For many women, hair is not simply something that grows from their head, but an accessory to be styled with every and any outfit they own. However, for Black women in particular, hair becomes a political statement and a representation for who they are. To the outside world, straight hair on a Black women represents a sort of professionalism and togetherness. And it is not only white people who often are caught slipping into these beliefs, but Black women as well, who see box braids or twists and think of the woman as having an artsy vibe to her – where as dreads suggest a certain edgier feel. The way Afros are seen depends on the hair type, with looser curls suggesting a sort of flirtation while kinkier hair is more likely to be seen as unruly and unkept.
These negative perceptions surrounding natural hair steer women away from embracing their curls. This drawback is balanced with the belief that more can be done with straight hair, style-wise. With straight hair you can curl it, crimp it, put it in a pony-tail, but half in a ponytail and bun-it-up. But… you can do all of these things with natural hair as well, and more.
The myth that natural hair is not versatile needs to be put to rest for once and for all. Black hair can be styled in an abundance of ways, and with braiding techniques becoming ever more prominent and utilized in Afro styles, the ideas are endless.
“Some people claim natural hair is not versatile because they just see it as curly hair that goes in a ‘fro only, but it’s more than that. You can discover so much about your natural hair but you must have patience. At first, I didn’t like my natural hair because I didn’t know what to do with it; however, over time I learned that many different gems/styles came with natural hair. Thinking back to when I had straight hair, all I was able to do was wear it down or put it in a ponytail; however, now that I have natural hair I can do an Afro, a high or low puff, updos, ect. Having versatility with my natural hair makes me feel free,” said Mia.
As for the root of the problem when it comes to Afros being seen with defining negative connotations, Tierra cites that:
“The Afro has had a negative connotation since the sixties. Black women who stood for racial and gender equality during that time spoke loud and proud with their hair picked out in perfectly rounded afros. That natural look was threatening because it was the representation of a woman who resisted conformity.”
Amanda took a deeper dive into the issue of natural hair, pushing past the 1900s and delving into the beginning.
“Historically, people have been steered away from embracing their natural hair because Black people have always been made to feel less than, in every way, because of their skin color and of course the texture of their hair. Black people, especially women, were always told that their natural hair was uncontrollable and too hard to manage because its ‘nappy,’ so they started to straighten it. They would be told that straight hair is pretty and professional and that hair that grows naturally out of their head is unacceptable. They were never taught how to actually care for their hair, some people only started to understand how to care for their hair in the last couple of years. Not knowing how to care or style your hair will have you thinking its not good enough and not versatile enough,” Amanda said.
The versatility issue has encroached upon us since the beginning, but many Black women have begun to reject these negative connotations surrounding their hair; they refuse to fall into the trap of encompassing these messages that they are less than, and instead adorn their hair with the love it needs to pop.
“When it comes to natural hair, versatility is everything! I’m not limited to a single style of look that defines me. I can shift from as sleek and conservative as I want to be or to as wild and free as I may feel at the moment. I’m always allowed to be electric,” said Sianey.
When entering the natural hair movement, you’ll find a lot of YouTube tutorials and styles to choose from, all ranging by hair type and length. But remember that our hair has history and this romance with the past, which extends to present day, is faithful.
“I come up with new styles by looking at trends online, and also look at traditional African hair techniques such as braids, bands knots, headwraps, ect. I appreciate African techniques because it’s the best way to handle African/Afro hair. Protective styles like braids, cornrows, twists and dreads were derived from Africa in order to maintain our hair. Why not continue to use these techniques today? ” said Jade.
Use the hashtag #HuffPostVersatility on Instagram to show off your hair and get styling ideas from others.