For as long as hair trends have been around, black communities have been responsible for the creation of unique hairstyles that continue to influence society to this day. We often see these styles appropriated, and yet their roots are undeniable. In honour of Juneteenth, we will take a look at some of these popular hairstyles with origins in black culture.
The history of the use of wigs goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Back then, rich or royal Egyptians would use them to represent their rank and status. Both men and women wore them, and there were even laws preventing slaves from using them.
Today, wigs are a popular way to switch up your hair colour or style quickly, and without the time-consuming act of maintaining a bright dye. This is a common technique for modern-day celebrities, and is becoming increasingly popular with regular people. Despite the newfound popularity of wigs, it is important to remember that POC have used wigs for both style and protective reasons for hundreds of years.
Braids were originally used both as a protective style and in order to symbolise a variety of factors about the person. Intricate braids could indicate age, status, religion, and even marital status in West African areas. The act of braiding itself also carries connotations relating to family and community.
Today, a range of braiding styles and techniques are still popular. Although they no longer symbolise age or status, the act of braiding is still an important link to culture and family.
Cornrows, named after their similar look to fields of corn, were a representation of order and agriculture. They originated in Africa, and during colonialism in America slaves wore this style both as a practicality for working long days in the sun, and as a representation of their roots.
Modern day cornrow hairstyles are used both as a protective style and a style choice all of their own. We can even see POC models on runways sporting this trademark look, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
Afros first came into popularity in the 60s and 70s, following the Civil Rights Movement. This movement resulted in a rejection of European beauty standards, and lead to the rise in natural hairstyles. These hairstyles were not only a trend but also a symbol of power and activism – POC were reclaiming their roots. We can also see celebrities like Diana Ross and Jimi Hendrix sporting trademark natural styles during this time.
The natural hair movement has always been a topic of contention. Natural hairstyles are often deemed ‘unprofessional’ even now, and this idea is deeply rooted in racism related to the idea that European beauty standards are the ‘norm’.