Those who know me will Know that I first relaxed my hair when I was 18. It was a short lived stint and my friends constantly made comments like ‘I prefer your ethnic look’. ‘Ethnic’ meaning braids (because that is what they were used to seeing me wearing). The rebel within me said I’ll show them ethnic. I hated being defined by people. I hated people thinking they knew me and boxing me in with their ideas of who I was. It did not matter if I was the one who had previously created the box. You see prior to my relaxed hair I had strongly boasted about my Afro I was proud to be African during times when it was certainly not cool to be African. Furthermore I was proud to be the only Zambian. I made an effort to stand out with my multicolored braids and blatant refusal to wear what every one else wore. The girls wore skirts, I wore trousers. The girls wore trousers I wore skirts. They wore hoodies, I wore wrap around cardigans, they wore Nike Airs, I wore Converses…And so it went for the whole of secondary school and some of University.
So what does this story have to do with anything…The tale of fashion goes – everything comes back round. The once unpopular Afro is now in fashion once again. You go into hair shops and a new section has been created for those ‘transitioning’. You have things like ‘TC’ and ‘TWA’ being thrown into the mix. People are youtubing and blogging about their hair types. It is all really exciting if I am honest. It feels good to go online and now be able to find out about my hair. To hear and share stories about hair miracles and hair disasters. However I feel my teen rebellion self rising as I question if I really want to have my Afro now that everyone has theirs. I recently dyed my hair bronze (and am loving it) but I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about the Afro as the new ‘trend’.
So why feel uncomfortable with black natural hair types getting the attention and celebration? Because trends pass. What is the problem with the Afro hair trend passing? Black people will still forever and always have Afro hair. You see it is fine for clothes trends to peek and drop because we are not born with clothes, we can always decide what we want to wear. With hair it is not that simple. Whether you are aware or not, the Afro has a strong social and cultural history. It is a beautiful history telling the story of a people who have over come a lot. The Afro is also a defining feature in many young women’s coming of age stories. The story of getting their hair straightened in order to fit in and feel more beautiful is not uncommon. The significance of the Afro means that we ought to take it a little more seriously. It is great to celebrate the fullness and versatility of Afro hair now but what happens when its not fashionable anymore?