What do you utilize in your hair?
This can be a query I am requested lots. Principally by random individuals in random locations; the automotive park of a soccer stadium, the yoghurt aisle in a grocery store, church, public transport, a restaurant bathroom, a toddler’s party, on the road… As unusual because it sounds, that is really not unusual in any respect. The questioning doesn’t essentially happen as a result of I’m a magnificence journalist (I am primarily approached by full strangers) and even as a result of my hair is especially nice. Moderately, this curious hair interrogation is just one thing black ladies do.
Over time I actually have approached ladies I’ve by no means met to search out out the place they get their extensions achieved and if the hair they use is Peruvian, Mongolian or Brazilian. As soon as, after recognizing a girl with beautiful waist-length braids (assume Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice) I ran throughout a busy highway Bolt-style simply to amass the variety of her braidist. I’ve struck up conversations on tube carriages, sprinted up escalators, tweeted ladies I do not know to search out out the key to their good twist outs (a preferred pure coiffure). Now that the pure hair motion has gone stellar, our random accosting of ladies to find the trivialities of her hair routine has elevated no finish. It is in all probability all the way down to the truth that many people, after shunning a long time of chemically straightening our hair, are nonetheless attending to grips with what our actual hair texture is, the way it behaves, what it loves and what it most undoubtedly doesn’t. For somebody like me who likes to speak in regards to the intricacies, pleasure, frustrations, complexities, magnificence, capricious and versatile nature of black hair, having this discourse, even with a complete stranger, brings me inexplicable pleasure. (I as soon as wrote that the conversations ladies of color can have about hair would make Struggle and Peace learn like a sub-heading). And so when the millionth stranger stops me to ask “what do you utilize in your hair?”, it is probably the most regular factor on this planet. Besides when it is not.
Not too long ago I used to be approached, with stated query, at a practice station on my solution to work. As per ordinary, I replied in earnest and intimately. My reply tends to fluctuate as a result of my job signifies that often attempting completely different magnificence merchandise is a prerequisite. Proper now I really like the shampoo and conditioner within the Pantene Gold Sequence vary, particularly developed for Afro hair. It softens and hydrates in a means that places a lot of its dearer (however in the end, much less efficacious) rivals to disgrace. For co washes; Residing Proof, Curlsmith and Shu Uemura’s Cleaning Milk are totally divine. Styling merchandise are nonetheless a piece in progress so for now I preserve it easy; a hand-crafted detangler, Ghanaian Shea Butter and Aunt Jackie’s Flaxseed Gel; good for my understated, scraped-back bun. The girl thanked me and off I went. Weeks later, I noticed her once more chatting away together with her pal. She caught my eye; so I smiled and gave a tiny wave. She waved again saying reasonably loudly, “ah, it is the woman with the nice hair!” Bodily I saved on strolling. Mentally I ended lifeless in my tracks. Did she actually say “Good Hair?” I used to be totally mortified.
Not lengthy after that, I used to be having a hair dialog with one other girl, who like me has pure hair. She did not agree that she may put on her hair in the identical means I do as a result of her texture is “too powerful’ whereas I’ve “good hair”. I used to be so greatly surprised that I stuttered my objection, which she dismissed anyhow, nonetheless unconvinced. For individuals who do not know the historical past behind this time period and have by no means watched Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair or thought that when Beyonce cryptically outed the girl behind Jay-Z’s misdemeanours as “Becky with the Good Hair” she was merely referring to somebody who has an excellent blow-dry, let me clarify. The time period “Good Hair” is nothing to do with type or end. It’s all about texture and it’s deeply rooted within the psychological trauma of slavery and racism. In her ebook, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, Lori L. Tharps says, “the nearer your hair was to white European hair, the extra probably that it was that you simply had white blood in you. That meant that you’d have extra entry to higher meals, higher schooling, preferential remedy and be extra more likely to be let loose – so actually good hair meant a greater probability at life. It wasn’t about magnificence in any respect; it was about survival”.
So the implication, stemming from the times of slavery, was that there’s such a factor as “Unhealthy Hair”. Unhealthy hair was deemed as thicker, denser, tightly curled, non-straight “untameable” hair that defies gravity. It was the sort of hair that may preserve you in slavery. This hair would not cross the comb check – or extra not too long ago, the pencil check; a check used throughout the apartheid regime in South Africa to find out racial identification. It concerned sliding a pencil by way of the hair of an individual whose racial identification was unsure. If the pencil fell to the ground, you “handed”. If it did not, you had much less rights than a white individual. Astonishingly, this solely formally resulted in 1994.
These ladies referred to my hair as “good hair” as a result of I had pure Afro hair that might be pulled again right into a bun and appeared comparatively slick, clean and straight. I may see I used to be anticipated to take this as a praise. Nauseatingly, as a younger unenlightened teen, I in all probability would have. This was London within the late Eighties the place until as a black woman you had “good hair” or hair that had been “straightened-out” (like some sort of drawback baby), something “different” was just about ridiculed. Even cornrows. It was the age when one of many worst insults your friends may throw at you was that you simply had “piki” hair (thick, densely-coiled chemically unprocessed hair). Unsurprisingly relaxers and straightening irons reigned supreme. And so the “good hair” remark would have had me eating out for weeks on the endorphins they emitted. No one revelled in or celebrated what was primarily typical Afro hair in its pure type as a result of that was “unhealthy hair”. That is the insanity we had been fed for hundreds of years.
Quick ahead to 2018. There’s the unimaginable pure hair motion, the ushering in of a beautiful new period the place ladies are actually boldly taking off the disgrace and shackles of the previous and interesting with their pure hair texture in all of its superb unadulterated coily type. After which after all there’s the rising variety of position fashions representing this highly effective assertion; Lupita, Solange, Lineisy Montero, Maria Borges, Karla Loyce, Kelela, the whole Clean Panther solid… (Camille Buddy, the pinnacle of Black Panther’s hair division requested the solid include their pure hair and banned relaxers, flat irons and sizzling presses on set).
There’s a lot development and but, my “good hair” conversations (and some extra incidents since then) have highlighted that the frighteningly distorted, regressive mindset hooked up to black hair is unfortunately nonetheless very a lot alive. There stays a plethora of individuals persevering with to internalise, normalise and perpetuate this unfavourable, historic stereotype of what constitutes good and unhealthy hair. Some ladies, while not chemically processing their hair, have admitted to me that they’re nonetheless “not fairly prepared” to disclose their pure Afro hair texture as a result of it isn’t fairly “ok” or “lengthy sufficient”, so that they utterly conceal it away below wigs. For years. Coiffure decisions are one factor however this? It is akin to relationship somebody you’re keen on however are ashamed of and so that you by no means introduce them to your family and friends. And I get it, most black ladies have been there – you do every part along with your hair bar accepting it in its pure state. However for me these days are over. Some days my hair is kinky, coily, coarse, different days bouncy, curly, puffy, fluffy… after which it may well shock me and be the entire above. It is a journey and I am loving the experience in all its erratic surprise. My texture would not make my hair “good” or “unhealthy”. It simply is. And so it must be for everybody. So let’s name time on this. Time to reject the antagonistic, hateful language we use to explain our hair. Time to rejoice and fall in love with our differing hair textures with all their idiosyncrasies. Time to eradicate a way of thinking that has been our regular for a lot too lengthy. Come on, it is 2018. Time’s up, individuals.