If you are from the South, like myself, or have family in the South, you may have heard of what I’m about to talk about. I spent the latter parts of my childhood living with my grandmother.
If ever I left my shed hair lying around or if she saw it in the trashcan, she’d chastise me. Why? Because it was her belief, and the belief of a lot of people, that someone can do you harm if they possess your hair.
I was required to burn or flush my hair to avoid it being intercepted. As silly as it might sound, it’s ingrained in me now to get rid of my hair or hide it in something else before I throw it away.
To show you how serious folks are about this, I found an article in Jet magazine from 1989 about two African American men (brothers) in Mississippi who schemed to have a judge killed by voodoo using the hair and a photo of the judge. The plot was in retaliation for the prior sentencing of one of the men. The hair and the picture were to be sent to a contact in New Orleans. A curse on the judge was to follow.
Both pled guilty and were sentenced to time in prison. According to the article, many considered it a waste of tax payer money to charge these two with wrong doing. I was surprised because I’d never heard of the law getting involved in voodoo.
Another use for hair in voodoo has to do with voodoo love dolls. Using the hair and/or fingernails of the person you desire, along with the spell caster’s own hair and/or fingernails, two dolls are made. Along with some other steps, this supposedly can make someone fall in love with the caster.
Do you have any superstitions concerning hair that people aroudn you believed? Do you have any superstitions about hair?
Isn’t that what everyone seems to be looking for? That “magic” product. Well I’m here today to tell you it doesn’t exist.
Want to find that perfect thing that makes your hair grow? I’ve got a few for you: Try breathing, eating, and just being alive in general. Unless you have some serious health problems, your hair is going to grow. Throw in eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and exercising aplenty on top of that whole “being alive” thing and you’ve got some great hair growth.
“But” you may be saying “my hair always stays the same length! I must need something to make my hair grow” I thought the same thing when I was relaxed, before I started a healthy hair journey. I would slather everything known to man on my head if it promised to lengthen my hair. And what would happen? My hair would stay the same length.
The problem, as the ladies over on LHCF will tell you, is retention of your growth. All those people complimenting those “long haired girls” on their hair growth likely would have the same results if it weren’t for the loss of the hair at the end of the strands.
The truth is that people have been making money off of women who desire long hair for ages. Especially, and I hate to say it, women of color.
FYI, Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower was “basically petroleum, sulfur, and beeswax” according to Hair Story. However, that’s what most African American hair products are made of now, so I guess she was a trendsetter.
One advertisement from a Madam T. D. Perkins even addresses the fears that many blacks had: Black women can’t grow long hair. From the book “Hair Raising:Beauty, Culture, and African American Women”:
She tells readers, “No matter how dark your skin is,” her treatment will “cultivate, beautify and grow a persons hair, so long as there is not physical ailment which will prevent it.”
The ad includes photographs of the back and front of Perkin’s head, with the back shot emphasizing the length of her hair. Underneath this insert is yet another photograph of Madam Perkins, but this time we see her before she began to grow her hair….Between the first inset and the second is a bold headline: “Women, Stop, Wait, Listen, Read!” and a Bible verse states, “If a Woman have long hair, it is a Glory to Her: 1 Cor 11-15.”
These ladies were smart. They knew what black women wanted back then, they knew the fears to address, and they knew how to appeal to them. Don’t get me wrong, I give these ladies props for a good hustle, but as Grandma used to say “Truth is the light”.
And after all the many hair growing formulas that were produced at the turn of the century, black women are still desperately searching for the magic product that will grow hair. Guess what? The money is still rolling in because of that desire.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some herbal or essential oils that may incrementally help your hair grow. But I severely doubt that it’s going to be so much a difference that you would be able to throw your hair out of windows for yon prince to climb to your rescue.
My Personal Opinion
Having been in this game for a few years, I can tell you a few things to beware based on past experiences.
Beware of before and after pictures.
In the age of lacefronts, weaves, airbrushing and Photoshop, a girl has to be careful where she puts her trust (and her dollars) when believing progress pictures.
Ever hear of the hair implant company Bosley? I have no personal experience with them, but there is a large following of people out there who claim to have been wronged by this company. Bosley heavily targets females even though “Very few women have the type of hair loss that make them good candidates.” (link)
The company has also been accused of false and misleading advertising (whaddya know?) . From this link:
The D.A.’s office alleged that BMG engaged in a widescale advertising campaign heavily based on false and misleading representations and found evidence that BMG used retouched and false “after” photographs in its advertisements- hairlines were altered or “airbrushed”. The photos that appeared in a brochure as “after procedure” photos were actually taken of a Bosley Medical employee who had never had any procedures done. Additional allegations included misrepresentations of pain, scarring, and results, and non-doctors performing procedures.
Beware of “testimonials”.
I might get slammed for this, but having this blog and visiting hair forums has made me realize how much advertisers are out there on the internet pretending to be customers. You see it a lot on Amazon and I’ve had some questionable comments on this blog from the same person (with different names) over and over and over again about how great product or hair accessory “X” is.
