September 30, 2009

Does your hair really matter? I believe it does.

Within the past year a big focus has come upon African-American women’s hair. Michelle Obama’s hair has especially garnered a lot of attention! This article, “Why Michelle Obama’s Hair Matters” on Yahoo! News caught my attention, opened my eyes and made me think. When Tyra Bank’s talk show premiered in September, she decided to reveal her “real hair” and declared September 8th National Real Hair Day. Even Chris Rock is in on this. His daughter asked him, “Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?” which led him on a journey (which will be his new movie-Good Hair) to find the answer.

Now why would I really find this fascinating?

Because, as it said in the Yahoo! Article, “hair has classification power.” Think about it? I think this discussion has more to do than just with African-American women’s hair, though those thoughts, truths, and history are extremely intriguing to me. It has to do with every woman.

Hair is an important part of every girl’s life. It matters! Every woman’s hair, no matter the color of skin or hair, has a true significance in her life at some point or another. She could love it or hate but at that point it made a difference on how it looked and affected her.

Colors and textures are stereotyped. If you are blonde, you are dumb. Brunettes can be boring. Red heads have a temper. Curly hair means you are wild. And “braids, twists, afros, etc”[Yahoo] all come with their own stereotypes. “From long and straight to short and kinky - and, of course, good and bad - these terms become shorthand for desirability, worthiness and even worldview.” [Yahoo] Hair defines some women. Tyra was known for her different weaves as much as her modeling. Jennifer Aniston could not snip a strand without it being the next big thing. Would Megan Fox be as sexy without her long dark tresses? Macy Gray wouldn’t seem herself without her afro? Hair plays a bigger part of your life than you think?

Do you truly know your “real hair”? Without dyes, weaves, perms, any kind of heated tool, fake hair, or any kind of product in it, do you know what it looks and feels like?

The past year, I have been in a fight with my hair to figure out what exactly type it is, and what works best. And though I still haven’t quite figured it out, the main discovery is that my hair is wavy in parts and straight in others and likes to do what it wants. Just like a snowflake, no type of hair is the same. During my teen years, I damaged and dried my hair out with the help of a hair dryer and flat iron every day. This past summer I cut off all the damaged hair deciding that my hair and I would start anew. I have a feeling its going to be a long journey. I can’t quite bring myself to give up dying it, which I know has a big effect on the texture.

But all of this focus on “real” hair sure has made me think. I write this post to start a healthy discussion about hair and how it can affect you. Nothing more.

Do you know your “real hair”? Are you stereotyped for your hair? Do you care? Let me know!


Photo Source:


  1. We live in a 5 second first impression society, people evaluated as quickly as cereal boxes by outside appearance. Genetically we are geared to face and head profile to recognize or evaluate another person... so yes, hair matters.

  2. I am a caucasian female and I too believe hair matters. My heyday years were in Dallas,Texas,HS class of 82;the era of President R. Reagan,Michael Jackson, Madonna, Boy George, disco,and yes "big hair. Hair loss/excessive thinning/bad hair plays no favorites to gender, color, race or creed.In acknowledgement of the challenges AA folks face with having "bad hair" certainly bad hair verses no hair have the same prejudices, and stereotypes. I have always had "fine hair" wishing for more course hair, but certainly a full head of hair.

    My gradual loss began shortly after my22 year old son was born. At 30 years it was becoming noticeable, but mostly only to me. By 35 years it was evident to those who knew me. By 40 it was becoming embarassing almost unbearable. Now at 45 I must do something. There is no medical explaination given by doctors. What am I to do? Wigs purchased on line to deliver to my house for my approval only to sit staring at me from my dresser on a wig stand? My solution, perhaps short term due to being cost prohibited the expense is a hairpiece/semipermanent wig that I began wearing just in the last 4 months.a feeling of guilt of vanity/cost compiled with my decision justifying doing such. I can say that clearly since the application of my "hair" I am greeted more sinderly and more often and experience the acceptance that I took for granted when I had my own full head of hair.

