In this day and age, you’d be hard-pressed to point out one of your natural haired friends who isn’t hashtagging their life away with tags like #natural, #teamnatural or #nappyhairdontcare on their cooler-than-they-are-in-real-life social media account.
Hair Story: Untangling The Roots of Black Hair In America, available January 28th, examines not only #TeamNatural but it also chronicles the story of Black hair from personal tales of natural hair struggle to historical facts of triumph with the crown and glory of Black women: nappy, kinky, curly hair. The book features interviews with notable natural hair women such as Melissa Harris Perry (who wrote the book’s foreword), Michaela Angela Davis and W. Kamau Bell.
The timeliness of this book’s release is key. With the ever-growing access to the internet and new social media start-ups blooming every other day, the access we have to how-to videos, street shots and blogs showing us exactly how to care for our natural hair has become endless. What was once a daunting task to get a comb-through, well-versed “naturalistas” share their wisdom openly and frequently.
In the late nineties, Black entertainers like Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill were among some of the few Black celebrities who were bringing natural hair into mainstream view. “Nappy” hair was still considered an undesirable way to present oneself while the straight hair look and relaxer kits flourished. This was largely due to parents and older generations of Blacks perpetuating the idea that unstraightened hair would hurt their children’s chances of flourishing socially and economically. However, this notion began to change at the turn of the new millennium.
“In the early years of the twenty-first century, the Internet proved itself to be the greatest contribution to Black hair culture since the hot comb.” The authors, Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps write, “Never before had Black people, and women in particular, had the means to be in such direct, informative, daily conversation with each other about this loaded topic. And while the internet had indeed changed daily life globally – revolutionizing the way that people shop, get news, and communicate with each other – its effects on Black hair have been far more reaching than anyone could have imagined (page 187).”
With access to natural hair images starting from near zilch to now plentiful, the rise of #teamnatural came with a vengeance. A random tweeter tweeting negative things about natural hair on Twitter? #TeamNatural would quickly shut it down. A high-profile magazine trading a celebrity’s natural hair for a weave for a magazine cover? #TeamNatural would be on the scene with “Letter’s to the Editor” and their own think pieces on why the media will not allow Black women in their natural state to thrive. In recent years, #TeamNatural has reached a point of fever pitch where their “vigilante” efforts have jokingly rendered them the “Natural Nazis” (page 188).
Despite the more radical side of #TeamNatural, thanks to their heightened visibility, the phrase “natural hair” has seen a huge increase on Google Trends since 2009 and its ubiquity continues. Black celebrities have been embracing their natural tresses more easily with style stars such as Solange Knowles and Lupita Nyong’o leading the pack. The popularity of natural hair was further solidified after Sesame Street introduced a new puppet in the like of a young, Black girl who sang about how much she loves her natural, kinky hair.
As more Black women embrace their natural texture, the idea of what we call “good hair” continues to blur and our ethnic visibility in the media continues to rise.
Hair Story: Untangling The Roots of Black Hair In America will be available for purchase nationwide on Jan 28th.