Our hair says a lot about us. It can be a fashion statement. It can be a political statement. For African-American men and women there has been a conflict about hair. That could be changing.
According to a study in 2011, there was a 36 percent increase among African American women who decided to do away with hair chemicals. That means a hair style that might not conform to a certain image.
But is this a trend or is natural hair here to stay?
“Hair going back to the origins of slavery times, hair has always been a marker of difference, has been a marker of racial difference,” said University of Delaware Professor Tiffany Gill.
Black hair politics
Traditionally what black women have done to their hair has always been read in a political way, since women wore their hair in afros and braids during the Black Power movement but one Delaware group says there is a growing trend for women who want versatility and better overall hair care.
“You see it not just in the workplace but in magazines, on TV’s and in commercials, so I can find more people wearing their hair more natural than anything else so I think that I have seen a trend for that,” said Tywanda Howie.
Tywanda Howie decided to ditch hair chemicals in 2009 and started to blog about her natural experience, later forming the group Delaware Naturalistas, before she knew it, a network of women was following her. Professor Gill says while more women are going natural, companies are taking notice and even capitalizing on the natural movement by coming up with hair care products aimed at black women. However, she says that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an accepted trend.
“We can think of that as sort of a victory in some ways but also not to overshadow that there’s still discrimination against women in certain industries based on how they wear their hair,” said Gill.
Professor Gill has written a book “Beauty Shop Politics: African-American Women’s activism in the Beauty Industry”.
“African American women sort of asserting their hair in its natural state is just a way to reclaim that their natural state of blackness is beautiful,” said Gill.
Reality versus practical
Despite that mindset, Victor Nichols felt forced to cut his hair in the past just to get a job. Now Nichols current employer welcomes his natural hair the way it is. As a result Nichols shares a popular question he often gets from his co-workers.
“Do you think they’re going to ask you to cut it and I say there’s no reason why they should…why? Cause I want to wear my hair like that too but I don’t want to lose my job because of it,” said Delaware resident Victor Nichols.
This is all too familiar to local hairstylists who had clients in the past who feared their employer so much they would try to hide their natural hair.
“I’ve had people who have had locks and I would braid them and they would put on wigs to go to work or put on wigs for an interview because you have to go along with what society wants,” said Nicole Scarborough of Get Twysted Salon
On the flip side more hairstylists are now seeing women who hesitated to express themselves naturally finally come out with confidence.
“Somebody who kind of went with the crowd and stuck with the straight hair may not have accept it the beauty of it before but it’s coming around people are feeling more comforting with accepting it,” said Chanel Williams of Loves Hair Lounge.
No matter what spectrum natural hair among black women falls on, many believe it’s here to stay.
“A lot of women are trying to instill that positive self image into their children where little girls are enjoying wearing their hair curly and out, and wild and crazy, and not have a care about it. So I think it’s here to stay because we’re starting to pass it on, pass on that self love and respect for yourself and hair that God gave you to our children,” said Akira Grenardo of Delaware Naturalistas.
The response from African American women in Delaware going natural has been so positive, the Delaware Naturalistas will host their second hair expo this year at the University of Delaware campus on September 28th.