    I am recently divorced and am not sure how much my hair or lack of it played. I felt even my husband of 23 years I felt a sense of disapprovemnt, for lack of a better word, due to my hair loss. What happens if, God forbid in this market, I need to go for a job interview and all they pay attention to is my balding head?

    I am now faced with how to explain my hairpiece to potential new friends and boyfriends, before they discover it on their on. It seems the inner struggle goes on and on.

    To those I have revealed my hair "secret" I feel almost appologetic.

    I say all of this to say this: My hair before my hairpiece was always on my mind, now it is still on my mind but in a more positive way; interestingly though new issues of explaining it all takes its place.

    I have come to the conclusion that I should be very positive about my hairpiece as we do not judge persons such as Dolly Parton, Brittany Spears, or those with lifethreatening illnesses requiring chemo harshly to receive public blessing from our family or to those we do not know.

    Acknowleging the true problems that face us all in the worldr relatively speaking hair loss is on the bottom of the list, except for those of us who struggle with this personal inner and outer issue.

    Thank you for talking about this issue openly.

    Robbie Thomas

  3. I've got naturally curl hair. It's one of the genetic gifts my mother passed on to me, but as a child I hated it. Brushing it was always a nightmare and because of the fights and crying over my curls, my mom kept it short.

    I've had short hair most of my life, really. Only now that I'm recently married am I starting to grow it out. It's at the request of my husband and despite my hesitation to grow it out, I'm determined to keep in manageable.

    There are some things you just can't expect with curls. Smooth hair is one. There always has been, always is and always will be fly-away. Another is perfect straightness. I flat-iron my hair occasionally, but if there's even the slightest hint of moisture in the air, my hair will seek it out, suck it up and curl right back into the corkscrew it started out as.

    I think, in a lot of ways, my hair has taught me that I can't control everything, no matter how much I try. It's okay to have a little rebellion where order mostly prevails. And it's okay to let it be a part of who you are as long as it doesn't change you totally.

    In short, hair is a defining characteristic of every woman and we should be scared or ashamed or timid about playing it up a bit when it comes to that part of us.

  4. I am a 22 year old AA women and I went "natural" this past May. May 9th to be exact-to the surprise of my mother. I have always had thick long hair even before I chemically relaxed my hair when I was 16. It was scary and it still is scary because my grandmother was right. Hair is a women's vanity and comfort at times. When I saw the last of my long hair falling to the ground, I thought I lost a prize piece of myself. Then I learned that I didn't change just my hair. No one else perceived me differently but the problem was that I did. Now, most of the time I forget that I cut my hair, unless a reflective surface appears. Its a new kind of freedom to wake up, shower, and go. To not be afraid of water..which is very lucky now since I live in northern GA.

    Everyday I see more and more AA women going natural and it is such a pleasure to see their beautiful faces. The stigma a black women faces not having a relaxer is surmountable. We don't have to suffer through the chemical burns, the breakage, the 5-7 hour salon sessions, and the major hit to our wallets to be perceived as beautiful and competent. Those who choose to relax-go for it, but straight flowing Ferra Faucet hair is not the only image of beauty.

    I think all of us curly/kinky hair girls (black, white, and all) need to embrace our natural looks and rock them for all their worth. We are beautiful and straight hair doesn't define us.

  5. Without a good shampoo/conditioner, hair silk, and my flat iron...I have curly, dry, frizzy hair that would look a mess, honestly I wouldn't be caught dead with wearing it naturally outside of the privacy of my home. So it matters a whole hell of alot to me!

