Embracing the Kinky of Hair

By: A’Breya Young 

I can remember walking into class with a fresh hairdo. My classmates stared with perplexed looks on their faces, and before I knew it, the looks turned into words. The questions poured in like a tidal wave in the ocean. “Breya did you dye your hair?” “Oh my gosh, did your hair shrink?” “What’s that on your head?” It had always troubled me as to why my hair was so different in comparison to my peers. In the words of Beyoncé, I wanted to be like “Becky with the good hair”, which I could only accomplish in my dreams. This is when I realized that my hair did not need to be fixed; it was people’s perceptions that were broken. Sew-ins, crochets, afros—you name it! There are many variations of hairstyles that demonstrate the uniqueness of African-American culture. So, without further ado, ladies… and gentlemen, take out your pen and paper. I am about to educate you on some things regarding the kinky and silky-straight.

Cornrows

To get a full understanding of the evolution of black hairstyles, we must dive into history. Cornrows originated in Africa around 3000 B.C. Toni Love, cosmetologist and author, explained how different patterns of the braids indicated a person’s tribe, religious belief, social class, and age. Women in the tribe began to express themselves by adding charms, flowers, twigs, and beads to their hair. Around the 1960s, the Black Power Movement popularized cornrows and afros. Cornrows were pushed into further popularity when the public eye began to see celebrities rock the new style. Stars such as Stevie Wonder inspired African-Americans to boogie down the road of black dignity.

Braids 

In the early 15th century, as Africans boarded slave ships, white colonists would cut women’s hair, stripping them of their pride and culture. Having been forced into hard labor all day, female slaves did not have the time or energy to do what was left of their hair. Instead, they would just do a simple plait on their heads. Fast- forward many decades later. In the 1960s, the perception of black hair and women had changed tremendously. African American women began to spread the message of self-love through their hair roots. To break away from traditional standards, African American women wore many new hairstyles no one had ever seen before. The concept of cornrows that was introduced by African slaves became the foundation for other styles. Hairstylists applied the same concepts to braiding extensions in the hair. Seeing Tamar Braxton and Beyoncé rocking these styles on stage makes me proud to whip my braids back and forth.

Afros

For a long time, black women covered their kinks and curls to conform to European standards. As white supremacy rose though, women saw a way to rebel: by changing their hairstyles. Black female jazz singers and dancers wore their hair unstraightened on stage, breaking away from the norm. For many years black men and women wore this style without a name until other civil rights activist followed. As this style was popularized, it became known as the afro. This new style, called an afro, dominated black culture. Notable individuals such as Diana Ross, Foxy Brown, and Bernadette Stanis, paved the way for afros to become a symbol of black beauty and pride.

Black Hair Pride 

For years African Americans have been suppressed into fitting into European standards. As an act of retaliation, blacks let their hair run free to embrace the culture that has been hidden for so long. This comes to show how political climate caused blacks to reject beauty norms and embrace the kinky of their hair.

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