“My hair is my confidence. My hair is my beauty. My hair is my pride. My hair is my strength as a black woman. My hair is me …”
Ask a black girl or woman about her hairstyle preference and be prepared for many different answers. Why? A black women’s identity and her relationship with her hairstyle are intrinsically linked; one cannot exist without the other. Hairstyles constantly evolve: the girl grows into a woman; fashion trends and seasons change. But look a little deeper you will find that culture, be it traditional, popular or political, holds greater power than aesthetics.
The History Of Black Haritage
Past decades are steeped in hair revolutions of various kinds. In the 1960s and 1970s, the natural Afro was a political statement that embraced black power and movements for social justice for black people. A competing narrative is the one where some black women rejected their natural hair because it was considered ugly, dirty and something that would hold them back in life. These social pressures saw black women straightening their hair in order to conform to Western standards of beauty.
Hair straightening was initially achieved using hot combs and later chemical treatments. Around the turn of the 20th century, this spawned a booming black hair care industry. Indeed, one of the first black woman multimillionaires in the US was Madame CJ Walker, a successful haircare entrepreneur. By the 1980s, chemically treated hair was still in vogue and women sought to change the texture of their hair through perms, voluminous curls or poker-straight hair that still reflected Western hairstyle trends.
Fast forward to the new millennium, where men and women are once again embracing their natural hair. In 2016, schoolgirl Zulaikha Patel became a symbol of the fight to legitimise natural black hair in schools after teachers told her that her hair was unruly. A 2014 research paper by Johnson and Bankhead (‘Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair’) indicated growing acceptance for natural hairstyles in the workplace.
Today, women are liberating themselves from social systems that dictate certain hairstyles for acceptance or workplace success. Hair is still a statement of personal taste, but women are free to choose what styles to wear without being judged. A woman’s crowning glory expresses her true character and her beauty radiates from within. Such beauty can be the powerful catalyst that drives a woman to boldly chase her aspirations.
Besides its cultural significance, a new hairdo is as good as a holiday. If a style makes you look good, you feel good! A woman’s appearance impacts her personal, social and professional lives; her self-esteem, identity, mood and attitude are all expressed by the way she looks – and her hair is a core part of that. Miriam Makeba, one of the most celebrated South African artists of our time, is perhaps most famous for The Click Song, but we must never forget about her activism. When she testified against the South African government at the United Nations in 1963, she wore her natural hair as she shook the world.
Darling Hair invites women from all walks of life to express their Hairitage through their hairstyles: choose a natural look with Bantu locks and Vibration, or weaves (such as Nikita and Kerry H) and braids (such as Bright and Bold Yaki and Sorbet One Million Braids). Embrace the diversity of African hair and choose how you wish to express yourself.
By Pearle Peane, Darling Senior Brand Manager. Images: Darling Hair