Much Ado about Hair

I recently completed Chimmanda Adiche’s new book Americannah and I must say it is the most down to earth book I have ever read . One of the issues she got me thinking about is the issue of hair versus identity.

The hair believe it or not is one of the most emotional part of our body. There is a direct relationship between our hair and our self image. Just a slight change to our hair- new hairstyle or haircut, our friends can tell the difference a mile away. I’m not quite sure why we tend to be so self conscious when we have something new on our hair. We tend to peek into any mirror we see (even reflections)just to remind us I guess, of what we look like. We tend to run our hands over the new hair more often than necessary. And we often find ourselves taking more pictures, compare them with older pictures, post some on Facebook and wait for comments virtually or physically.

If our hair is so crucial to our self image should anyone prescribe to us what hair we should have on? Well there sometimes tend to be an ‘argument’ among black women whether or not it is okay to have natural hair or weaves. In the end, these arguments tend to collapse in to preferences and orientations.

For #teamweaves or #teamperm they often believe that the quickest way possible to look good is what they want on their hair. They often don’t care so much about the cost of this decision. Looking good is all that matters. So there’s nothing wrong with putting chemicals in the hair if it will make it look good. There’s nothing wrong in rocking a 22inch Cambondian weave. Anything that looks good, they don’t mind having on. They often crown it all by saying, ‘I am not my hair’

The second end of the argument #teamnatural believe that the best thing to do is to give their hair a chance. So they are not worried about the texture or uncanniness… They pick up the challenge and work their hair. What I have often noticed however, is that #teamnatural (not on purpose) tend to be critical of others who don’t join in the movement. They obsess about hair- research about products and talk a lot about hair. You know how people obsess about food are called foodies, I call those who do the same to hair ‘hairist’. If u meet a real hairist you might just become one! Usually, #teamnatural women mostly have had bad experiences when they were in the other teams I mentioned and vowed to love their own hair.

So now you know a little about these two teams. What do you think? Is hair really a means of identity or it is just an accessory like clothes?

I would really appreciate your opinion.
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18 thoughts on “Much Ado about Hair

  1. #teamnatural honey. ๐Ÿ™‚ So anyway, hair is definitely part of identity. It screams volumes to people about who you are. A couple of hair ago, anyone who was #teamnatural and so rocking an afro or locs or twists was seen as making a political statement. Now it’s more of fashion. However, it still remains that hair is more than an accessory. It’s a statement. I found your analysis of #teamnatural so insightful. That’s so me right there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Obsession with the right products is so true. Haha. The critical of others part, not so true. Some do but others don’t. It’s mostly those who just went natural who are most critical about everybody else. Whatever be the case, i think we tend to obsess over hair more than necessary which is why it is probably so important for our self-image. Love this piece though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. #teamnatural in the building *shakes bottom and pats mini fro* LOL. As long as people can describe me like this “that fair tall girl with short hair”, I believe that the colour of my skin, my height and my hair are part of the things that make up my identity. So yeah, hair is a part of ur identity. And yes I agree, most team natural people are CRITICAL! I’m like can u just calm down, it’s just hair. But that’s the thing, it’s not just hair for many people; it’s an identity. And yes, I’m a hairist. It kinda comes with the territory when u’re team natural cos u’re entering unfamiliar ground so u have to research and try loads of products to tame ur unfamiliar mane etc. Great post

  3. l wish team natural folks weren’t so critical. Africans in the past wore natural hair in a different way (rubber, braids) hardly ever fluffy afros so it’s true that natural hair makes you obsess about products. like jen said its like unfamiliar territory for a lot of people. I’m trying to grow out my natural hair but im not yet full blown team natural and I already had to research. I’m only doing it to let my hair rest from chemical so it means natural products for a change. I may still use a relaxer down the line and yes I’ve worried about if my own natural hair would suit me! There are lots of issues also surrounding hair…lots!

  4. I jst finished d book Americanah and I totally get ur write up! To me in d end it is a matter of choice and comfort, if u comfortable natural and u can maintain it do (let’s be real keepn natural hair is hard work) but if u nt comfortable with natural hair or find it hard to maintain or u jst simply don’t like it fine its ur life to live! Jst be happy but remember to look good!

  5. I am so #teamweaves but I really love how natural hair looks. I don’t think I’m bold enough to rock the look tho. Hair is a part of ur identity. There is this confidence you get when your hair looks good and you know it *biggrin*

  6. I remember having this convo with you .
    Am #teamnatural all the way!!! rocking your hair afro is not just a look but a partial statement of who you are. Hair is defo part of your identity. Completely agree that #teamnatural individuals do preach about hair because they wish to share the knowledge and the passion… Lots of love y’all!!! And yes maintaining natural hair is very demanding not too mention time consuming but well worth it when you see the result.
    But @ the end it’s all about personal preference. Education on afro hair is what we need to encourage us and embrace fully our identity.

    Superbe piece, love it.

  7. Disclaimer: I know this is generally designed to be from the perspective of an African, BUT please hear me out…

    As a white girl from the US, I find this post to be very interesting. I’d identify myself as #teamnatural because I choose to get my hair cut about once/twice a year and don’t ever color treat my hair because I think the sun does a fine job of highlighting naturally. I’ve permed my hair a few times to add volume/curls over the past 10 years, but I don’t obsess over such decisions. Such decisions are mainly revolved around the fact that I’m just lazy and cheap.

    That being said, I learned the importance of hair from women in Africa. When I studied abroad in Accra, Ghana, I was not used to the consistently hot/humid weather, therefore I would always just throw my hair up into a sloppy hair-do assuming it would get ruined the instant I stepped out my hostel. I never gained attention, positive or negative, and just went about my way representing #teamnatural. Halfway through my semester, I got my hair braided and joined #teamweave. It was beautiful, I must say. So beautiful, I had it done again before I went home to show it off in the US. I do not like attention, but I couldn’t tell you how much easier it was for me to make friends in Ghana. Ghanaian girls and guys started talking to me and wanting to hang out – It was a bizarre change of pace for me. I was accepted.

    I define “identity” as “who you are.” That being said, I wouldn’t say my hair defines who I am. I actually felt that my hair allowed other to falsely determine who I was. During my mid-semester transition from #teamnatural to #teamweave, *I* never changed who I was; my hair was an accessory. An accessory that allowed others to identify *with* me. Therefore, I don’t feel that the definition lies with the one who chooses their hair style, but more-so a judgement of someone defining your identity for you. What my unintended social experiment helped me understand was that #teamweave developed an open forum of acceptance from what appeared to be “important” to Ghanaian society: hair.

    Please take this as a lesson to never pre-judge someone by thinking you know who they are by how they choose to represent themselves through their hair. Let’s just say – I was cool all along

    I hope this makes sense and isn’t just a ramble of nothingness to all! #obruniperspective

    • Thanks for your take on this Shelly. You are right, eventually we are not our hair… We choose to express ourselves sometimes via different hairdos. But that doesn’t define us in anyway, and shouldn’t.

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