The release of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary film introduced many non-black people to the mysterious world of black hair. As articulated in Rock’s film, “good hair” is essentially any natural-grown hair texture of hair that is not an afro or in the 4 category. Like most black people, the concept of “good hair” and “bad” or “nappy” hair was instilled in me well before 2009.
These days, you’ll find me hitting up my beloved barber the minute my hair gets long enough to require a comb. In college, I rocked my then trademark ‘fro and on my predominantly white campus, I was like a local celebrity. But I would be lying if I claimed that those were not a challenge at times.
Straightened or natural, black hair care takes time, money, and discipline. Many say that black hair takes patience. I believe that it takes discipline. The unintentional “messy bun” was always intentional, that is, if it could even be even be achieved. Natural black hair is certainly more accepted in pop culture than it was 15 years ago, however, it hasn’t gotten any easier to manage.
I came across a very interesting video which featured a black woman and a white woman swapping hair regimens. After my first time watching the video, I felt embarrassed for the black woman as the white woman complained about all of the heavy products and tedious steps she had to follow to execute the black woman’s regimen. To make matters worse, when the black woman finished completing the steps to the white woman’s regimen, which appeared effortless in my eyes, her hair looked dry and deprived.
Watching the video the first time all the way through made me feel as if black beauty had been revealed to be fraudulent. Beauty should be effortless, yes? Real beauty is messy buns! All hail the messy bun!
For whatever reason, I watched the video once more. After the second viewing, something that the black woman said stuck with me. While reading aloud the products needed for the white woman’s hair routine, she jokingly referred to the products as different forms of “air”.
As cool as it would be to be able to run my fingers through my hair on command, I’m not quite sure how I could handle paying for “air”. Also, be reminded that people with oily and/or 1 and 2 type hair have to wash and style their hair more often than someone with hair like mine; this means they would have to replace products more often. My college roommates were potentially spending $40 a month on “air” and colorful advertising!
Box braids are a popular style worn by many black women with an afro and curly hair. In addition to their versatility, when taken care of, they can last anywhere from 1 to 3 months (and, yes, our hair can be cleaned in that time). If you’re unable to install the braids yourself, stylists charge at least $120 or more for box braids depending on clients’ desired length and/or braid thickness. Black women from penthouses to the projects are willing to pay for this expensive style, and I believe its worth it.
At first glance, one would wholeheartedly disagree. And that would be understandable. But let us dabble in a little something I like to call perspective.
Another style gaining popularity is the messy bob. I absolutely adore this style and its another style, like box braids for black women, that is versatile and looks good on pretty much anyone. I wish that my hair was naturally straight so that I could achieve this effortless look. Based on pricing at Hair Cuttery in downtown DC, it would cost the average client a minimum of $40 for a hairstyle like this. But is that $40 dollars really worth it for someone with 1 and 2 type hair if a) the curls will likely fall within 24 hours and b) you are going to need to wash your hair in 48 hours?
And just what about 3 types? Isn’t that life a coveted happy medium? 8 words: heat damage, frizz, crunch, no perfect products. Not to mention, getting too over-zealous with a comb could very much end in you being a 4 type for a day anyway.
Pretty will inevitably hurt your wallet or your scalp, or both. I should have known better than to doubt Beyoncé. We will continue to buy into because, well, pretty is pretty darn pretty.
But who is really winning?*
More importantly, why, in the 21st century are we still competing?
Regardless of race or texture, even in a society still desperately clinging to eurocentric standards of aesthetic, it’s hard to say that there’s really any group of women or metrosexual who is having a smoother time in the hair department.
*I am electively bald, and therefore the winner forever. 👴🏽
Jiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.