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I am not my hair(or am I)

Updated on June 12, 2013

Does Hair Make the Woman?

At my house, Saturday was hair do-ing day as we prepared for church on Sunday and the week to follow. Mom washed my sister’s and my hair, patted it dry (before blow dryers), parting and twisting our tresses into little black orbs, she would undo, one by one and hot comb. The hot comb was predecessor to the flat iron and beauty tool of choice for women of color.

My morher was a beautician who transformed women from ordinary into extraordinary and rare beauties in her kitchen, aiding them in the recapture of their sense of sophistication and special-ness. They came and sat and waited their turn. Talking, laughing and gossiping a little or a lot, this was the original beauty shop where a culture of socialization, circumstance and economics brought women together around the commonality of hair. This unparalleled experience took place weekly and gifted each woman with her individual opportunity to look like a movie star. This was so in black and white salons alike.

She created concoctions of raw eggs, mayonnaise, hot olive oil treatments and pomades. Anything she believed would lead to healthy hair. After all, hair was and is still, a big deal. For Samson, hair was the source of his strength. For a woman, hair is a demonstration of life and vigor; it is the incontrovertible evidence of her femininity, and it is to be desired.

Since the beginning of African civilizations, hairstyles have been used to convey messages to greater society. As early as the 15th century, different styles could "indicate a person's marital status, age, religion, ethnic identity, wealth and rank within the community."[1] Unkempt hair in nearly every West African culture was considered unattractive to the opposite sex and a sign that one was dirty, had bad morals or was even insane.

Hair maintenance in traditional Africa was aimed at creating a sense of beauty. "A woman with long thick hair demonstrated the life force, the multiplying power of profusion, prosperity...a green thumb for raising bountiful farms and many healthy children", wrote Sylvia Ardyn Boone, an anthropologist specializing in the Mende culture of Sierra Leone.

In Yoruba culture in West Africa, people braided their hair to send messages to the gods. The hair is the most elevated part of the body and was therefore considered a portal for spirits to pass through to the soul. Because of the cultural and spiritual importance of hair for Africans, the practice of having their heads involuntarily shaved before being sold as slaves was in itself a dehumanizing act. "The shaved head was the first step the Europeans took to erase the slaves’ culture and alter the relationship between the African and his or her hair." Byrd, Ayana D., and Lori L. Tharps. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. New York: St. Martin's, 2001.

In the century since the end of slavery, African American women (and men) have sought to revolutionize themselves, recreating themselves into desirable creatures by shedding the historic shame that is slavery’s residue. Initially, the thought was to do so not by reverting to African tradition, evident prior to the slave trade but through the adoption of European perceptions of beauty.

Hair was a status symbol in European cultures as well, the ornate styling and intricate design indicative of aristocratic or social bearing. In the 1920’s Anglo women revolted against the common culture and lobbed of their long hair and curls. They shortened their skirts and dared to extend themselves beyond tradition and socially acceptable norms of the day for women, defying what were feminine social standards of that time. It was an attempt at a new found freedom and the belief that life for women could be different and much more.

A similar notion is found in the onset of the Afro in the 60’s and 70’s and the statement this hair style made. However, the afro was more than just a style; it was a declaration of self-acceptance, self- love, self-pride and activism. Angela Davis, civil rights and woman’s activist is an icon and probably the most widely recognized standard of a notable Afro.

Tightly coiled hair in its natural state may be worn in an Afro. This hairstyle was once worn among African Americans as a symbol of racial pride. Given that the coiled texture is the natural state of some African Americans' hair, or perceived as being more "African", this simple style is now often seen as a sign of self-acceptance and an affirmation that the beauty norms of the (eurocentric) dominant culture are not absolute. It is important to note that African Americans as a whole have a variety of hair textures, as they are not an ethnically homogeneous group, but an ad-hoc of different racial admixtures Hair From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Within the culture, members ranked their status and cultural importance based on the color of their skin and the texture of their hair. Those with hair that was less kinky were thought to have “good hair”. Those with hair more kinky were said to have “bad hair”. Hair being an external representation of class, caste, culture and status, it was a visible means to the end of standing. Enter Relaxers…

Relaxers are reams used to loosen the curl and straighten kinky hair. They straighten hair permanently but must be repeated every 7 – 8 weeks to relax the new growth. Because of the strong chemicals used(some relaxers contain lye…remember Denzel Washington in Malcolm X), relaxers have been linked to hair loss, especially if not maintained properly or if over processed. Referred to as “Creamy Crack”, In his documentary “Good Hair”, Chris Rock and others agreed relaxers can be bad for hair health. Chris decided to film the documentary when his daughter asked why she didn’t have good hair. Chris’s response:

Chris Rock says he tells his own daughters they're beautiful every moment he can—and has only one answer when it comes to questions of having good hair. "Whatever makes you happy is good hair," he says. "Do your hair for you, and you will be happy."

