Women’s Month: A history of natural hair and how it's shaped our present
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This Women’s Month, we celebrate not only the phenomenal women but their hair, too. For a long time, natural hair was perceived as unprofessional, leading to most black women straightening and relaxing their hair to fit in.
However, things have changed. In the past decade, we’ve seen more women rock their coily, curly, natural hair with pride. It is, after all, their crowns.
To celebrate natural hair this Women’s Month, we look at its history and where it is, currently.
The past and natural hair
According to Revlon Realistic Special Feeling, women throughout history used to make a statement with their hair. The most celebrated black hairstyles like box braids, dreadlocks and afros can be found in drawings, engravings and hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt.
During the African slave trade, creative expression with hair was not allowed, and most of the time, natural hair was cut short to enforce submission and take away identity. Revlon Realistic Special Feeling states that hair was seen as an expression of freedom, and even when black women were free, they were asked to cover up their hair with a scarf. Such still happens in some schools where black girls are asked to cover or cut their afro hair.
Black women have also learned to use Western hairstyles to their benefit. In the early 1900s, Madame CJ Walker started a business, making straightening hair care products for natural hair. Walker became the first self-made African American woman millionaire in the US.
Natural hair movement
The revolution to embrace natural hair started in the 1960s and 1970s during the civil rights movement. Black communities were encouraged to embrace their natural hair and not conform to western standards. These hairstyles were a sign of activism and a statement to reclaim their roots but were criticised and labelled "unprofessional".
Although there has been a rise of hair care products that cater to natural hair, straightening hair care products are still on the market to cater to those who prefer straight hair because, after all, every woman has a right to wear her hair the way she sees fit.