I've Had Black Hair My Whole Life, And I'm Still Figuring Out How To Wear It

I've written about my hair. A lot. Because, well, it's black hair.
Publish date:
January 27, 2014
black hair

In honor of the rerelease this week of my friend Ayana Byrd's book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, which she co-authored with Lori Tharps, and also because I'm currently in the midst of my own black-hair-in-America entanglement (then again, when am I and other black women in America not entangled with our hair?), I'm posting a series of images that feature my ever changing hairdos over the years. I am doing this in the hope that you all will 1) weigh in and tell me which of the looks is most becoming (because here's the thing, I'm at that point in my life where I really need to find a look that's both dope and age-appropriate), and 2) buy and read Ayana and Lori's book, even if you're not a black woman, because it's really good and nuanced and important. Also, the new edition features a forward by Melissa Harris-Perry, who's pretty famous.

I've written about my hair. A lot. Because, well, it's black hair. It's the final frontier. Non-black people want to touch it. Are intrigued by it. White girls feign sisterly envy: "Oh I wish I had your curls!" Not a single white girl on the planet wants to deal with the business of maintaining black hair. Because it's not about luscious curls, it's about texture and stigma and hollow stares and prejudice, tenderheadedness and lye and chemicals and hours of braiding or sitting in chairs for a swoop bang sew in process. All or some of the aforementioned maintenance has in many instances historically determined whether or not we get or keep jobs.

All that said, I don't really feel mad about my hair anymore, which I mainly attribute to just getting real grown and having a lot of other things to think about and do with my time. I mean, I don't love it. And sometimes I think I should love it more -- in like a whole spiritual kind of way, but I can't really get there. What I need is to like it and be able to wear and maintain it in a way that doesn't ruin whole entire days (because admit it, ladies, a bad hair day is a bad day full stop).

Spanning from 1974 through present, tell me what looks best. And please keep in mind, while you are casting your judgement (which I have admittedly asked for), that I was adopted by a white family and no one, I mean NO ONE, knew how to deal with my hair -- it was practically a supernatural phenomenon in my house growing up. I didn't learn how to take care of my hair really until I was about 20. So that. Thanks!