Certainly this is true for those of us who are self-confident and self-aware. Being sure of you, whatever your God-given attributes is admirable and lends itself to less heartache ultimately. However we all understand confidence is the destination, not the journey. And the journey may be longer for some than others, especially when the ability to attract the opposite sex is part of the equation.

Long hair si, short hair no

I remember when I first left for college, on my own…doing my thing, coming into my full female-ness and adulthood. After completing my freshman year and returning home, mom noticed my hair was dry and damaged…due in part to the change in the quality of water, but more so due to the lack of tender and consistent loving care, previously provided by my mother. Her response; cut it down to the healthy hair and begin anew. Just so happened, this was during the small “fro” period so while I thought my new “do” fashionable and indeed evidence of my personal commitment to black pride, my father and brother promptly stopped speaking to my mother (and me). They were outraged. When I returned to school and on every call through graduation, my mother greeted me with the same six words..."How you doing, How's your hair?

My college love loved me, I was certain. Yet his attraction for long haired women was obvious. Even years after we met again and rekindled our long distance love affair, he implored me to grow out my hair, even asked that I retain a weaved coif until he could see me. For those of us who seek long hair or just a new look from time to time, weaving is believing. There is wet and wavy, straight, curly, colored, braids, micro-braids, synthetic, human or Remy. Your selection depends on the amount of money you want to invest and the length of time you want your weave to last. If you invest in a high quality Remy; you can wash, condition and curl as if it is your own.

According to a 2008 poll, conducted by Mail Online, men find long, wavy locks the sexiest hair style on a woman...

Long hair is traditionally strongly linked to femininity which we're sure is the reason that almost half of men have singled out this long, thick, wavy hair as their number one sexiest style. It's interesting to see that men still favour the traditional stereotypical looks for women, with long hair coming out on top.

Some men may prefer long hair, but short hair is in and a host of female celebrities, career women and stay at home moms can be found sporting short styles and consider themselves plenty sexy.

Natural Hair

Recently African-American and Inter-racial women have chosen to avoid chemicals and straightening and to wear their natural hair. It is a way of celebrating hair in its natural state. A regimen of daily care and attention is followed to restore and promote healthy hair. Many women have selected the natural course to hair care and styling instead of relaxing.

Sometimes choice in hair style is taken out of our hands. Loss of hair due to illness can impact a persons self-image negatively. However in most cases and if left to its own devices, hair will usually grow back once the illness is mitigated.

NaturalNews) Hair is probably a woman's most important feature. Signs of thinning hair can take the sail out of almost any woman's day. It may seem vain to pay so much attention to hair, but signs of thinning hair are really the first signals of such conditions as hormonal imbalance, vitamin deficiency, excessive stress or poor nutrition, all symptoms of declining health status. Paying attention to hair can reveal developing conditions before they get out of control. When you have restored your hair to a full head of vibrant healthy strands, chances are the rest of your body will also exhibit vibrant health. Thinning Hair in Women: Warning Sign of Underlying Health Issues Thursday, November 27, 2008 by: Barbara L. Minton

India Arie, Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter and record producer says it this way:

Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen and I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
At fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and went all natural
February two thousand and two
I went on and did
What I had to do
Because it was time to change my life
To become the woman that I am inside

I am not my hair
I am not this skin, I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

Thanks mom for your loving care of my hair and me.

Hair Peace #29


Generations of Hair

Bomani D. Armah

Cher - Straight Hair


Love The Hair You're With

  • Long Hair Si, Short Hair No?
  • Weaving is Believing
  • Natural Hair
  • Hair Health

Halle Berry - Short Hair


Angela - When natural meant an afro


Who are your short hair favs?

  • NeNe
  • Charlize Theron
  • Alicia Keys
  • Pink

Carpet...Drapes, WTW?

Man provides his honest views on

natural beauty.

Power to the People - afro


Natural Hair-Natural Beauty


Styling Preferences

What is Your Hair Style Preference

See results


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