Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
From afros to zig-zag braids, people are intrigued by the numerous hairstyles that African-Americans create with their natural hair. Black hair is varied, but generally the hair's texture and volume make it perfect for constructing all sorts of hairstyles. Black people have a special relationship with their hair. It's more than an extension of their beauty. Throughout history African-Americans hairstyles have been a result of what was happening in society.
Black people's natural hairstyles stem from their African ancestry. Africans braided their hair in elaborate styles to symbolize social status. When they came to America, however, the herbal concoctions and special combs they used in Africa were unavailable. Because of constantly working in the fields with no time to care for their hair, many slaves developed head lice or ringworms. To cover the resulting scarring and baldness, they began wrapping their heads with coarse cloths, instituting the use of head wraps. House slaves worked in their masters' homes. They wore braids in a subdued manner to look presentable to their masters' guests.
Fist Pump Era
In the early 1900s, Madame C. J. Walker created several hair care products that promoted black hair growth. Women used these products and a hot comb to make their hair straight like Caucasians. During the civil rights movement, African-American men and women began to see straight hair as a form of assimilation. To support the movement, they began a Black Is Beautiful campaign, showing solidarity and pride in their culture. They began wearing their natural hair in afros during this time.
The 1980s and '90s brought with it hip-hop and music videos. Hip-hop introduced a new style of music as well as hairstyles. Those into gangster rap wore cornrows and braids, and the men even wore hi-top fades, made popular by the rap group Kid 'n' Play. Rastafarian culture was also infused into hip-hop with sounds of Jamaica and the dreadlock hairstyle followed. Because reggae musicians often sang about social injustice, dreadlocks were often referred to as "freedom hair."
Do You Era
In the 21st century, there is a new attitude among black people concerning natural hair. That attitude is simply, "Do you." That means they are encouraged to wear their natural hair in whatever way they like. They embrace their natural hair as an expression of style rather than a political statement or result of circumstance. African-Americans wear afros, bantu knots, braids, cornrows, curls, dreadlocks and twists to reveal their own sense of style.