The Celts are fascinating people. They were once the largest group in Europe, expanding into regions like Turkey and Spain. Filled with a rich history that the Druids passed down, the Celts are more than just a barbaric people, as viewed by the Romans.
Both male and female Celts wore braids in their hair, causing other cultures to think of them as barbaric. Celts considered the head to represent one’s soul, so their hair was significant because of its believed magical symbolism.
This article will examine what the different hair colors meant to the Celts, the types of braids they wore, and where the braid originated. The symbolism of beards and hair length will also be discussed briefly in this article.
What Color Hair Did the Celts Have?
Like people in Europe today, the Celts had all different hair colors, including brown, blonde, and red. Hair color represented a divine aspect of the Celts’ beliefs. Historically, brunettes were considered to have a terrestrial connection. Blondes were thought to have the closest connection to God.
Redheads were seen as having magical powers, and silver hairs were seen as a connection between our world and the next world. Maybe this is where the belief that redheads were witches stemmed from and that silver hair meant having great wisdom!
Hair length also held much importance to the Celts. Cutting a man’s hair and beard were seen as disgraceful.  In tribes, this was a way of showing that the man was found guilty of breaking tribal law, and he lost his right to give any input in tribal matters. Once his hair grew back, he would be allowed to provide input again.
Historically, it has been rumored that Celtic warriors used lime water to shape their hair like a horse’s mane. The Celtic war leader Vercingetorix wore his hair this way, and it is believed warriors favored this hairstyle to invoke the aid of Epona, the Celtic horse goddess.
Did the Celts Wear Cornrows?
Unlike the hangups people have over who can and cannot wear cornrows in today’s society, this was not an issue in the time of the Celts.
The Celts wore cornrows, which were a type of braid. Celtic men and women did not see a problem with anyone having this type of braid, and it was a common sight in Celtic settlements.
It is believed, but not definitively proven, that cornrows fell out of fashion with caucasian women because they were seen as immodest in some Christian groups.
However, before they fell out of favor, cornrows were favored by the Celts along with many other braid types. Noble Celtic women especially preferred elaborate braided hairstyles, and these styles included three or four-strand braids.
These braids were twined with ribbon, and then they added gold beads and balls to the end of the braid. The complexity of some of these braids is challenging to explain. However, modern fantasy and medieval films often have some good examples of Celtic braids or a close representation at the very least.
For some of the best examples of Celtic braids, look at the elves in Lord of the Rings who wore elaborate braids in their hair. Daenerys Targaryen’s hair from Game of Thrones is another excellent example of intricate braids. Notice that her braids become more complex with each season of the show.
Common women still had elaborately braided hair but with some minor differences. They did not twine their braids with ribbon, and objects like bone or glass beads were braided into their hair. The difference in braid styles and adornments was a clear indicator of the different class ranks.
In modern society, cornrows are worn prominently by African-American women. Caucasian women who wear cornrows in contemporary society are not viewed positively. They are regarded as being culturally inappropriate. So this leads to many issues about what hairstyles are and are not considered culturally appropriate.
Culturally appropriate hairstyles are a contemporary issue. Historically, everyone was allowed to wear the braid style of their choosing, no matter which culture they belonged to. This issue leads to the next point of which culture can claim the braid as belonging to their specific culture. The answer is not one to be expected.
Who Was the First Culture To Wear Braids?
Depending on the person being asked this question and their area, the answer to this question will vary.
Some people believe the first cultures to wear braids originated in Africa, while others believe the braid dates back even farther than African culture. There is archaeological evidence to support both claims.
Therefore, an exploration of both these answers is needed.
Braided hairstyles have been around for thousands of years and have spanned many cultures in those thousands of years. So no singular culture can ultimately claim the braid as its own, though each culture has its signature variation.
The oldest recorded evidence of braiding is the statue Venus of Willendorf. This statue is estimated to be between 25,000 to 30,000 years old. Not much is known about its origin, but it is one of the numerous statues surviving from Paleolithic Europe.
Hairstylists Larry Sims and Alysa Pace credit the origins of braiding to the Himba people of Namibia, Africa.  Braids from this culture date back over 5,000 years ago. However, Pace credits other cultures for different braids throughout the history of time. Genesis Career College also agrees that braids originated in Africa. 
However, other sources disagree with this statement. Between 1200 to 500 BC, also known as the Bronze and Iron Age, art emerged showing many cultures with braids. This art depicted people from the eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Caucus, the Near East, and North Africa with braids in their hair.
So there is no clear answer as to which culture wore braids first. What is known is that braids have a long and rich history. Braids are, in their own right, an artistic expression depicting power, beauty, and grace.
The Celts did wear braids, cornrows included. And the first culture to wear the braid is open to educated opinion.