Spiky coronavirus haircut growing in popularity in Africa - here's why

May 11, 2020

A hairstyle featuring distinctive braided spikes that look like the coronavirus has begun a resurgence in East Africa.

The style's revival is partly related to the financial struggles linked to the coronavirus restrictions, with it being so cheap, along with raising awareness that COVID-19 is real.

The distinctive style had gone out of fashion after real and synthetic hair imported from places like China, India and Brazil began to enter the market thanks to increased demand by locals and displays in hairdressers across the continent.

In a makeshift hairdresser's at the side of the road in Kibera, a slum in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, Sharon Refa has started braiding the hair of young girls into what has been dubbed the "coronavirus hairstyle".

While wearing a facemask, she said: "Some grown-ups don't believe that the coronavirus is real, but then most young children appear keen to sanitise their hands and wear masks. So many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle."

In Kenya, as of Monday, the official number of confirmed cases stands at around 700, but the real number could be far higher, due to the lack of testing resources, with officials particularly worried about the spread in the slums.

Restrictions in Kenya have meant that many people, who were already struggling to make ends meet, say this hairstyle is easy on the pocket, while in keeping with current fashion.

It is thought to cost the equivalent of 38p to get the braids, compared to an average haircut cost of around the equivalent of £3.80 - money people living in the slums can't afford.

The hair is styled using a technique called threading, which uses yarn, rather than expensive fake hair braids.

"COVID-19 has destroyed the economy, taken our jobs from us, and now money is scarce. I therefore decided to have my child's hair done up like this at an affordable 50 shillings, and she looks good," said 26-year-old Mariam Rashid.

"The hairstyle also helps in communicating with the public about the virus."

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