Beyond three strands, how hair styling culture creates strong bonds within black communities
When people first think about getting their hair done they think of salons, barber shops, expensive prices, and sometimes long waits. But in the black community, we think of other memories; sitting at the knees of our mothers, fathers and loved one’s and waiting for however many hours it takes to get a style done.
Connecting over hair maintenance and braiding techniques builds unity and a embraces historical culture. Having loved ones style our hair is a shared experience that creates meaningful bonds. Melissa recalls, “Growing up, my mom did my hair. I am very close to my mom and i would consider her my best friend.”
It can take several hours to get the job done correctly, the meticulous segmenting of hair and braiding each section as close to the scalp as you can. “It can be a lot to maintain sometimes. When I would get braids before I cut my hair, it would take between 4-8 hours depending on the style." Allen said.
“My mom always did my hair. Both cuts and getting braids,” Stewart said.
Reminiscing of these times, we have grown to love our natural hair and the potential it has to be styled in so many unique ways. “I love how my hair feels and looks everyday, it motivates me to set it as a priority.” Stewart said.
“What I love about my hair is that it’s versatile. I could do so many different things with it if I wanted to,” Allen said.
For men, it’s generally the same. Personally, I do not have many men in either side of my family besides my father but he always shaped up my sister and I’s hair, even to this day.
Black hair is different and requires constant maintenance. “My hair becomes dry very easily. On days where I comb out my hair in the shower then do a wash and go, it takes at least two hours." said Morrison.
All of that being said, our hair is something to be proud of and will hopefully be normalized in the future. But for now, this is how we take care of our hair. We have many ways to keep our hair moisturized, soft and healthy. That being said, we can’t trust just anyone to style our hair.
“Growing up I had cousins that would do my hair for me. My aunt, my mom and other beauticians that I knew” says Ghermanie.
In addition to strengthening family connections, braids serve as an outward manifestation of self-acceptance and self-love for many black individuals.