Who Wove The First Sew-In Weave?
Have you ever looked at something and thought, who comes up with this stuff? That’s the exact thing that I’ve been wondering when it came to weaves.
Who decided to use fake hair and what hair we should use? Who thought that sewing wefts onto braids were the easiest and last the longest? Weaves rule the world nowadays, and they seem, like everything else, to have been around since the beginning of time with no real origins.
Where Did Weaves Start?
While I cannot trace the exact moment somebody strapped on a wig, reportedly weaves date back as early as Cleopatra’s times.
And this comes as no surprise! In those times weaves were made of human hair and dyed sheep wool. People used beeswax or resin a substance that is easily attached through heat or being left out to harden and comes from flowers.
During Egyptian’s time’s hair, weaves were dyed red or blue. Depending on the coloring, and styles weaves showcased money, age or status. The idea of weaves and condition are reminiscent of today because although anybody can afford tracks or weaves, one can still see the money in the hair.
Later came the famous white powdered wigs, that we associate with Queens and Kings. These wigs were made of horse hair and used to hide baldness or as a sign of status. At this moment in history, weaves were standard for all races and both men and women; it was not seen just as decoration but a sign of strength to have beautiful and exaggerative hairstyles.
“Switch,” Or clip-ins gained popularity and priced at about $25! “Hair frames” were used to attach hair to the head, which was a thin instrument made out of thread and formed on a spool. From there weaves popularity extended and from the 40’s on through time people were obsessed with more extended, bigger hair.
And then in the 1950’s Christina Jenkins shook the game forever.
Who Invented Sew-Ins?
Christina Jenkins was born in Lousiana in 1920. She landed a job in a Chicago wig factory and became infatuated with the hair industry.
She used this career as a place to focus on better ways to install hair weaves and hairpieces that had been around since the beginning of time. During this time the hair used for weaves were stitched together to make a “track” and weaves were attached using hairpins to connect the hair to the scalp and thoroughly blended into the hair.
Jenkins got the idea to sew the tracks into the hair believing that it was easier and quicker than the hair pinning method. In 1951, she applied for a patent for her ‘HairWeev’ technique approved in 1952. As a hairdresser, Jenkins patented the basis for hair weaving that we know of today.
Though some people argue that the Egyptians had already mastered this technique, it created for Christina Jenkins for reconstructing how weaves are done and getting documentation on the weaving process.
What’s So Different From Sew-ins Then and Now?
The sew-in method was not entirely like the one we know today.
This new method of weaving was time-consuming because the natural hair had to be cornrowed, and then sewn onto a netting that was then placed over the hair and sewn down to complete the style. The method achieved by interlocking the synthetic hair and the real hair in a looping pattern at the base. Her new technique helped weaves last longer and become more sturdy as one of its primary benefits.
While her process helped the duration of the style, this switch to sew-ins initially did nothing to make the weave less bulky or stiff. As time progressed, hairstylists have made improvements on Jenkins sew-in method. Additionally, after the lengthy installation time, the extensions still cumbersome, stiff and unnatural.
Christina and her husband owned a company called “Christina’s Hair Weaves,” and they were hired out around the country to teach others the new weaving process.
She also held and operated a hair salon where she styled clients and taught countless others her weaving methods until 1993.
Weaves Transformations Throughout The Years
The next significant development in weaves and wigs came about because of African American women.
African American women in the late eighties and early nineties pushed for weaves to look more realistic and flowing naturally instead of stiff, and hard to the touch.
Eventually, weave became made with real human hair, incorporated less synthetic blend and virtually got rid of horse hair as a means of making hair extensions. The rise of more natural looking and feeling extensions caused a massive import of hair from foreign countries.
Since hair textures for extensions were feeling more natural, it was time for the installation process to have another upgrade as well. Utilizing Jenkins method, hair stylists around the world tweaked the process by using thinner sewing thread, skipping the netted cap or making the cap thinner and braiding the sew-in foundation with smaller, closer braids for a less bulky and flatter weave.
Additionally, these new adjustments allowed the hair weaves to be more natural and easier to style.
Shout Out To Christina!
Imagine if the only options for extensions were bobby pins digging into your scalp or clip ins!
As a thin-haired girl, there’s a slim chance I would be pulling that off, especially in the humidity! I know I would convert back to rocking my natural hair for sure.
But thanks to a fellow African American woman, #BlackGirlMagic, I will never know a world without sew-ins! Sadly, Christina Jenkins died in 2003 and only got to see a small glimpse of how her work has taken over the hair game. Overtime Christina’s weaving contribution has allowed others to make vixen sew-ins, basic sew-in styles and the closures and frontals we all know and love today.
Christina Jenkins sew-in method helped shaped the hair industry and had blazed a trail for future stylists around the world as teachers and creators.