'A bad hair day is a bad day'


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Pretoria - A week ago, a group of black girls at Pretoria High School for Girls protested against a racist school hair policy.

While Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi intervened quickly, it led to mirror protests and much debate across the country about the place for rules, and the politics of hair.

Girls High has been given 21 days to revise its policies and it will be interesting to see what they decide is reasonable for girls in uniform.

So, what is it about hair, and why the fuss over whether it is worn long or short, curly, straightened,braided, dyed, shaved or covered up?

It is it widely accepted that a woman's hair is not only subject to the whims of fashion but forms part of her identity.

But just why is hair so important to women - and also men? The Pretoria News set out in the street to find out.

Linda Neethling, 43, of Pretoria East, said she had her hair done professionally once every two or three months depending on how bad it looked, spending between R800 and R1 000 a time.

"My hair matters because that's who I am. When you have beautiful hair you feel good, beautiful and neat. Your hair defines you," she says.

She has highlights using foil, and chooses to be grey.

"No one should judge you over your hair texture, colour or length; no one should ever tell you what to do with it and how it should be," she said.

Lynette van Eck, 31, from Eesterus is sporting a Brazilian weave; it is 100% pure virgin human hair from Brazil and costs R1 500.

Van Eck said she did not mind spending that much as the hairstyle made her feel good. Her hair is done by her sister every two weeks and she does not pay. Most of her hairstyles take approximately an hour to perfect.

Van Eck said women's hair was important because it was a reflection of their identity. "It is both personal and public. Many feel a bad hair day is a bad day," she added. "When hair is dry, turning grey or falling out, your self-esteem is seriously affected."

Nkhensani Manyike's hair journey took her from perm to relaxer to weave - and finally she found her signature look with natural hair.

"The whole issue with women's hair is that it completes your look. If everything else is on point except your hair, your look is incomplete."

The 41-year-old from Pretoria east said she grew up plaiting her hair with a sewing needle, and later graduated to a perm.

Her naturally thin hair became worse when she used hair relaxer.

"So when weaves started to get into fashion, I was happy that I could get those hairstyles using weaves."

In about 2006, she bought a Brazilian weave for R1 500, which she said was expensive.

She resolved not to do that again. These days she sports her natural hair, with no use of chemicals to straighten it, or an afro-like hair piece which she said her 7-year-old son does not like.

And that informed her decision to stick to natural hair, so that her son could be exposed to and accept a black woman's natural hair.

Lerato Mashigo, 27, of Soshanguve, said so serious was her love affair with her hair that she would even decline a job that required her to cover her afro-like hairstyle, which stands out, grabs attention and gets her a lot of compliments.

Mashigo said she changed her hairstyle twice a month, and the most expensive was her current afro which costs R350. "But if I could afford it, I would get Brazilian weaves."

Raeesah Manjra, 15, from Laudium, insists on blonde foil highlights for her long black hair, despite it being fully covered every day as she attends a Muslim school. "I like my hair long. I don't cut it a lot; and I love my colour."

Those touch-ups happen every few months, and in-between she goes to the salon to get it styled. She said her thick hair looked rather unruly and messy, and having very straight hair made her look neat.

Her daily hair routine included shampooing and conditioning her hair, followed by a detangling treatment, before she dries it.

As for men, it seems their hair is quickly becoming their crowning glory too.

Kagiso Phetla, 29, from Mamelodi has been growing his dreadlocks for six years and has no desire to cut them off.

"I've liked dreads since I was young, so did them when I was 23."

Andre Green, owner of the unisex Andre Green Design Salon, said men were increasingly opting for the comb-over hairstyle; a style which is not allowed in some schools.

Fathima Moosa, a salon owner in Laudium, said the men preferred either to colour their hair or to straighten it with a flat iron.

Pretoria News

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