In 2013, I wrote an article titled; “Is Natural Hair the New SEXY?” in which I stated among other things that I admire and love the growing generation of natural hair rockers of which many are departing from the cosmetic influenced conception that relaxed hair is beautiful and ought to be more acceptable.
This was way before many of today’s natural hair rockers jumped on the bandwagon.
To some extent, I equated natural hair to smartness and sexiness—but that was also before a bunch of the new shallow natural hair rockers hijacked the culture. It was at the time some sort of a rebellion against the establishment and popular idea, that the African woman must wear a hair belonging to a different race to feel accepted.
Interestingly, in 2015, a spoof study emerged which “trashed” my position, claiming that women with natural hair have lower self-esteem compared to women with treated hair.
In relation to the research, NewsNerd reported that; “According to the study by Bountiful Hair, natural hair being viewed as a messy look is causing many women, who wear their hair in that manner, to feel inadequate and less desirable as their counterparts. Those feelings of inadequacy causes women with natural hair to lash out at women with treated or straightened hair, and in turn lowers their self-esteem.
Of the 3,000 women who participated in the study, 2,500 said they did not feel as pretty as women with straightened hair. Pilar Ciara Jones, who says she participated in the study, stated, “some days I just don’t know what to do with these naps — and on those days I just avoid the mirror altogether.”
“I try to tell myself that wearing my hair natural is all about empowerment and expressing natural beauty, but there were times when I just did not feel pretty,” Jones continued. “When you continuously break combs because your hair is so nappy, and you use everything in your refrigerator to try to tame that mane, and you still have hair so rough you could polish rocks, you begin to re-evaluate your choices.”
“At one point I was using a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs on my hair every day to try to soften it. That’s when I knew it was time to make a change. I got a relaxer and a Brazilian weave down to my butt, and I have never felt prettier,” Jones stated.
Bountiful Hair says the feelings by Jones are common among women with natural hair.”
Note that the above research is false, it was a satire—just to throw support behind the natural hair movement and perhaps point out the growing fact that a lot of low-self esteemed women are now rocking natural hair too.
Over the years, my obsession with natural hair women has grown stronger and whenever I find myself at events, I mostly hit the natural women up for conversations—mostly, they tend to be intelligent and confident. Don’t be fooled, I’ve met some who are just disciples of whatever is trending.
The market has been diluted and the natural hair trend has somewhat become a cool fashion today—not necessarily, with any strong personal identity or political idea behind it anymore.
What has also become common with the new natural hair rockers is the fact that a lot of them are wearing tacky hair; basically shabby. Any attempt to alert these people to the fact that the growing acceptance of natural hair does not mean we should welcome matted hair is met with anger and twisted arguments.
When a lot of people cry that their natural hair has fetched them some sort of less favourable treatment, mostly, they are confusing their unbefitting unkempt hair with it just being natural.
Though the supposed Bountiful Hair’s research is satire/parody, I completely agree with the part that natural hair is more difficult to treat or maintain, compared to relaxed hair or the many weaves around.
And perhaps it’s as a result of this that many of our natural hair sisters throw whatever hair style out there irrespective of the occasion or environment, claiming that it’s natural and even if inappropriate, we ought to accept it for the mere fact that it’s natural.
Last week, a Londoner made it onto the BBC when she claimed that her “London employer has told her on a number of occasions not to turn up for work with her natural hair.” If this is wholly true, then that’s sad but I bet it goes beyond just her hair.
Nigerian novelist-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who rocks natural hair once said; “Relaxing your hair is like being in prison. You’re always battling to make your hair do what it wasn’t meant to do.”
That may be true but natural hair does not come cheap or easy either and this is the part of the journey we are leaving behind.
It’s indeed beautiful and sometimes fulfilling to see a lot of women of colour making political statements of acceptance by rocking their natural hair. But we should not also forget the conversation around cleanliness and the appropriateness of style, even if natural.
I am excited my wife is growing her natural hair but if she would end up with a tacky appearance borne out of her inability to style her natural hair to fit appropriately, then what’s the point?
I think we should move the conversation from the acceptance of natural hair in our societies into the perimeters of style and presentation, especially now that its political tenets have been lost to the tacky weird world of contemporary fashion.
The truth is, permed weave or relaxed hair rockers mostly put in a lot of effort to appear appropriate–so why should natural hair rockers be spared the virtue of appropriateness?