The journey of natural hair is one that is rich in cultural, political, and societal significance. From braids, locs, and relaxers to the recent acceptance and celebration of natural hair, this topic has been an integral part of the Black community, particularly Black women, for generations.
In this blog post, we will delve into the history of natural hair, exploring the different styles, movements, and trends that have shaped its journey. Whether you're new to natural hair or have been embracing your curls, coils, and kinks for years, we hope this blog post will provide a fascinating and informative read.
Let’s get into it!
The Origins of the Natural Hair Movement 💇🏽♀️
Hair strands are made of keratin, a type of protein. And most of us have between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs sprouting from our scalps. One of the most controversial ways to express yourself is how you wear your hair. However, the history of natural hair is steeped in cultural, political, and societal significance.
With 66% of people in the hair industry being people of color, it is a topic that has been an integral part of the Black community, particularly Black women, for generations.
Natural hair has always played a significant role in African-American culture. Cornrows, locs, and afros are just a few examples of the many natural hairstyles that have long been a part of our cultural identity. But ideas based on Eurocentrism and racial supremacy have taken over and changed these trends.
The popularity of sleek, straight hair can be seen in fashions from different eras. Society accepted European traits more openly, and the more Black people adopted these traits, the more "normal" they were seen as.
The Timeline and Evolution of the Natural Hair Movement ⏳
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, hair straightening was the norm among Black women. This was because of the way Europeans thought about beauty and the desire to fit in with white society. Hot combs were used to straighten hair and make it more manageable, but they were harsh and damaging.
The use of chemicals, such as lye and guanine, was also widespread. These chemicals were highly dangerous and often caused hair loss, scalp irritation, and even chemical burns.
It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that the natural hair movement started to gain momentum. Black people were encouraged by the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, and the Black Arts movement to be proud of their history and culture. This resulted in a rejection of previously held beauty standards and a shift toward acceptance of natural hair. Afros became a way for Black people to show their pride and reject the Eurocentric beauty standards that had been put on them for hundreds of years.
For decades, Black women in the United States experimented with many ways to style their hair, from perms to Jheri curls to wigs and braids. Some members of the Black Power movement, such as Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Bobby Seale, and others, made a political statement by sporting afros and other natural hairstyles.
During this time, braiding and cornrowing, which have been done in Africa for thousands of years, also became more popular. These styles were seen as a way to embrace cultural heritage while also being low-maintenance and practical. Braids and cornrows have remained popular styles to this day, with new variations and twists being added to them.
Locs, or dreadlocks, also gained popularity during this time. This style was seen as a way to reject European beauty standards and embrace natural hair in its most raw and organic form. At first, locs were seen as a way to stand up for yourself, but now they are a popular style that people of all races and ethnicities love.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the relaxed hair movement regained popularity. Relaxers were seen as an easier and more manageable option for Black women who wanted straight and manageable hair.
A Frenchman named Francois Marcel Grateau is credited with inventing the heated comb, which was widely sold and used in the United States for the purpose of smoothing hair. Soon after, at the beginning of the 20th century, the number of products that could change the texture of black hair grew quickly.
This was due in large part to the success of Black people. Annie Malone and Madame C.J. Walker both made their fortunes in the hair care industry by inventing groundbreaking products like Poro Preparations products and the Marcel curling iron, respectively.
The Resurgence of the Natural Hair Movement
In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the natural hair movement. Black women and women of color in general are speaking out more about how they want to embrace their natural hair and reject the beauty standards that have been put on them in the past.
The fashion and beauty industries have also taken notice of and backed the natural hair movement. Major brands, such as Shea Moisture, are now catering to the natural hair market, and many hair salons and barber shops now specialize in natural hair care. Many Black women and women of color are proud of their natural hair on the red carpet, in music videos, and on social media, and this is reflected in the media as well.
The acceptance and celebration of natural hair is a testament to the strength and resilience of Black women and women of color. It has been a long journey, but one that has been worth it. The natural hair movement has helped to shift beauty standards and has allowed Black women and women of color to embrace their heritage and culture in a new and meaningful way.
The Bottom Line
In contrast to the first wave of the natural hair movement, which was all about fighting for acceptance and equality, the second wave is all about demanding equal representation. The online curly community is expanding rapidly, curly-haired role models are educating others, and beauty companies are pushing to provide more curl-friendly products.
Today, the natural hair movement is still about not getting your hair processed and being proud to be Black. It is also about growing and taking care of healthy hair. It's amazing to watch this movement continue the work of its predecessors and develop into what it is today.
We encourage you to follow us on social media for more ideas on how to proudly wear your natural hair!