In love with big hair

2012-06-30 09:23

It’s time to celebrate ’fros, weaves and braids

I am a black hair enthusiast.

I can discern a quality Brazillian remy weave and find you a synthetic one that’s almost as good for a fraction of the price.

I know my braid-out from my twist set.

Like millions of girls, Kelly Rowland, peering with eyes and teeth all a-sparkle beneath her gently flipped tresses, from the box of the Dark and Lovely relaxer kit sold me the dream – “for the straight look that lasts.”

It never did. I’m what they call a type 4B/4C (that’s kinky-haired, for the uninitiated). And I’m ok with it.

So 3rd Degree’s programme this week was of great interest.

The premise was natural hair versus weaves. The result: the multi-tiered complexities of black women’s hair choices shoe-horned into half an hour of rhetoric with limited nuance.

The echo chamber of indignation that ensued on Twitter was expected. From the black women, that is. From the men I got a varying mix of baffled indifference – my favourite hash tag #hair codesa.

That black women’s hair and bodies is the continual site of political haggling is not an expose.

But personally, I’m not waging war against some Eurocentric ideal when I implement my hair regime.

I knew nothing about hair care when I used relaxers years ago, and so ended up losing a lot of mine.

So eventually I stopped. Simple as that.

I also happen to enjoy the ritual of it: deep cleansing, moisturising, plaiting, styling – that girlie gratification that follows the time-consuming but loving gestures of investment in my hair? I like it.

So for every time they wheel out the old “is the media to blame?” cliché to question the popularity of processed hair and weaves, my rebuttal is “thank God for Youtube!”

Virtually and in person, the word has been getting out among African American women that it is entirely possible to look cute without processed hair.

Their stories vary: some are political, most are about self- discovery and all are collectively convincing enough to have made a dent in the multi-billion dollar black hair business.

Apparently, consumer spend on relaxer kits was down by 12% in 2011. That’s a few times as big as Mzansi’s own hair care GDP of R18 million.

Beyonce’s sister Solange Knowles nowadays positioned aesthetically as the anti-Beyonce, seems to have located her niche as a socialite, some-time DJ and patron saint for natural pundits – or “naturals”, as they are labelled.

She’s famously photographed in Ankara and other Afrocentric print from leading designers like Maki Oh and Burberry.

She also rocks an Afro now, and endorses Carol’s Daughter, a popular American organic hair and beauty products brand.

Who knows, maybe she can launch an actual singing career on the back of this?

And maybe, since we tend to take our beauty cues from overseas, our hair care industry will get the shake-up it needs to diversify the styling options on offer.

That would be a start, wouldn’t it?

» Okumu is editor of the AfriPOP website

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