Hair has played an integral part in human identity across most cultures, being a symbol of social status and beauty.
In early civilizations, hair indicated a person’s family background, tribe, social status and phase in life (ie: whether someone was in mourning or had just gone through a certain rite of passage). And since hair was on top of the head, it was believed, especially in ancient African cultures, that hair was the gateway to a connection with God.
Hair was a major identity marker during the slave era, and slaves were placed in a social hierarchy of most and least important as a result of the texture of their hair. The straighter and closer to Caucasian hair it was, the higher the social status of the slave.
Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, hair still plays an important role in identity and beauty. I’ll zoom into the beauty aspect of it, particularly pertaining to black women as black female hair continues to be a talking point in many social circles.
Black women spend lots of time and money on making sure that their hair looks impeccable. Hair is considered as a beauty and fashion accessory that can make or break your overall look. Whether you choose to wear weaves or go the natural hair route, maintaining your chosen hairstyle takes a lot of effort.
So, if you’re going to try and understand black women’s hair, here’s a basic guideline to get you going:
Firstly, eliminate the idea that black women can’t pay for the maintenance of their own hair, because that’s not true. As much as hair is social, it is a private thing that a black woman budgets for accordingly so that she can maintain it in her own way. So enough with the gasps upon hearing how much the bill is at the end of the salon visit. It’s all accounted and budgeted for.
Asking to touch a black woman’s hair is as offensive as it is unnecessary. Not only will you transfer germs from your hands onto her hair, but it’s patronizing in a sense that you’re subtly saying that her hair is some kind of freak show that you need to discover.
Don’t act all weird when a black woman tells you that she doesn’t want to swim or take a shower without a shower cap. The biological make-up of black hair is such that it curls back into an afro when it gets wet, and the last thing a woman needs after straightening her hair with relaxer or getting a weave, which costs a small fortune, is to have it ruined by water.
Stop complaining at the large amount of time a black woman takes to get her hair ready. It takes time to style it just right, and going to the salon to spend the whole day getting hair done is a form of personal down time.
Kindly stop with the weave vs natural hair debate because I think it’s unnecessary and played out. Women choose to wear their hair in the manner in which they prefer, and it mostly has nothing to do with proving a political point or showing allegiance to some subculture. It seems that way only because society chooses to politicize black hair.
Yes, some hairstyles are expensive, but refer to the first point to see that women pay for their own hair. In any case, the amount of money a black woman chooses to spend on her hair is no one’s business. Stop trying to police female identity and dictating what a woman can and can’t do.
With all that said, I’m sure you have a better understanding of a black woman’s hair.
*image from Instagram.