Hairstyles of great women in South African history: 10 iconic looks

Why a list of hairstyles of great women in South Africa? The answer is simple – we’re celebrating Women’s Month! This is also our way of honouring these brave and strong ladies that have helped (and are helping) to shape our nation. Read on to learn about 10 great South African women and their iconic hairstyles.


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s headwraps

Hairstyles of great women: man with long faux dreadlocks and traditional blue headwrap
Source: Adobe Stock

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an activist and politician who helped build the country we live in today. She rocked many iconic looks during her lifetime, some including natural afro styles and sleek cropped wigs. But, her most iconic, and our fav look, was her beautiful head wraps.

Traditional head wraps aren’t just a great hair accessory — they also protect your hair from damage and breakage. That’s right, a hairstyle inspired by a great woman in South African history can be the perfect way to show off your cultural heritage while protecting your tresses!


Helen Suzman’s brushed back curls

Hairstyles of great women: woman with brushed back teased blonde hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Helen Suzman is another great female activist who worked hard to help build a Democratic Republic of South Africa. During her career, Helen Suzman chose a fashionable yet practical hairstyle. She wore her hair in a short curly crop which she styled in a brushed back look.

Toni & Guy 3D Volumiser Spray - product image

To achieve this classic 1960’s look we recommend using TONI& GUY 3D Volumiser Spray. Add volume and body to this hairstyle inspired by a great woman by spritzing the product on your damp roots before blow-drying and styling your hair.


Albertina Sisulu’s beautiful afro

Hairstyles of great women: woman with a big natural hair afro
Source: Adobe Stock

Albertina Sisulu’s big, stretched-out afro style has really become a part of her legacy. Rocking a full afro while fighting for freedom, Albertina Sisulu wasn’t afraid to show off her African heritage using her beautiful textured hair.

Hairstyles of great women come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to a natural ‘fro, follow Albertina Sisulu’s lead and go big!


Ruth First’s curls and side part

Hairstyles of great women: woman with jaw length dark brown curly hair with a side part
Source: Adobe Stock

This is definitely a hairstyle inspired by a great woman! Ruth First was a scholar and activist who wore her curly locks cropped short in a bob. She styled her tresses away from her face with a deep side part that looked so effortless and pretty.

This short bob haircut is great because it keeps your natural curls out of your face while the side part adds height to your style.


Miriam Makeba’s traditional headwear

Hairstyles of great women: woman wearing traditional Zulu clothing and headwear
Source: Adobe Stock

Mama Africa really doesn’t need an intro! Miriam Makeba wowed us with her voice and her twist on traditional style. Mama Africa’s most iconic adornments were her traditional hats which she wore on stage during her performances.

Okay, technically this isn’t a hairstyle inspired by a great woman, but it is a great option if you’re having a bad hair day or if you want to protect your natural strands. Even better, it’ a great way to embrace and show off a part of your culture. Match your headwear to your outfit, or choose a standout colour.


Devi Sankaree Govender’s iconic long bob

woman with shoulder length layered hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Devi Sankaree Govender is an investigative journalist who has had an amazing career and a stunning signature hairstyle to match. The voluminous flippy lob (aka long bob) has been her signature look for years.

This style is great because it’s short, but with a bit of length. Adding volume to your roots is also important when creating this hairstyle because it’ll stop your hairdo from looking flat on top.


Caster Semenya’s cornrows

Hairstyles of great women: woman with straight back cornrows hairstyle
Source: Adobe Stock

Keeping things streamlined and stylish, Caster Semenya is the South African woman who turned cornrows into a hairstyle inspired by a great woman when she wore them on the track and won!

We’ve always been a huge fan of cornrows and we love that Caster Semenya chose this neat protective hairstyle as her winning look.


Lesley-Ann Brandt’s long loose waves

long wavy brown hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Keeping it glam and full of volume, Lesley-Ann Brandt is a South African actress who loves to wear her hair in loose shoulder-length waves. This look is a total winner because a shoulder-length cut paired with waves creates instant volume. For a more lived-in feel, use your fingers to comb out your waves and create texture.

Toni & Guy Tousled Texture Creation Hairspray - product image

A useful way to create and maintain that texture is to use a texturising hairspray. We absolutely love the Toni&Guy Tousled Texture Creation Hairspray for this.


Sho Madjozi’s colourful accessorised braids

long colourful cornrows
Source: Adobe Stock

One hairstyle made super iconic by musician Sho Madjozi is her bright braids, paired with loads of accessories. South Africa (and the world!) went crazy for Sho Madjozi’s playful twist on box braids.

Looking for a funky hairstyle inspired by a great woman for Woman’s Month? Why not try this take on a classic ‘do? Try different coloured braids, beads, hair charms and even yarn to create a Sho Madjozi-inspired look.


Zozibini Tunzi’s bold fade

woman with short fade haircut
Source: Adobe Stock

Zozibini Tunzi’s crisp fade haircut is such an iconic look because it’s not a typical beauty queen hairstyle. Not to mention, her choice in a short crop with a subtle fade on the sides paired so well with her Miss Universe crown in 2019.

This style also showed girls all around the world that all hair types and styles are beautiful! This short crop is not only bold and strong, it shows off your hair’s natural texture. And because it’s completely away from the face, it allows your own natural beauty to shine.


Sign up to our newsletter and get exclusive hair care tips and tricks from the experts at All Things Hair.