Tag Archives: natural hair

The Natural Hair Debate and Beauty Standards

by Latoya Peterson

Via Curly Nikki, we find this awesome video by Diamond Stylz about rocking a natural as a transgender woman. Unfortunately, there is no transcript, but Diamond makes some major points about what informs the choices we make.

Key Point:

First, I wanted to get used to the short, you know, because it’s just something psychological. I just wanted to get used to having my hair short. […]

[After explaining she dons wigs for YouTube videos, but wears her natural hair in real life] I get way less attention from men when my hair is like this. When I have the long, flowy, “ooooh” – wait, let me go get a wig. [Cut to Diamond in long wig.] When I’m giving them this […], when I’m serving them the Jacqueline Smith look, you know the boys go wild. [Flips back to natural] But when I give ’em this, I don’t really get that much attention. There’s a certain type of guy that will [pay attention], but not like it used to be, it used to be all across the board. When you’re looking like that, the guys just flock to you. But when you’re looking like this, its a certain type of guy to you. Usually he’s natural too, or he’s some kind of [puts up the black power fist] you know. […]

So it’s weird. But, the flipside [to the drop in attention], is that as a transgender woman, it helps you blend in more. […] To society, it makes me regular. I just don’t get the same attention. And I’m fine with that. I can go in the world, and not worry about people being in my face trying to clock me and figure out, you know, “Hmmm…”all that kinda bullshit, I just go about my business. Dudes just look over me. But when I have that hair on, things are totally different.

Short and Proud? GQ Grapples with Black Men and “Rebellious” Naturals

by Latoya Peterson

My boyfriend brought home the GQ with a three-quarters naked Rihanna on the cover (for obvious reasons), but warned me against reading the articles.  (He’s a staunch Esquire man.) Ignoring his advice, I decided to flip through the magazine – and the first article in the “Grooming” section immediately catches my attention. In “Say It Loud – Keep It Short and Proud,” Knox Robinson reveals early on in the piece that he sported dreadlocks for close to 14 years.

He describes cutting off his dreads as the acceptance of a life transition:

I was at the start of my thirties and dutifully undergoing the transitions of that age—the arrival of a son, new career moves. With a radically new appearance, I felt distinctly like a man who’d escaped through the back door of a burning building and used the second chance to set out on a completely new path. Old acquaintances stared right past me on the train, and at parties women who once denied my advances wondered who I was.

Which is cool – people tend to use their hair as markers of transitions.  Growing the hair long, chopping it short post-break up, altering it with dye, eschewing dye for the natural color, giving up relaxers or embracing lacefronts, these are all parts of the personal choices (informed by our politics and society) that are small tiles in the mosaic of our identities. And indeed, the transformative aspects of a dramatic hair change cannot be underplayed – a friend of mine recently cut off the locks he had been growing for more than a decade.  But that reason was wrapped up in feeling stagnant in a life and a relationship he no longer wanted.  So the cut, to him, symbolized moving away from the person he used to be, toward the person he wants to become.

However, Robinson takes his piece into strange territory when he starts his analysis, completely disregarding the politics of hair and instead concluding (emphasis mine):

We’re now experiencing a restoration of black cosmopolitan glamour last witnessed fifty years ago, and the guys who define that sensibility are dudes like Usain Bolt, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James, and yes, Obama. I see their close-cropped hair as marks of men singularly focused not on rebellion but on changing the game, or more acutely: results. It’s hair for the man with a job to do rather than a comment to make.

I am amazed that the conversation around natural hair still focuses on the idea of “sticking it to the man” instead of an expression of culture or just a personal preference.  And I am also amazed that so many people still see natural hair as a barrier to professional progress, or a lack of professionalism or focus. I’m often fascinated by the attempted control of people through their hair (see: teachers cutting children’s hair; indigenous children being barred from school for wearing their hair long, the contempt shown to men who wear their hair long because it isn’t “‘masculine”) and how this control is often dressed in the language of “growing up” or “being professional.”

Articles like this one just remind me of how far we actually have to go.