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The History of Black Hair – History of African American Hair

(BlackDoctor.org) – The history of black hair began in Africa, of course. Before the slave trade began, many African cultures wore notably elaborate hairstyles. This is where twists, braids, and intricately parted styles began. From the minute black people were brought to America, many of these traditions began to die as these proud people, suddenly bound as slaves, were deliberately separated from each other. With indigenous styling techniques and products out of reach, our ancestors were forced to use their ingenuity. That involved taming afro-textured hair with animal fat, kerosene, lard, butter – pretty much whatever could be found.

In the 1900′s, Madame C.J. Walker revolutionized the hair straightening market with her “Wonderful Hair Grower.” Today, you can directly see the influence of our ancestors in our cultural beliefs about hair, and in the various ways we care for our hair today. For example, Madame C.J Walker has been an influence for today’s hair care entrepreneurs, such as Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter, Karen Tappin of Karen’s Body Beautiful, Miko and Titi Branch of Miss Jessie’s and Anthony Dickey of Hair Rules.

As far as hairstyling, we’ve almost come full circle as well. Whereas black women and men previously saw straight hair as the only way to succeed in the world, there is now greater social recognition and acceptance of the many different styles of black hair.

What lies in the future for black hair? It is up to us. And only time will tell.

The Bouffant: The 1960s
Talk about big hair! The bouffant was a style popularized in the 1960s and one that required more than a little bit of hairspray. Barbara McNair rocked a mean one.

Wigs: The 1960s
The Supremes must have had a ball dressing in the latest fashions AND hottest hairstyles every time they stepped outside the door. They all wore top-of-the-line wigs, which gave them a different look every night.

The Conk: The 1960s
Popular since the 1920s, Malcolm X famously noted in his autobiography about a horrible experience he had trying to put lye, or a conk, in his hair. Jackie Wilson killed the look du jour with shiny, perfect waves and probably a little pain to get it just right.

The Afro: The 1970s
Angela Davis was the poster child for the Afro during the late ’60s and ’70s with perfectly coiffed orb o’ hair. Davis said she had to put Tide detergent in hers to make it stand up just so. Afro pick!

The Afro: The 1970s
On the man side, Sly Stone went for a little texture in his ‘fro, which was about the same height as Angela Davis’s. The sideburns and sequins completed the look of the perfect ’70s rock star!

Cornrows with Beads: The 1970s
Alicia Keys has reprised this classic ’70s style with a modern twist. Her cornrows, or hair braided to the scalp in intricate designs, were quite common during the ’70s. The squiggly parts gave it that ’90s swag.

The Flip: The 1970s
Natalie Cole was the perfect representation of the ’70s here with the flip — hair curled upward in layers made most popular by actress Farrah Fawcett. Her gold hoops and wide collar cement the look.

The Mushroom: The 1980s
The flip turned into a mushroom in the early ’80s where hair was curled under all around.

The Jheri Curl: The 1980s
Who could even think about the ’80s without thoughts — or shudders — of the ubiquitous jheri curl? Everybody had a curl back then and the jokes about activator on pillowcases lasted much longer than the hairstyle ever did. Soooooooul Glow!

The Shag: The 1980s
We all sang the line “in my younger days I used to sport a shaaaaag?” The Pharcyde remembers and so do we! The uber-retro Kanye West even brought back the “black man’s mullet” this year. Oh yes.

The High Top Fade or Box: The 1980s
With the rise of hip-hop in the mid-to-late ’80s, a hairstyle rose right along with it — the high top fade. Hair was shaped into a box shape (of varying heights) and the sides are gradually “faded” down. Will Smith was a man of the day.

Razor Cuts: The 1980s
Later in the ’80s, the high top fade morphed into the skyscraper with accents cut in with a razor. By the end of this fad, people had faces, names and designs in their hair and eyebrows. Rapper Big Daddy Kane kept his crispy fresh with a barber on staff.

Waves: The 1980s
Waves reached their peak in the ’80s. The effect was achieved from grease, water, a brush and a doo-rag or scarf to lay the hair down in a pattern. If your hair was not naturally curly, Nu Nile or S-Curl was the way to go.

Fingerwaves: The 1980s
Fingerwaves, such as the ones worn by Keyshia Cole, were actually a reprise of yet another era — the 1920s. This flat, to-your-head style, tended to be hard to the touch. Helmet city!

The Asymmetric: The 1980s
This hairstyle ruled the late ’80s. Salt ‘n’ Pepa bust out with it in the ‘Push It’ video, and they pushed it to us in different colors even. Best. Hairstyle. Ever. Oooh baby baby!

The Baldie: The 1990s
If a man ever popularized a hairstyle, it was Michael Jordan and his “baldie.” After men saw that you could be masculine and sexy sans hair, many a receding hairline followed suit — and even some with a full head of hair too!

The “Halle Berry”: The 1990s
The actual hairstyle, a short layered haircut, was named the “Halle Berry” by many. Berry and songstress Anita Baker had women running to the salon to chop it off in the early ’90s.

Dookie Braids: The 1990s
As the early ’90s ushered in the Afrocentric movement, “dookie braids” or big individual plaits, became all the rage. After Janet Jackson sported them in 1993′s ‘Poetic Justice’ with Tupac Shakur, it was a ovah!

Individuals or Box Braids: The 1990s
Braids went from big to smaller as the ’90s progressed. The hair type used (synthetic to human) also changed. Pop star Brandy wore her “individuals” for many years with aplomb.

The Weave: The 1990s
Many women sported the classic weave, where extra hair is braided in and not sewn or glued in on tracks. The style mirrored the era’s big hair party. “Yes, it’s mine — I bought it!”

Cornrows on Men: The 1990s
Though worn by a few in the ’80s, the ’90s saw this hair trend take off with ferocity. You couldn’t turn around without seeing a man with an intricate braid style. Allen Iverson kept his for at least a decade.

Layers: The 1990s
If this hairstyle had a name it would be the “Jennifer Aniston.” It was this ‘Friends’ star who popularized the layered look in the ’90s. Previously layers were worn longer on the top and shorter on bottom.

The Mohawk or Frohawk: The 2000s
First made popular in the 1980s with punk rockers (and Mr. T), the mohawk (or frohawk) recently made a big comeback on both men and women. Stars like Diddy wear theirs faded to perfection and with just the right touch of S-Curl on top for texture.

The Lacefront: The 2000s
The lacefront is to many the perfect weave, in that you can now wear parts and have a natural hairline even with added hair. Beyonce and Tyra Banks are its most famous wearers.

The Precision Cut: The 2000s
When Rihanna decided to change her look, her career went into the stratosphere. This included her hair, which went from blah to short, sassy and razor sharp. Incidentally, an actual razor is sometimes used to achieve that choppy, edgy feel.

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