balayages as the next level, with two colours considered “better than one”. As a form of mini-rebellion that leans into self-authenticity, it looks like the expectations of wider, respectable society including parents and corporate workplaces, are gladly being set up for disappointment, again.
Although these trend reports are often researched and written from a heavily Westernised lens thus excluding Africa, the borderlessness of the internet means that no trend can ever be truly isolated to one geographical region. Here, the uptake in french curls being flown into the West globally, actually proves that trends are being set backwards – from Africa outwards, not the other way around.
With the continent being slowly but surely looked to as a blooming ground for unfettered creativity, perhaps this is ushering in a new era of trendsetters existing outside North America and Europe. Last month, Chanel made history as the first ever European luxury Maison to host a runway show in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With or without the validation of the outside world however, there are sure to be many successive waves of retro styles making a comeback, and the continent’s growing relevance will always ensure it leads on incubating what is often easily dismissed as a smaller microtrend undercurrents, into something bigger and colossal in future.
In the meantime, it’s buss down middle parting braids for us, every December.