The New Hot Hairdo: Just Letting It Be

Illustration for article titled The New Hot Hairdo: Just Letting It Be

In today's New York Times, Ruth La Ferla contemplates the Afro; in today's WWD, Sarah Ballentine describes breaking her addiction to weekly blowouts. Apparently, natural is in.

Illustration for article titled The New Hot Hairdo: Just Letting It Be

Back in April, Simon Doonan campaigned to "bring back the Afro," seemingly ignorant of the fact that for many — including celebs like Questlove, Solange, and Esperanza Spaudling — the Afro is already back. For black women, the movement away from relaxers and weaves and toward natural hair has been happening for years. But La Ferla points to Dante de Blasio, Oprah's big wig on her September issue, as well as the new book about Afros by Michael July, to prove that the hairstyle is enjoying popularity:

Resurgent in films and television and the streets, inspired by a galaxy of pop culture idols, the Afro today seems friendly enough, even downright disarming — a kinder, gentler “natural” pretty much shorn of its militancy.

Natural, yes, although an Afro is not just about letting natural hair do whatever it wants. An Afro requires shaping, grooming, picking, upkeep. (And more, if you have the world's largest Afro like Aevin Dugas, the awesome lady in the video above.) Still: There's something to be said for embracing what you have.

In fact, "You have to learn to accept your real hair texture" is what stylist Amy Lindwall tells WWD writer Ballentine. After 20 years of getting stick-straight hair from a blow-dryer, Ballentine attempts to figure out how to style her hair without help from a device — although she does end up trying tons of products, to hilarious effect:

My once barren bathroom now a test lab, I began experimenting with all manner of shampoo, conditioner, balm, oil, cream, mousse, spray, and serum. Some days I’d whip up a crazy custom product cocktail.

There were some mishaps. I was forced to attend an aunt’s funeral with a wet-look ponytail (more like a rat tail) after overdosing on Rahua Elixir, an otherwise lovely product. I gouged my cheek with a thumbnail after slipping on some shampoo in the shower. And when an ex-boyfriend I ran into at Indochine didn’t recognize me, I vowed never to go au naturel in the city again. I changed my mind moments later, however, after a good-looking guy chatted me up at the bar. Thank you, younger, cooler, more approachable hairdo!

Between these hair stories, some companies realizing there's money in selling plus-size fashion, "love your body" advertising and biracial kids in commercials, honestly, it feels like we've been slowly entering a new era, where instead of conforming to one look — one "in" hairdo, skintone, bodytype — we're finally on our way to being accepting and inclusive and celebratory of all different types of humans. Instead of following trends, are we all going to start following our hearts? Is the new hotness as simple as rock what you got?

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. And I just really love this, from the Times piece:

Reluctant to treat her hair with potentially damaging lye, another Brooklyn resident who identified herself only as Tamar A., declared: “This is just how my hair grows out of my head. I’m not trying to make a statement. I’m just more comfortable being who I am.”


The Afro as a Natural Expression of Self [NYT]

Blowin' in the Wind [WWD]

Image via Miguel Angel Salinas Salinas/Shutterstock.



Disclaimer: I am white as fuck and therefore have nowhere near the amount of societal pressures on me in regards to my hair that black and biracial women have to deal with.

But yes, I sympathize with this article. Because I fought my hair for years and years. It's thick, bushy, wavy, and generally a bit frizzy. It's a weird color. Starting from age 12 I had it dyed, chemically straightened, slept with it braided, got lice, chopped it all off, dyed it again... repeat ad nauseum.

In college I discovered the flatiron. I started straightening the shit out of it every day, trying to get it to lay down like it does when the stylist does it at the salon (a trick I have never managed because it's thick, I'm impatient, and I don't understand how product works).

Then, a couple years ago, an incident at a party revealed something to me: if left alone after a wash, my hair is not wavy. It's curly. I was 25 before I learned this.

Now? My hair is my natural color for the first time in 15 years, and that's okay, and I go to work with wet hair sometimes, and I leave my house with wet hair all the time. And that's okay too. Because my hair? Actually looks better when I do fuck all to it. And that's amazing.