By Avery Pannell
What do you know about the hair on your head? Is it dry? Damaged? Straight? Long? Black? Brown? Is it greying too fast? Or maybe leaving you too soon? What do you know about the history of your hair? Do you have culture embedded in every root?
There is no doubt that many of us think about our hair a lot – with good reason. A quote from the Amazon show, Fleabag, “[H]air is everything. We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally, but it is. It is the difference between a good day and a bad day.”
I think we all can agree that no one knows more about the importance of hair than a Black woman. Her hair works miracles, solves crimes, demands attention, strikes an unwavering pose. Her skills are unmatched with a comb or brush. She’s a whiz at applying the perfect amount of moisture and heat. Her wrists and fingers were made for intricate patterns that are only limited by her imagination. She walks into a room as a queen with a crown more valuable than gold, carrying the stories of all her ancestors within every curl.
The history of braids
The origin of braids can be traced back to African culture in 3500 B.C. with the Himba people of Namibia. Braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe, along with a person’s age, marital status, wealth, power, and religion. It was, and is, a social art. The time and effort put into braiding allowed for socializing amongst generations, and because of that, it became more popular around the world.
There are so many different types of braids.
Cornrows (the more well-known style of braids are tightly braided close to the scalp) were traced back to 3500 B.C. More modern cornrows (like the ones children ask their parents for when they go on vacation to the Caribbean) were brought to life in the 70s. Box braids, given their name because of the sections in which the braid is made from, are individual braids and can be traced back to Egypt in 3100 B.C.
Braids are, and have always been, the go-to styles for women with natural textures. They are used for kinkier textures as a form of protection, not just fashion. Wearing braids can protect natural hair from heat damage and humidity.
You can look, but don’t touch
When faced with unfamiliar beauty, curiosity strikes. We forget societal rules such as not touching strangers without permission. It’s completely understandable, but does that mean it’s acceptable? The short answer is ‘no.’
Black hair has a mind and soul of its own. It is a living being on top of our heads. It should not be disrespected because it will retaliate with a force that mere mortals could not tame! The tricky part is that each head of Black hair is its own individual beast. Therefore, you cannot tackle one the same way you would another. Something as small as the oil from another person’s hands can ruin hours’ worth of work.
With that in mind, next time you get that urge to reach out and touch, please do not.
Giving hair a bad name
Have you ever heard of the term “nappy”? It is not a good word to use and definitely cannot be characterized as a compliment. Nappy is a negative description of tightly coiled, kinky black hair. It is a negative way to refer to dry, coarse, tangled characteristics of Afro-textured hair. It is considered very offensive, if not racist. Some Black communities find it inappropriate for even Black people to use the term.
This hair ain’t free
Weave. We know of it, but do we actually know anything about it? Do you know how much a good wig costs? Or even how someone got it on their head? We just know what society tells us. We know as much as Black entertainment has told us, especially Black comedy. But there’s more to Black people than what Kevin Hart says.
A weave is a type of hair extension where hair (synthetic or real) is sewn into braided hair and styled in any desired way. It lasts for 2-4 weeks and is often not meant to be put in conditions it cannot handle – water or intense heat, for example. Weaves can be any color, texture, style, length, etc. They are so versatile that you can be a whole new person every month of your life. It’s no wonder that getting a weave is so popular, especially for celebrities.
All hair, no matter the amount, is beautiful. Our hair can write poetry. It can break barriers, start trends, inspire art, fight battles, and change who we are. We all should strive to respect our hair a little bit more than we already do, whether that means finally using something other than a 5-in-1 head and shoulders bottle or just putting on a hair mask to bring it back to life from years of neglect.
Your hair is one of the few things about you that you can change at any moment.
So, cut it short, grow it out and then cut it short again. Get that style you’ve always wanted to get but were too stuck on your “signature cut” to give it a try. Dye it! Shave it! Get plugs! Go crazy because you can, and you know that because centuries of people have been changing their hair in drastic and amazing ways.
Be bold and love your hair heritage!