Those Times When Your Hair is Yours Because You Bought It

Curly Weave

Me with my curly weave

It’s that time of year again when those of us who live in wintry climates hide our hair away in protective styles. Why? To protect our textured hair, which already has a tendency to be dry, from the aridity and harshness of the cold winter air.  (For more on winter hair care, check out London Ivy Products’ Do’s and Don’ts of Protective Styling e-book and Dr. Susan Walker’s Cold Weather Curl Care webinar). Protective styles can be accomplished using one’s own hair (i.e. buns, cornrows, etc), but they are more often than not achieved with the assistance of artificial hair, such as extensions, weaves, and wigs.

Artificial hair (whether synthetic or human) is not only used for protective styling, but also to achieve styles that may require extra length and body; to provide a temporary colour change; or for pure maintenance reasons, because doing so cuts down on the amount of time needed for daily styling.

The funny thing is that people tend to make a big deal about Black women wearing fake hair (if and when it is even detected); yet, wearing false hair is nothing new! People have been wearing false hair since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, dating back to 3000 BC. Almost everyone in Ancient Egypt wore wigs or extensions made of black wool, cotton, human hair, palm-leaf fibres, or horse hair.

Nowadays, many women, of all walks of life and ethnicities, wear wigs or weaves; but I think the main thing that bothers people is when Black women wear fake hair that doesn’t look like their own.

As a matter of fact, last year, I had the following chat with a cousin of mine from Jamaica:

Convo with Cous #1

Convo with Cous #2Convo with Cous #3

The statement that really gave me pause was:

“I am not aware of any other race that wears another race’s hair”.

Sarah and Me - Artificial Hair

Me with extensions; my sister Sarah wearing a wig

I began to think about it; and I had to admit that my cousin was right. Most hair pieces that I had seen (or even used myself) throughout my life were not made to imitate my kinky, coily hair: they were either too straight or too shiny.  They were made to look “White”.  And that was synthetic hair.   When it came to human hair, there was nothing more desired than some long, sleek bundles of Asian hair.

Ever since weaves became popular in the ‘90s, the human hair industry has been booming: hair is purchased from Asian women who cut and sell (or are robbed of) their long hair, or is collected from temples in countries like India, China, Korea, and Indonesia; the hair is then processed in factories, and then sold to salons and beauty supply retailers in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. (For more on where human hair pieces come from, click here to see a scene from “Good Hair” (2009), where Chris Rock heads to India (or “Weave Paradise” as he calls it) to investigate the source of the human hair industry, namely tonsure ceremonies at Hindu temples).

As my cousin rightly noted, before the Natural Hair Movement, there wasn’t really a demand for hair that looked like mine—it just wasn’t “stylish” enough, as seen in this other scene from “Good Hair” (2009).

Today, however, almost 7 years since the release of the film, things have certainly changed.  Now, there is an increasing demand for hair pieces that look like natural hair, as Black women are embracing their own hair textures; and so retailers are beginning to provide for that need.

Keep ’em guessing

If you’re looking for some protective styling hair that emulates textured hair, check out these options:

1. Kinky Curly Yaki: http://www.kinkycurlyyaki.com

Kinky Curly Yaki is a Toronto-based company, which sells natural hair extensions and clip-ins.  Their shipping time within Canada: 1-7 business days; to the U.S.: 1-8 business days; and to Europe and Australia: 2-10 business days; shipping rates vary.

2. Toni Daley: http://www.tonidaley.com/collections/wigs

Toni Daley sells natural hair half-wigs (along with other natural hair accessories), and is based in Toronto, Canada.  She will ship to the Canada and the U.S. for $10 USD; to the U.K. for $18;   France for $50; and Australia for $55. Shipping time within Canada: 5-7 business days; to the US: 10 – 12 business days; and to everywhere else: 10 – 14 business days.

3. Curl Genetics: http://www.curlgenetics.com

Curl Genetics is based in the U.S. and sells natural hair weaves, clip-ins, and wigs.  They will ship to international addresses for a flat rate of $35 USD.  Shipping time is about 3-7 business days.

4. Kurly Klips: http://kurlyklips.com

Kurly Klips is a natural hair clip-in company based in Washington, D.C. They will ship to Canada for about $25 USD. Shipping time can take up to 6 weeks for international shipments, and international shipping rates vary.

 

Sources:

Sagay, Esi. African Hairstyles: Styles of Yesterday and Today. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983.

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006.

 

What do you think about artificial hair? Is there something wrong with wearing fake hair that doesn’t look like your own?

The Natural Hair Movement is here to stay: Afrofest 2015

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For the past 27 years, Afrofest has been bringing the rhythms, flavours, creativity, and vibrancy of the African continent to the heart of Toronto, in a free festival that attracts thousands of people annually.

This Saturday, I headed down to the festival at Woodbine Park, with my hubby and my brother, to not only celebrate Mama Africa but to also ask some of her daughters the following question:

Is the Natural Hair Movement just a trend, or is it here to stay?

First, I met Marilyn.  “It’s about time!” was her response, when asked for her thoughts on the traction of the Natural Hair Movement.  Marilyn started out her natural hair journey “spit-shine bald” two years ago, and now sports an oh-so-perfect asymmetrical ‘fro!

 

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20150704_154305Then I had the privilege of running into YouTube sensation, Samantha Gomez of I’m Samantha Gomez (click here to check out her channel), and fitness, lifestyle and hair blogger, Alaina Gomez-Henry of Shorty with a Curl (click here to visit her blog), who were working the festival as representatives for CURLS™ Hair Products.

They both agreed that the Natural Hair Movement is here to stay.  “People are embracing it more and more,” stated Samantha.

These beautiful curlistas were also kind enough to bless me with some samples of one of my favourite styling products, CURLS™ Crème Brule Whipped Curl Cream (love how it defines my curls!), which made my day!

Perfect travel size too!

Who doesn’t like crème brûlée?

20150704_163536Later, I met the lovely Shaniqua, wearing extension braids with grey highlights, at the Black Experience Project tent.  She was recruiting participants for the BEP Project, an important study about the “‘lived experience’ of individuals across the Greater Toronto Area who self-identify as Black or of African heritage” (if you’re interested in participating in the study, click here).

Shaniqua thinks that the Natural Hair Movement is here to stay, as “people are reconnecting with themselves and are embracing themselves.”  She shared that she decided to go natural about 4 years ago, when her hair had broken off from perming it.  The breaking point for her was when her stylist wanted $125 to perm just a couple of inches of hair…needless to say, she has been natural ever since!

 

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Then I chatted with Sipo, whose glorious twist-out I spotted at the City of Toronto tent.  Sipo believes that the Movement is here to stay:  “Once you go natural, and get used to it, you never go back!”

She shared that earlier on in her hair journey, she would go to Afrofest just to check out the hair—the festival offered a great opportunity to see what kinds of hairstyles other people were trying out!

And I agree with her—what better place to get a snapshot of what’s happening in Toronto’s Black hair scene than a gathering of brothers and sisters from across the African continent and the Diaspora?

Honey Fig, the natural beauty supply store (www.honeyfig.com), also had a tent!

Honey Fig, the natural beauty supply store (www.honeyfig.com) had a tent too!

If my conversations with these naturalistas—along with my personal observations—were any indication, it looks like natural hair is not just a fleeting fashion trend, but rather is developing into a true movement of self-awareness and self-acceptance that is really taking root (pun intended) in the Greater Toronto Area.

 
 

Do you agree? Is the Natural Hair Movement here to stay, or is it just a trend?