Little Boys and Natural Hair

by kcurly on November 18, 2009

in Body and Mind

We always put an emphasis on instilling a sense of pride in young African American girls where their hair is concerned. It is important that it is done starting very early in life and that it continues throughout their child and teen years. However, no one seems to touch on the subject of the ideas little African American boys harbor about natural hair.

Why’s it even important?

As much as we might not like it, little girls are going to grow up to one day to be women who sometimes change things about themselves to please the opposite sex. If a little boy grows up in a household where his mother, sisters, and grandmother are all rushing out to get a perm  on a regular basis and the word “nappy” is tossed around like acid, he’s going to grow up with the same ideas that a lot of the AA community has about natural hair: it’s unmanageable, it’s ugly, it’s not desirable.

This little boy is then going to turn into a young man. This young man will  go out and search for his ideal woman. This “ideal” will have come from years of magazines, movies, and television shows that all telling him that straight hairstyles, mostly weaves and wigs, are what he wants on his future mate. And what do you think the young women are going to do?

Some of you may be balking at this and you might argue that girls need to raised to love themselves no matter what a man thinks of them.

I agree…but I have to stay in reality. How many women do you see online who want to go natural or who try to go natural, but their husbands/boyfriends/fiances don’t want them to? Essence recently did a “Word on the Street” interview asking men what they thought of natural hair on a woman. There were some positive responses, but here were the negative:

“I mostly like relaxed hair. I’m not into the whole nappy thing. I think it’s a cool look but I just like the clean look of relaxed hair. It’s a preference.”

“I like straight hair for the most part. I just think it looks better. And I guess I became accustomed to it growing up with my mother and sister—they always wore their hair straight, so that’s all I was used to seeing. I’m not a fan of weaves. They just rub your face and it feels like basketball shorts, it doesn’t feel good.”

“Honestly, I like a permed hair but it has to be yours. I want to be able to stroke my hand through my girl’s hair without any stops. I want to be able to go from the top without catching any speed bumps or a little derailed track, you know.”

“I think long hair is a good look for taller women but shorter women with a small face look nice with short hair. I don’t like that nappy, nappy hair all the time. If she likes long hair, I like it. But if she has short hair and it doesn’t fit her then we might break up.”

“I like long hair, the simpler the better. I’ve seen some shorter styles that work like Halle Berry’s cut but I’ve always preferred longer hair. Natural hair is nice on our women but it’s tricky because not all women can wear their hair that way.”

So, we have that natural hair appears unclean, is worse that straight hair, and that it takes special circumstances for some people to wear it (I’m assuming he means it’s ok if the texture is very loose).

With opinions like the above, how can teens and young women not grow up feeling like they have to have straight hair to “catch” a man. What’s really sad is that a lot of the men look toward famous women who have wigs and weaves (unbeknown to these deluded men) and say “There, that’s what I want in a woman!”

Check out this video I saw posted on HappyCurls a few months back. Around the 3:14 mark, they get the opinion of what kind of hair men like. One guy says he hates weaves, doesn’t want a woman with a weave, weaves are the worst thing in the world…when asked what woman has hair that he’d like, who does he mention? Gabrielle Union. I hate to break it to him, but Gabby has a weave a good deal of the time, buddy.

I’m not saying all men are like that. Not at all. But they are out there in droves. And however strong a woman you are, it will hit home when you hear “I just don’t like nappy hair”.

That’s why we have to get these little jokers while they’re young! What can we do about it?

We often marry our parents

I’m sorry for those of you who hate your mother in law, but there is a well researched theory that men grow up to marry women who remind them of their mothers. You will even find this to be true in situations where the mother was uncaring or the relationship was dysfunctional.

All you natural mommies who have sons, you are starting off his little life right by showing him that natural hair is so beautiful, even his mommy wears it. Seriously! There is strong evidence that we search for physical traits of the parent of the opposite sex when choosing a mate. From this article:

Berkeley, California, psychotherapist Elayne Savage says familiarity is a big reason people may choose someone like Mom or Dad as a partner.

“When you grow up familiar with a certain type of person, you’re attracted to that same type of person because it feels comfortable, whether you like it or not,” says Savage, author of “Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple.” “That’s what people mean when they meet a potential partner and say, ‘It ‘feels like I’ve known him my whole life.'”

