By Sami Thompson, News, Entertainment, and Features Editor
In the modern age, hair has become more than just a body part. It is also an accessory. For many African American women, it is an essential part of their culture. Millions of dollars and hours worldwide go into creating the many hairstyles of African hair. From making bold political statements to just expressing a fleeting feeling, celebrities and normal women alike transform themselves with their hair. Their hair is a lot more important to them than the outside world might think.
“People tell me I’m exaggerating when I say Black girls say their hair is their pride and glory, but it is,” Juju Maduka, AHS junior, said.
Yet the world of wigs, weaves, relaxers, and natural curls still seems to be scrutinized, questioned, and generally unknown to the average person today. So what makes Black hair so different anyway? In short, Black hair is just extremely curly. It is so curly that it is hard for natural oils from the scalp to flow down the hair strands. As a result, the hair is not typically as shiny, fine, or soft to the touch as the hair of other races. The curls also cause shrinkage; the hair often coils so much that it appears to be way shorter than it really is. The beauty of this, though, is that Black people have created multitudes of ways to keep their hair healthy and fabulous at the same time. It has become part of Black culture to be unafraid to show the variety of styles and looks African hair types are capable of, and to show that beauty isn’t confined to one narrow standard.
“The first two questions I get are ‘is that your real hair?’ or ‘are you mixed?’ People don’t think Black people can have long hair, but we should be able to do whatever we want with our hair, no matter what people think about it,” Jayln Tillerson, AHS sophomore, said.
Box braids, Senegalese twists, corn rows, twist outs, bantu knots, weaves, wigs, and relaxers are just a few of the ways women style their pride and glory. But this distinct variety comes at a high cost. Weekly visits to the salon, spending extra hours at night moisturizing and braiding, installing $800 weaves, redoing relaxers every month or so, and much more take up a lot of time, money, and energy. Corporate America has begun to take notice and has had to adapt to the growing industry of Black hair. According to Unruly, the entire industry is expected to be worth half a trillion dollars by the end of 2017. Mainstream brands such as Pantene, Suave, and Dove have had to make changes to their companies in order to appeal to Black consumers.
In recent years, a natural hair movement has developed. More and more African Americans have decided to let their curls grow out naturally, adding more to the bountiful diversity and originality that is Black hair.
“I enjoy the simple things in life. The fact that my hair is natural and doesn’t have a lot of chemicals in it, not bone straight or fancy, just reflects who I am,” Jeanette Scott, AHS English teacher, said.
It’s impossible to deny that African hair has quickly become a symbol of empowerment, a way for women and men to show the world who they are and encourage the rest of society to have greater acceptance of Black culture. As self-expression is an admirable practice in this day and age, people applaud women such as Rihanna, who has changed the color and styles of her hair continuously throughout the 2010s, or Lupita Nyong’o, who shamed Vogue for saying her cultural Eastern and Western African-inspired hairstyle at the 2016 Met Gala was an Audrey Hepburn remake.
Like those celebrities, many have come to see their hair as part of their identity. Black hair is expression. It’s kinky; it’s straight; it’s curly; it’s beauty; it is authenticity in its purest form.
“I just like the curls and the waves and the thickness. It’s different. My hair isn’t like a lot of other people’s. I just like it. There’s a lot of different things I can do with my hair,” Tillerson said.