What "Good Hair" Means for a Jew

Of course every Jew doesn't have "bad hair," just as we don't all have prominent noses, but the stereotype exists for a reason.

Jun 1, 2012 at 3:05pm | Leave a comment

Has everyone seen The Coiffure Project, this insanely gorgeous collection of photos by Glenford Nunez celebrating the beauty of black women with natural hair?

A lot has been written about hair and its importance in African American culture. Not to mention Chris Rock's incredible 2009 documentary "Good Hair" in which he explores the complicated relationship between black women and their hair.

"There's always this sort of pressure within the black community like, if you have good hair, you're prettier or better than the brown-skinned girl that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle," says Nia Long, who Rock interviews in the film.

As a Jewish girl, this sentiment of meeting a cultural ideal of "good hair" rings true. One of my earliest hair memories is of flat-ironing my frizz into smooth submission at all-girls sleepaway camp before socials. The girls with the straightest hair always earned the most male attention. Of course every Jew doesn't have "bad hair," just as we don't all have prominent noses, but the stereotype exists for a reason. 

From Keratin treatments to Brazilian Blowouts, over the years I've subjected my hair to every form of frizz torture available. Unlike the heat-styled hair of my childhood, today the dream texture is malleable and cooperative, the sort of hair that I could wind into a bun at night and unravel each morning to reveal soft irregular waves. "Bitch hair" as Madeline calls it.

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Keeping the Jew-fro under control

I haven't had a Brazilian Blowout since the formaldehyde freakout came to a head earlier this year, but I won't pretend it's for health or safety reasons. The treatment is just expensive. Now for the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm living with my natural hair texture. On days when I air dry, I'm left with a dark, shapeless veil of brillo fuzz. The alternative? Hitting the heat-tools again for the super-contrived look of my camp social hair.

xoJane Managing Editor (and fellow Jew) Corynne feels me on this. "What can I do to make my hair not dry this way?" she asks, pinching her puffy blonde strands. "Flat-ironed hair makes me look JAP-y."*

We both want the same thing -- to wear our natural hair texture without feeling less attractive. And that's where my appreciation for the Coiffure Project comes in. For the growing number of African American women looking to make the move toward wearing their natural texture like those pictured in The Coiffure Project, Carol's Daughter has launched the Transitioning Movement

For now I'm staying off the Keratin and Brazilian Blowouts, but as humidity levels in New York City rise, I'm sure I'll be back. How do you feel about your natural hair texture? Do you wear it with pride or alter it somehow? 

*Jewish American Princess