Braids, Dreadlocks, Waves, Twists, ‘Fro’s, Cornrows: Hair
The versatility of Black hair is a marvel.
Starting from early African civilizations, hair could signify what tribe you belonged to, and your place in the hierarchy. This could be seen through early West African braids.
Skipping forward to the Civil Rights era, Afros were seen as a symbol of defiance to the European standard that had been set. Our hair seemed to push the boundaries that were in place.
Today we can see all sorts of styles, from all kinds of people. From 2B to 4C, “Black Hair” can be pinned down. Hair can be the symbol by which we tell the world who we are.
In the sea of faces, and crowded hallways teenagers finding out who they want to be can be a complicated realization. For black teens battling the strict rules many schools can have about hair, a style can have so much more weight on one’s head. The next five students you’ll meet can show us how important and universal stories of hair can be, and how they express themselves through it.
1. Taja S.
“I can see how my hair defines me now”
“I feel like, depending on what hairstyle you get it shows your personality and also depending on how long you have it in for, because for me certain hairstyles — for example the faux locs I had before, I had that in for 2 months, and this style I’m going to have that in for a while too. I play a sport, so with these styles, I won’t have to worry about my natural hair — I do like having natural hair but I won’t have to worry about getting it done. My hair will also grow because I’m not putting heat on it. I used to put heat on it like, almost every single day. I can see how my hair defines me now.”
2. Nakai H.
“Nobody else has what I have”
“When you walk into a room, [Hair] makes you feel more powerful. Nobody else has what I have, because I’m doing something different with it. So when you walk into a room you feel like you stand out. I want people to have a sense of what I’m about when they look at me, I want to leave people thinking about my interactions.”
3. Calvin B.
“It’s a Culture”
“It’s hard out here being wavy you know, You put in a lot of hard work but I love my hair. It’s a culture. Some people don’t really understand why I obsess over brushing, but those who know, know.”
4. Maleah S.
“I Think it’s really different”
“Well, I’m not natural-I have a perm. So I’ve been getting a perm ever since I was maybe around eight. At first, I was kind of mad that my momma did that to me when I was that young and I didn’t have a say in it, but now I just rock it the best I can, I try different styles with it, and I like my hair! I’m not natural like everyone else [at school] I think it’s really different.
5. Gavin R.
“This will be my hairstyle until I die”
“I have to twist and braid up my hair every night. In a way it makes me feel so free. Whenever someone tells me to ‘cut my hair’ I feel like they’re telling me to stop being free. I’m an artist, an artist can’t be constricted. I can’t see myself with short hair anymore. I don’t really know how long I’ll keep my hair like this…I’m convinced this will be my hairstyle until I die.”
The importance of hair may seem like a trivial thing at first glance, but for these teens, there is a heavy significance. Black hair care makes close to $56.2 billion in the United States, with shops all across the nation existing solely for the purpose of styling and maintaining our hair.