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Black Hair History 101: Recapping Our Kinks

Photo Credit:  @Mark.C

Throughout human history, Black people have had a mixing pot of methods to keep our hair poppin’. Here’s a quick rundown of our Black hair history to get you in the know.

Early 1900s: The Press and Curl

Madame C.J. Walker creates many hair care products for straightening naturally curly hair. However, she was often criticized for encouraging white hairstyles on the black community.

1920s-30s: Short Pressed Curly Styles

During the roaring ‘20s and ‘30s, Conk, a gel straightener (like relaxer), is introduced and is very popular. Many Black actors and actresses absolutely slayed styles from finger waves to bumped curls like it was nothing by using Conk.

1940s-50s: Rolled Back Updos

Victory rolls. The omelette fold. The Chignon. Growing your hair longer and rolling it up is in at this point. Clip-in or sew-in weaves are making their way into our culture for those who want a long, straight look. These hairstyles are popular among White and Black people.

1960s-70s: Bumped Wigs, Godly Afros & Intricate Braid Designs

In the early to mid ‘60s, short bumped wigs (or clip-ins) are very popular among almost everyone. When the late ‘60s come, Black people do something no one else can do naturally: we pick our hair out and it stands out (see what I did there), then we call it an Afro. The Afro (and many other natural styles like braids with beads) was a major symbol of the Black Power Movement because it empowered us. In short, bye-bye Conk and hello natural.

1980s: Jheri Curls & A Bunch of Hairspray

At this point, when it comes to Black hair, style comes in all varieties. Pick it out and spray some hairspray for volume. Straighten it, crinkle it, bump it up, or shave the side off. Some even ditched their Afros for a more curly alternative–the Jheri Curl. As long as hair was big and bold, it was in style.

1990s: Braids Galore

The time of the box braids increase after the film Poetic Justice was released in 1993. Big. Small. Medium. Long. Bob style. Black. Brown. Red. Just part your hair in sections any size, buy some braiding hair, and call your cousin to do you right and tight boo.

2000s: Micro-braids with Crimped Ends & Sew-ins with a Bandana

This is the decade of straightening your hair and cutting bangs– Chinese, Side-swept, Piecey, and all that. The braids got tinier too, hence the name “Micro-braids.” Throwing a bandana on top of whatever style you’re rocking was a popular accessory. Since everyone was into anything in the early 2000s, their hair was in the same predicament.

20teens (so far): The Natural Hair Movement Is Making A Comeback!

A lot of people still love their lace front wigs, their braids, and their texturizers, but not everyone. By 2010, black men and women started getting back in touch with their roots. That meant going back natural. Kinky styles like dreadlocs, Bantu Knots, and big and small textured Afros are all the rage for natural hair. Being natural has gotten so popular that you don’t even have to be “natural” to rock the look. These days kinky hair and faux locs can be purchased from your local beauty supply store for those day you want to change it up.

No matter what poppin’ hairstyle we come up with, Black people will always innovate the beauty world. Class dismissed.


By Jade Griffin, Sophomore, Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

Twitter: @aKaShA_02

Written by IVC Productions

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