Comment: Natural Hair – My Reality Not a Movement

Washed Locs

Over the weekend I attended three hair based events.  Curvolution on Saturday, Afro Hair and Beauty on Sunday and the Britbeauty mixer on Monday evening.  All of them were focused on women of colour and the phrase ‘natural hair movement’ was mentioned a lot. 1-Stop It is a phrase I don’t like because, natural hair is not a movement it is my reality.  Apart from a two year period of Wave Nouveau, (I know, I know) I have been natural, a naturalista, conscious, chemical free, happy to be nappy, whatever you want to call it for the vast majority of my life.  I have sported afros, a middle parting with two big canerows,(my favourite style for school)  two strand twists (a very early precursor to the locs that were to follow thirty odd years later), box braids, (when they were just called plaits), a very dodgy weave (no, there are no pictures of that)  canerows, and afro puffs. I have done my hair myself, my mum did my hair and I have been to budget and luxury salons and everything in between.  I have had my hair blow dried, pressed, tonged, (it was a time before GHD’s) and it has been bleached, dyed and tinted.

1-Patent Purple Retro Side updo

I understand that we see more natural hair now, but we see more of everything now.  Technology has changed the way we view the world.  Not only has it changed how much of the world we see but how quickly we see the world and so when we share information, it is received and reacted to much more quickly.  Previously if I wanted to see the colour of my cousin in Barbados’ highlights, she would take a photo, take it to be developed, put in in an airmail envelope and wait for weeks for it to cross the seas. Now I can just go to her blog, at any time of the day or night and see what she has done.  Cross fertilisation within the black diaspora is huge and immediate.  Are more black women wearing their hair naturally now?  Yes, but more black women are for example getting degrees.  We don’t talk about a higher education movement.  Is the fact that more of us are doing it what defines it as movement?  Is this why it is considered that the UK natural movement has just started to grow? I don’t think it does. I think it documents the activity that many of us have been doing for many years. The other thing that I heard repeatedly within the natural hair discussions over the weekend was a separation of locs within the debate or the description of locs as ‘other’, and it is a worrying trend.  Please understand that the roots of my locs are natural hair as is the length of my locs.  My decision to loc my hair does not change the fact that I have textured hair. Washed LocsI am not going to get into the myths and misnomers of locs here (sigh) – but I will say this:

Over the weekend I was presented with LOADS of sachets and samples from a range of brands that focus on the definition of curls and associated ‘curl food’  eg curl pudding, curl jelly, curl jam, curl butter, curl mayonnaise, and curl custard.  Firstly – why all the food associations?   Curl foodSecondly,  my hair needs

  • Products which condition, nourish, moisturise the hair
  • Products which don’t smell like pineapple soda, strawberry bon bons or nail lacquer.
  • Products which aren’t the colour of blue Smarties, Kool Aid or Fairy Liquid; and
  • Products which aren’t 80% water?Patent Purple Thumb UpMy hair does not need these products because I have locs, my hair needs these products because my hair needs are the same as those with textured hair… because my hair is textured too!  Don’t exclude me.  My natural hair is not part of a movement it is my reality.
  • Halima D.

    Tell ’em Jo! Great post 🙂

    • Jo

      Thanks Halima!

  • Wow Jo! I can hear the passion in your writing! I don’t know a lot about textured hair, so a lot of the terms you use here are lost on me! I do know this, when I lived in Cameroon, women wore a lot of wigs and fake hair extensions and they really enjoyed beautifying themselves this way. But they also did a lot with their hair without wigs or extensions, like braiding and sometimes just let them be loose and free. “Natural,” I suppose is the term for it. For me, I was kind of jealous of the versatility that African women could enjoy with their hair. I didn’t see a problem with wearing wigs and extensions other than that it might damage your hair if you do it too much, or if you’re ashamed of the way you naturally look. I think I’m saying that if I had all these creative options of styling my hair, I’d try all of them and wouldn’t just stick to one look just because it’s the “new movement”. Or am I completely missing the point that you’ve made here?

    • Jo

      Thanks Kareen you have not missed the point – hair is beautiful however you choose to wear it and no one should judge you based on your person decision about how you wear your hair. As you say we have the opportunity to wear our hair in a variety of ways and we should enjoy and embrace that.

      Wow you lived in Cameroon – that must have been amazing. I would love to hear more about your time there.

  • Great post with lots of (hair) food for thought. For my part I struggle with the term “natural” hair. In a Martin Luther King way I look forward to the day when it is just hair full stop! No other group refers to the hair they are born with as “natural’. I suppose it does highlight how processing did/has become the norm.

    • Jo

      Thanks Lynda. I agree with you about us calling hair, hair. I appreciate that for a long time our hair and identity were inextricably linked, but I think it is time for us to break the link and release ourselves from the I am my hair / I am not my hair debate.


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