My Hair, My African Crown

By Pearle Peane, Darling Senior Brand Manager

My hair is my confidence. My hair is my beauty. My hair is my pride. My hair is my strength as a black woman. My hair is me . . .

Ask a black woman or black girl about her hairstyle preference, and you will be amazed at the myriad of answers you get. Why? Because black women’s identity and their relationship with their hairstyle are intrinsically linked. One cannot exist without the other.

Hairstyles are constantly evolving as a girl grows into a woman, as fashion trends change, as the seasons change, but, that’s just scratching the surface. Look deeper and you will find that culture, be it traditional, popularor political, holds greater power than aesthetics.

Decades past are steeped in revolutions of various kinds. In the 1960s and 1970s, wearing hair in natural afros was a political statement that embraced black power and movements for social justice for black people.

A competing narrative is the one where some black women rejected their natural hair because it was considered ugly, dirty and something that would hold them back in life. These social pressures, saw black women straightening their hair in order to conform to Western standards of beauty.

Hair straightening was initially achieved using hot combs and later using chemical treatments. Around the turn of the 20th century, this spawned a booming black haircare industry. Indeed, one of the first black woman multi-millionaires in the US was Madame CJ Walker, a successful haircare entrepreneur.

By the 1980s chemically treated hair was still in vogue, with women still seeking to change the texture of their hair. Perms, voluminous curls or poker-straight hair still reflected Western hairstyle trends.

Fast forward to the new millennium. Today the people of South Africa, men and women, are again embracing their natural hair.

In 2016, schoolgirl Zulaikha Patel became a symbol of the fight to legitimise natural black hair in schools after teachers told her that her hair was unruly.

A 2014 research paper by Johnson and Bankhead (Hair It Is: Examining the Experiences of Black Women with Natural Hair) indicated growing acceptance for natural hairstyles in the workplace.

Today, women are liberating themselves from social systems that dictate what styles they should wear in order to find acceptance or workplace success. Hair is still a statement of personal taste, but women are free to choose what styles to wear without being judged.

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At Darling, we cater to women who prefer a natural look with our Bantu locks and Vibration; weaves such as Nikita and Kerry H; and braids such as Bright and Bold Yaki and Sorbet One Million Braids, if that is their choice. We embrace the diversity of African hair and choices that women make to express themselves.

The beauty of a woman’s crowning glory expresses her true character and that beauty radiates from within. Such beauty is powerful. It can be a catalyst that drives a woman to boldly chase her aspirations.

Besides its cultural significance, a new hairdo just feels great! It can make you feel like a whole new person. If a style makes you look good, you feel good!

Women’s appearance impacts their personal, social and professional lives. Self-esteem, identity, mood and attitude are all expressed by the way we look. And our hair is a core part of that.

As a brand that embraces African beauty, women’s empowerment and self-expression, this Heritage Day, Darling encourages women from all walks of life to express their Hairitage through their hairstyles.

Miriam Makeba, one of the most celebrated South African artists of our time, is perhaps most famous for The Click Song, but we must never forget about her activism. When she testified against the South African government at the United Nations in 1963, she wore her natural hair as she shook the world.

South African women can join in the cultural celebration of Heritage Month by sharing their most expressive, proudest heritage hairstyles on the Darling Facebook Page .

Happy HAIRitage day!

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