- Faith & Family
“Hair is the sexiest part of a woman; it supersedes lips, breasts, hips, and legs,” says author Bruce Wendell Branch. The half-trillion dollars spent by Blacks on hair care in 2009 illustrates this fixation on personal appearance. Black women invest in a range of hair styles today, from weaves, to lace-front wigs, relaxers, braids and natural styles. Where did the shift begin from wearing hair in its natural state to the advent of what could be called a boom and diversification in the Black hair care industry?
From a scientific perspective, Black hair in its tight, textured form was used as a natural protection from the sweltering sun in Africa, where the curls provided circulation of cool air to the scalp. The shift from wearing hair naturally to wearing it in straight styles has Eurocentric origins. This Westernized desire of beauty sparked inventions and patents that initiated a multitude of hairstyle trends. Hair straightening became a sensation during the early 20th century from the patenting of the hot comb by Annie Malone in 1900 to the introduction of chemical hair straighteners in the 1940’s.
Hair extensions became heavily desired following the popularization of wigs by Motown artists such as The Supremes. Hair weaves remain a hot topic in the Black community. According to stylist, Barry Fletcher, “Hair weaving can be an asset and could contribute to the growing and maintaining of healthier hair.”
One Black woman has revolutionized the weave industry by creating her own Virgin Indian Hair company. Ericka Dotson formed Indique, which she says is unique from other weave companies because they “fill an information void in the hair industry by educating their customers about weaves through videos, pictures, hair health and excellent customer service.”
During the civil rights and Black power movements of the 60’s and 70’s, natural hair was used as an expression of political commitments and rejection of Eurocentric standards of beauty. Recently there has been a rebirth of the natural hair hype, with natural hair blogs, websites and YouTube How-to videos creating far-reaching inspiration for those looking to transition from relaxers to natural.
By Adrienne Jordan, Miami Times writer