My hair journey has been a long one. Like most every other little Black girl, I grew up with poofy braids and twists done by my mother. On the rare occasion that I did wear my hair straight or in his naturally curly state, I would always receive comments reminding me that I had “good hair,” a term that I now know is problematic but used to swell me with pride as a child. In any case, I can now see the ways in which that shaped my hair journey.
At about twelve I convinced my mother to let me get my first relaxer so that I could wear my hair straight, just as I had seen most of the Black women in my life wear theirs. However, my hair quickly became damaged, so I grudgingly went natural, but I maintained a blowout most of the time. Eventually, though, I grew to love my afro and it became a major part of my self-identity. I gave up blowouts because I thought this was a good thing until I realized that I found all of my beauty in my hair. This, and damage caused by my mismanagement when I first began caring for my own hair prompted me to cut it all off.
This was something I never thought I would do because my hair had always been so important to me, but even though I admittedly hated it at first, I grew to love my lack of hair. While this remains true, I eventually grew bored and decided to start wearing wigs. My wigs give me an opportunity to try anything which is something I love, but now I never know how to answer people ask what I’m “doing” with my hair. The truth is, I’m not sure what’s next.
So, I’ve decided that the best way to determine whether I should keep my hair short and continue to alternate between my practically bald head and wigs or grow my hair back is to explore why I and other Black women cut their hair in the first place.
Despite the numerous protests of my father, this trend has garnered much popularity. Young Black women across the country, but especially at Historically Black Colleges, have decided to trade in their bonnets for du-rags. This is an interesting phenomenon when you consider how important hair is to the perception of femininity.
Grace Jones, an obvious style icon, was one of the early pioneers of Black women wearing their hair in masculine cuts as it fit her persona, which was not at all traditionally feminine.
During an appearance on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, Jones said that cutting her hair was a “sacred thing.” She went on, “It’s something that one really never does, and so when you do it, it’s so–I feel like a nun.”
While not everyone is crafting an image like Jones, many other Black women also note cutting their hair as a significant experience or life change.
Rebecca Johnson, a friend of mine and a proud baldie, says “I cut my hair because at the time I was getting rid of things that I felt weighed me down. My hair took up too much space in my mind and in my life, so I got rid of it.”
However, the decision isn’t that serious for everyone. Olivia Miles, another friend of mine and proud balide, says “I cut my hair initially because when I was 16 I shaved off a portion of my hair on the right side of my head and when I got to Howard I wanted to cut it all off so it could grow back evenly, but I ended up falling in love with the bald look.”
My personal conclusion is that everyone cuts their hair for different reasons and it was a bit naive of me to think I could condense everyone’s experience into one. Where does that leave me as far as what’s next for my hair? I’m still not sure, but what I do know is that cutting my hair has taught me much more about myself than I ever expected and because of that my emotional connection to my hair has evolved immensely.
Be the zeitgeist.