At a time where women were pinning weaves to their hair with grips and pins, Christina Jenkins invented a more natural weave known as the sew-in. Jenkins’ creation, invented in the 1940s, involved three cords and a device called a weaving frame, allowing women to seamlessly sew switches of hair into their natural hair. It was a far contrast from the old method of using unnatural and bulky weaves which were prone to slipping, Stylist reported.
Tonight I discovered this beautiful African American woman named Christina M. Jenkins is the creator of the sew-in weave. She invented the “hair weeve” technique of sewing the wig to the scalp & received a patent for it in 1951. pic.twitter.com/XNnC2i6U2B
— farxiyo. (@hausofriya) August 6, 2018
The woman, who was born Christina Mae Thomas in Louisiana in 1920, left a lasting impact on the world with her innovation. She described her method as "interweaving strands of live hair and strands of commercial hair, with cord-like material to permanently join the strands…"
Her idea came to life in 1949 in Chicago, where she was working for a wig manufacturer. While working there, the pioneer searched for ways to make the company’s wigs sit more securely on the head. Jenkins, succeeding her goal, then filed a patent, which was granted in 1952, but was challenged and overturned through litigation in 1965.
After filing her patent, Jenkins and her husband moved to Ohio, where the trailblazer taught the hair-weave technique to cosmetologists and stylists. With her creation gaining popularity around the world, people in other countries invited the stylist to come and teach them how to sew in hair weave, Thirsty Roots reported. The Louisiana native also opened Christina’s HairWeeve Penthouse Salon in Cleveland, which she ran until 1993.
According to Black Then, some historians have said that Jenkins' method was used in a similar fashion in ancient Egypt.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the late Ohio U.S. congresswoman, praised Jenkins after the iconic inventor died at the age of 82 in 2003. Jones said the legendary creator is “a pioneer in the field of cosmetology” and her invention is a “revolutionary contribution” that has “helped to boost the self-esteem of men and women across the world.”
Jenkins had been breaking barriers since her younger days. In 1943, she graduated from Leland College in Louisiana with a science degree, at a time when it was rare to see a woman getting a chance to study at a higher level. In the same year, the college graduate married Herman "Duke" Jenkins, a well-known jazz pianist.