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that a parent’s physical or intellectual traits may have some influence. A Hungarian researcher studied the facial features of 52 families and found a significant correlation between the appearance of men and their fathers-in-law and those of women and their mothers-in-law.

Therefore, while you’re showing that little girl of yours how much you revel in your twists, braids, locs, and fros, don’t forget to tell that little man in your life how beautiful natural hair is too.

Let him sport it

Shearing young AA boys’ hair down to a fade is  the popular (and easiest) thing to do.  It’s a fact that in this society, males (both black and white and green) don’t wear longer hair. I understand that. But there is no harm in letting a little boy wear his hair a bit longer and maybe in twists or a little afro. In my opinion, it further enforces that idea that kinky hair is not something we just hide away.

Boys have self esteem issues about their hair as well as girls. How many grown men have I seen rub their head of hair that’s starting to grow back and say “Time for a hair cut, my hair’s getting nappy”….They never say, “My hair’s getting too long”. Again there’s nothing wrong with keeping it short. Just remind your little man that it’s not because his hair is “too nappy”.

Positive Role Models

As with girls, you want to keep a lot of positivity going in your household by providing action figures, books, and movies that include kinky  hair.

Dolls like Me has some great toys that resemble all different ethnicities.I know it’s hard to find action figures and dolls for young boys with natual hair (I mean, I think G.I. Joe has a perm!), but I’m convinced that in the coming years, things will get better in that department.



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  • b.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Abeni Smith

    You know what I have two daughters and they are both natural gals, and I love it. I knew from the moment they were born they would never get a relaxer with those beautiful curls, as they got older their curls got even more beautiful. Then one day I got to thinking what if one day I have a boy I know he is going to have hair out of this world just like his sisters and what am I gonna do then. My husband is not going, his son with long hair, hmmmm. I would hope that he understands and lets him keep his curls at least for a while, I think it would break my heart if it had to get cut.


    Aww, I loved this article and just had to share it! I’m glad people are talking about our kids and their hair because it’s a big issue when it comes to the choices that some mothers make, usually based on how little time they have to devote to their kid’s natural hair or the little knowledge that they’re equip with to handle their hair. I was shocked when I saw Tyra’s show about how mothers will relax their young kids hair, as young as 3 years old! So I’m now shocked to see that young men have a complex about their natural hair as well. Thanks again for writing about this, I’ll be sharing it with my sister who just had a beautiful baby boy :-)

  • kisha

    what i wanna know is…why does the 2nd “ethnic” doll need to be wearin daishiki’s/african attire? why cant they dress him in regular jeans, tshirt and jordans (lol)! no really!

  • kcurly

    @Abeni, maybe you and your husband could work out a compromise if the situation arises.

    @kisha: LOL! I think they just do that for each nationality. I also some Asian dolls dressed in kimonos and such.

  • Melinda

    Thank you for this information, I believe that the ideals that we all receive begins early in our lives and from the sources that are in our immediate world, that which is in our homes. True, men tend to tailor their prefrences based on the appearence of their Mother or the female they were most influenced by early in life. For most of our black males that was a straighter appearence, anything contrary was a learned behaviour.

  • Smiley Face

    Thank you so much for emphasizing this! Little boys need to know as well that natural is beautiful.

  • Joslyn

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful post!! Your points regarding boys was what caused me to pull away from flatironing my natural hair…I have three boys (3, 6, 11) and I realized that they need to see mommy with her hair in its natural state! Thanks for your blog…you are another great natural hair inspiration:-)

  • paula

    I really liked this article! and I think its true we often think about what we’re doing to our little girls, but our little boys grow up to be men, with some pretty messed up ideas too. I just wished that natural hair could become more mainstream. Its hard to have good self esteem (boys and girls) when we are bombarded by standards that we can’t live up to without weaves, relaxers, chemical treatments.

  • Natural girl

    Thanks for the insightful post!

  • Jen

    It is so hard finding good hair care/maintenance/styling info about natural african american boys hair! I’m getting really frustrated. Ok, so MOST boys/men want short hair. We don’t! There’s no support anywhere for boys. Only girls.

  • Dana Green

    Thanks for the post! I have an 8 month old son (my profile pic on Facebook is an early photo of him) and am trying to keep his hair natural while learning to do my own. I’m currently trying to figure out what kind of shampoo and conditioner I can use on his hair that will gently detangle it but not make him smell girly. Any suggestions?

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