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The Afro & Contemporary Culture: One style, Many meanings
Transcript of The Afro & Contemporary Culture: One style, Many meanings
One style, Many meanings
Some quick definitions:
- Also known as "the natural". A thick hairstyle
with tight curls that sticks out all around the head.
- Also known as a perm.
A chemical process straightens curly
and kinky hair. Poses a risk for damage if not done properly.
- A gentler perming process. Only
loosens the curl pattern instead of straightening.
- Fake hair. Synthetic or human hair that can be braided
or sewn onto the scalp of another person. One can have long hair after one
salon visit. If not done properly, could damage the scalp or hair of the wearer.
What does the afro mean?
When the afro style was introduced it was during the turbulent 1960s.
Prior to the 1960s, it was the norm for
Black people to straighten their hair to meet
the Euro centric beauty standards of society.
Public images of black men and women that were available were those that had hairstyles that met the standards.
During the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement was active. At this time African Americans were fighting for their rights in America and questioning their identity.
The afro gained political association because it was the style commonly seen on sociopolitical radicals. Examples: Angela Davis, Communists, and the Black Panther party.
the afro was then likened more to college students as the afro was a convenience from salon and barbershop trips.
By the 1980s the afro was rare and weaves and chemicals were status quo.
A new style that came was the
Natural hair was still around but were when worn it was usually by men and kept in short cuts or stylized fades. Only Grace Jones is known to be the only woman to sport the faded.
Unlike their old counterpart, relaxed hair and jheri curls were seen as professional hairstyles for African Americans.
They were not linked to
images of hostility.
By the 1990s to the 2000s, jheri curls were a buried humiliation. Weaves and relaxers were the golden rules.
No longer was the afro needed to state cultural pride, it could still be done while wearing chemically straightened hair.
Once again the afro was rarely scene. When it was, it was usually on a musician.
Women and some men sported chemically treated hair again. For men it was part of the androgynous trend.
The afro was obsolete and would never be seen again.
Or so it seemed...
Through various periods, straight hair was attributed to Black success and beauty
For those who did wear the afro, it was rejection of America's Euro centric beauty standards and a bold statement of cultural identity.
What you just saw were the Afro Sheen commercials from the 1970s. They represent that the afro still symbolized cultural pride but also demonstrated the commercialization of the afro. The afro became more of a style than a political statement.
Then, the afro was associated with slavery and derogatory caricatures such as picannies and Sambo. Straight hair was perceived as advancement.
Not all African Americans in America embraced the afro. They either straightened their hair or wore a wig.
It also became likened to the popular blaxploitation films, which would soon become a humiliation when the next decade approached.
The demands of African Americans were answered so the political climate of the 1960s and 1970s died down. As they began to enter the work force, style needed to be changed to look "professional."
Celebrities who had an afro during traded it in for the jheri curl.
Men no longer put chemical in their hair, but did not wear the afro either.
Relaxers Titles. Usually containing Africa in the title or professing self love.
But most of the mainstream famous African
American women, such as actresses and any other public figure, wore a relaxer.
From the 1980-2000s the afro was a sign of low social status. As to say that one has an afro because they could not afford a relaxer or haircut. It was also seen as a disqualification for employment.
Between 2009 and 2011, chemical straightener sales dipped by 12.4%.
-Daneille Douglas, reporting for the Washington Post
By 2011, the practice of hair relaxing was down by 36%, 10% bump from 2010.
What was dubbed as "The Natural Hair Movement" was when African American women stopped putting chemicals in their hair and embraced its natural texture.
If I wore an afro....
That I am unintelligent?
That I am ugly ?
That I am a radical?
As that turbulent decade came to a close, the 1970s was approached with certain changes to the afro.
As a back up to the trivialized afro, some resorted to wearing braided styles instead.
"What Happened to the Afro" by Bebe Moore Campbell, 1982, Ebony Magazine.
"Afro Hairdo Riles Africa's Blacks" by Stanley Meisler. 1970, The Milwaukee Journal.
"I Am not My Hair" by Indie Arie
The Natural Hair movement began when people started questioning the history and purpose of African American's quest for straight hair.
Using the internet, many have created blogs and video tutorials to share stories and to help out others with natural hair.
Or it was a last resort due to damage caused by a weave or relaxer. damage.
Because of the movement, the afro entered contemporary culture.
Many would incorrectly associate it to Africa.
by Tyleciea Zachry
This conversation was pushed by by the media, like The Tyra Show and Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair", each focusing on hair complex shared by many African Americans.
That I am an African?
What would it mean?
Good Hair (2009)
Or it was a relief from weaves, relaxers and salon visits.
For some, the afro was enlightenment of the true beauty.
What sets present reasoning from that of the 1960s and 1970s is that there isn't a common reason for why one has natural hair.
Each situation is unique.
That the afro is only hair. As India Arie sings, "I am not my hair!"
But there is solidarity on one thing.
After centuries, the afro does not have a universal association.
The afro gained popularity and went mainstream.
What was the reclamation of black beauty could now be bought or styled on someone who is not African American.
It was no longer unique to black culture anymore.
* not an African citizen