I recently went to a hair supply store seeking products for men who shaved their heads for the bald look. I went into one store which has the name of a European American female, but is operated by Asian- Americans. In response to my question as to where were the male products, I was directed to a corner of the store. On the way to the “male corner” I passed by numerous items of false hair of all types, lengths, and colors. I gazed across the store and at the walls and saw more of such items across 10 aisles.
My thoughts as I walked through the aisles was “why do black women feel the need to buy this fake hair?” I thought of the timeframe in the late 60s and early 1970s when we as black people became collectively proud of our “natural” Afro hair styles. I also thought of the time frame before then when black men would get their hair “processed” to make it look “smooth” like those of male European-Americans. Then came the era of the jeri curl which seemed to be the compromise between getting your hair processed and having an Afro.
Somehow we have bought into the European American view point that the straighter and longer your hair, the better is your hair. I never have prescribed to that viewpoint. It is sad to see that many black women have fallen for the hype that their natural hair is not good enough. To me anytime you have to resort to wearing something fake you have compromised your acceptance as to who you are. I can recall seeing many black women over the years who have had short hair who looked very attractive. Somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to believe the images shown to us in the media as to what is pretty, or what is attractive. Then we try to buy that image to replace the naturalness of who we are. Accepting the image forced upon you is an act of giving up your power to decide what you want to look like. Why would you want to give up power to someone else? Especially if doing so makes you have to spend money to fit the image someone else has defined for you as being acceptable?
Throughout history there are examples of men and women wearing fake hair. The underlying reason was to present a specific image. But, there is nothing wrong with presenting your natural image to the world. While in the Asian American operated store, I thought about how I had always heard that Asian Americans dominated the hair supply market and that black people were primarily consumers not profiting from the business. So in both instances I feel something is wrong. Number one, we don’t need fake hair products. Number 2, it’s an additional painful act that the money we spend on the fake products doesn’t go to black businesses.
I admire the women who refuse to buy into the straight hair is good hair viewpoint. For those who are not quite there yet, I hope one day you awake and decide that you are more than beautiful with your natural hair. Everyday does not have to be Halloween where you put on a costume to be accepted!