The razor haircut. The half-shaven head do. Even some pixie haircuts. In contemporary day South Africa – some would even dare to say Southern Africa – these hairstyles only have one name. The Rihanna.
The Barbados-born, American-residing popstar is a trendsetter of note. You don’t need to look as far as Puma or River Island to spot the influence that she has on young women and people all over the globe. You can just go down to your CBD where you are likely to see her face plastered on many a hair salon poster.
The Rihanna – whichever hairstyle she has made ubiquitous at whatever time – is a request that comes from many corners so it’s no surprise that she appears on banners, pamphlets and storefronts. Joining her in that crew of Americans who have the hair we all want is often Alicia Keys. Sometimes Nicki Minaj’s signature bangs are on display
At establishments that cater for men, you are bound to see American rapper and actor, Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges – I know you’ve seen that sharp beard design. Florida is also used to sell the grooming side of a barbershop. Whether a customer actually walks out looking like the person in the poster or not is a lucky packet situation.
But imagine this: you are at home, minding your business. Then you get a message from a friend. Your friend is surprised that you have now joined the ranks of Riri and AKeys as your face is now being used to advertise a hair salon. What would you do?
Media practitioner, Refilwe Boikanyo, who is based in Johannesburg, had this happen to her a few years ago.
“I have three different people that I allow to do my hair. If I am cutting my hair, then I go to Mos Definite Hair Salon in Rosebank. They’re really good at that. If I am braiding, then I have a lady called Annette and she comes to my house. If I’m at my mom’s house in Pretoria then there’s a lady from You and Me Salon who does my hair,” she explains.
I ask her if she has ever agreed to be photographed for a salon’s poster, pamphlet or board. “No,” she says emphatically, “I don’t like it. I’d rather take my own pictures and post them somewhere myself. The cameras are dodgy and I just don’t want to be in the salon’s album.” But if they ask to take a picture on a cellphone, just to show others how proud they are of their work, then Boikanyo says she obliges but always covers her face.
How is it then, that her uncovered face wound up on a pamphlet? “[Fashion blogger] Jerry Mokgofe photographed me at Fashion Week and put the picture up on his blog. I think that was in 2011. Then someone just went onto the internet, found the picture and used it, I guess. Then this guy that works at a publication that was in the same media house that I was at during that time sent me a Whatsapp.”
“He was like: ‘Dude, your face is all over the CBD.’ He lived close to Hillbrow and he found this poster and just saw my face. Someone else in Pretoria then sent me another message with that picture in it,” she laughs.
“I know that salons usually put people on those boards outside the actual business but then it’s Rihanna or someone,” she continues, “I asked the stylist who had actually braided my hair in that picture how this whole thing works. She told me that usually, a stylist would have an album full of pictures, they choose what they like and that’s what they print.”
All of the hair stylists that were approached for this story refused to comment on exactly where they get the boards, pamphlets and more printed.
I asked Boikanyo how she felt about seeing herself on a pamphlet that was wedged between people’s windscreens and wipers. “I tried to call the salon so I can get my hair done for free but they didn’t pick up the phone,” she laughs out loud.
“That’s literally all I wanted: for them to do my hair for free. But after that, I just let it go. I thought it was funny and I styled my braids myself so I took that happening as a sign that I’d done a good job styling them. My hairstylist wasn’t happy because she felt like that was her work but I guess it was just a funny thing. I didn’t take it seriously,” she admits.
While it used to be popular to only use American celebrities to advertise one’s salon, these days, it’s not uncommon to see a few unfamiliar but very African faces who still have great hairdos. I ask Boikanyo if she believes that this change signals an acceptance of our own hair as a new standard.
“I think people use the internet, type in ‘braids,’ and pictures like mine are the ones that pop up,” she says. “I think it’s quite cool. If we are going to advertise braids, it’s cool if they put someone like me up because we know better when it comes to those styles. We’ve been braiding our whole lives.”
Have you ever seen yourself or someone you know on a salon store front or pamphlet? Tell us @IOL_Lifestyle on Twitter