  6. As a child no one knew I had thick curly hair. My mother kept it short. I would go to the barbershop with my brother and get my hair cut. They called it a pixie cut.When I got into middle school I asked my Mom if I could let it grow out. To my surprise she said yes. I let it grow and grow. The longest was halfway down my thighs. Long beautiful, curly, thick golden brown hair was mine. My friends nicknamed me Frizz in school,especially when it rained. I still have my long hair at 50. It is still golden brown, and silver and white are blending nicely with it. My grandfather had beautiful silver hair and soft as a childs. I hope mine does the same, I would be thrilled. I have never straightened it, and dyed it only once, did not like it, so I let the natural color come back.To this day women I know envie my hair and men think it's beautiful and want to touch it. I have always liked my hair,it's part of me and I am very comfortable with it. Like a mane on a wild horse, that's me.
    Sign me,
    Wildly Frizzy

  7. I have very long, thick, kinky, frizzy, curly hair. Yes, it is a pain about 99 percent of the time, but my hair does see the light every once and a while, and that's what i live for. But no straighener, curler, or any other products are a match for my hair. I have spent endless hours trying to get my hair straight, yet always end up feeling defeated. I have been thinking about having my hair permenantly straightened since i was ten, but have never had the heart to do it. It's just so much a part of me that changing it would be like cutting off an arm! Yet i might just end up feeling lke everybody else with their straight heads. I feel i might lose some of my individuality. Yes i am stereotyped for my hair, such as people calling me "the black girl." While yes I am some small fraction of African American, I believe i get my hair from my very frizzy-headed caucasian father. I've had people for years tell my I should cut it and have an afro; but i just dont see me with an afro quite yet. And, there have been some really immature guys who have found some pretty nasty things to compare my hair with. Yet, its when those certain people come up to my and say, "Wow, i love your hair!! It's so long and curly!!" is when i realize that i should embrace my crazy locks. Because its what makes me special. My hair matters.

  8. I am a man, an African/Crow/Creek Indian man. Hair is important to me. I care for it. There has always been an attachment to the spiritual nature of hair from both of my bloodlines. The growth of it has been an indicator, and had the power to keep the inner man introspective in a manner similar to the way the Earth ties me to its mystery; its essence. That may sound a bit much for a Western culture but our religion, an elder told me once, is our religion. The African part of me curls my hair, and strengthens my commitment and resolve to be strong upon the planes of existence that hold me fast to the calls upon my short life on Earth.

    There is a tradition among many Native tribes to cut their hair in grief. I said I never would, but while my Grandfather was letting his spirit go into the other world this past September my hair began to fall of and taper itself in the back. It stopped when he died, and has started to rebuild its strength. I don't quite get that but the hair covers the crown chakra. Hair, or hats cover that spot on top of the head where our soul leaves our body, and the movement between worlds of higher learning and knowing occurs silently by our will or involuntarily in death. From birth we are told to protect that soft spot as it hardens closing off the exit we could take if we, at some point early in life, realized we should take off and leave this place before we became adults.

    Hair is a puzzle in Western culture. The vanity that styles women’s sense of self styles their hair in a way that has little to do with the Sacred Feminine so desperately hidden from our collective consciousness. Because women are steered away from the mystery, and the intangible power of the Sacred Feminine, and the initiatory aspects of being a Woman, as opposed to being a babe, the whole of societies suffer the loss of power, and direction the Powers of Life designed for us to be Men, and Women, and Children, and a People.

    The Christian walk teaches the importance of women covering their head with hair and cloth. But in this century it is scoffed at because the accompanying teachings dictate submissiveness to men that modern women question, and reel from with the hurts of twenty plus centuries of abuse at the hands of men’s doctrines dictating their birthing process, and role in life, family, and community. Hair in the 20th century took on a rebellion from the beginning to the end of the century. It was fascinating to be alive during half of that movement of discovery, and casting aside of paradigms that did not, as Jesus said, allow women to live life abundantly.

    Hair is important. In every sphere of our complicated lives, the lies we tell ourselves, and the truths we cuddle up with to be comfortable in our lifetime. How it affects our dignity, and ties us to each part of ourselves, and speaks to our sense of beauty within, and tells the world what they want to believe about us is all tangled up in our hair, or lack there of. Hair is powerful. In death it grows. ~ Gregory E. Woods, (Dawn Wolf) Keeper of Stories

  9. Also, this is a very well written piece.


Do you like what I'm posting?