If they spent more time trying to improve their products instead of falsifying testimonials, they would see that good products speak for themselves.
Beware of celebrity endorsement.
Let’s face it. It’s hard to live up to celebrities. What, J. Lo? You just had twins and you’ve already bounced back to your original shape in 2 months?
Possible? Perhaps. Probable without a nanny, personal trainer, and nutritionist? Nah.
Celebrities are great and all, but when they start endorsing hair products I have to give them the side eye. For instance, Beyonce featured in any hair commercial has me looking like this:
For your viewing pleasure, Bey and Solange (fully weaved and preBC, I’m assuming) in an L’Oreal commercial:
C’mon now…really? I’m not even going to elaborate because it’s pretty obvious the problem with that commercial.
Ya’ll know I’m a product junkie, so I’m not knocking trying out a lot of products. Just please have realistic expectations. Please know that people bend, stretch, and karate chop the truth into what works for them. And whatever will get you to put your money on the table.
As for the moisture deal…I get so many emails and comments asking the same question…”What products can I use to make my hair moisturized?” Well, first you can check out THIS and THIS post.
I’ve found that I can attribute maybe over half of my growth retention to my hair care practices as opposed to the actual products. Now, don’t get me wrong, the right products are an important part of it. And if you’re looking for suggestions, I have many under the Products I Love tab. Keep in mind that I am constantly having to update this list, so you may want to check out my product reviews in general as well.
So ladies, keep your heads up, keep your eyes open, and in the words of Dale Gribble “Never trust nobody!”
Thanks so much to Mesha for sending me a link to this Essence gallery article called Hairstyle File: The History of Revolutionary Hair. Very interesting, in particular the first woman featured. I will have to research her a bit more.
Here’s a another example of the attempts of slave owners to impose headwraps on women of African descent as a means of seperation. (Read about Headrags and the Slave here).
A little background:
In New Orleans 1700s, due to the scarcity of European women, it was permissible and acceptable in society for Europeans to have long term extramarrital relationships with women of African descent. The children of these unions as well as a practice for freeing soldiers and workers who excelled at their jobs resulted in a large population of free people of color.
Placage was a recognized system in which European men had something of a common-law marriage to the women of color. It was not unusual for a white man to have a white wife in one area and his placee. Probably for the first time in this new America, these women of color (who were usually cultured, wealthy, and well coiffed) were perceived as a threat to the local European women. There had also been complaints of men making advances towards Caucasian women, mistaking them for the “mixed race” women.
In response, and to lessen the popularity of the ever growing size of the “people of color”, the governor of Louisiana at the time created what are known as the tignon laws. He required that free women of color wear headwraps. They also were forbidden to wear any fine clothes, plumes or jewelry in their hair, go out at night without a lantern, or gather in assemblages at night.
This law was an attempt to reassign these women to their “proper” station in life. Making them wear a head kerchief was meant to tie them back their slave station in life.
The women who were targeted by this law found a way around it. With their headwraps, called tignon (pronounced tiyon), they used the finest materials and decorated them with ribbons and jewelry. The tignon was worn many different ways by women and became quite the fashion statement.
Needless to say, the Tignon laws had very little effect on the longterm relationships between the two races. The practices of placage continued until the Civil War and Reconstruction occurred.
Creole: the history and legacy of Louisiana’s free people of color By Sybil Kein
Hairwraps, kerchiefs, head rags, whatever you want to call them, have a significant history in America. We now wear head wraps and scarves as accessories. They are cute, we like finding different fabrics for them, and they give our hair a little pizazz.
But there was another time in America when wearing a head rag/scarf/whatever was a very different thing. The time I’m referring to is of course slavery.
Yes, I’ve hopped back on the slavery train again. Why? Because so many of the ideas we have (and when I say “we” I mean African Americans in general) about our hair stem from the horrors imposed during the course of slavery.
In Africa, the headwrap was a part of the outfit. Just like some of you are dying for a new pair of Uggs, the same might have been true for the average West African lady hoping for a new headwrap (I’m kidding, but you get my point).Of course during slavery, fashion is kind of put on the back burner.
So, anyhoo, the head rag did serve practical purposes.They were either supplied by their masters per rations or procured by the slaves themselves from a weaver or recycled pieces of clothing. It protected the hair from grime and sun while working out in the fields. It offered protection when carrying heavy loads on one’s head and minor protection from lice and ringworm. It absorbed sweat and prevented it from stinging the eyes of the wearer. But the headrag was so much more than this during the period of slavery.
The earliest, South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1735, “specifically set a standard of dress for the enslaved and free African Americans” (ibid. 132). In 1740 amendments, South Carolina’s slave code further elaborated the dress regulations (Genovese, 1974:359). In 1786, while Louisiana was a Spanish colony, the governor enacted a dress code which forbade: “females of color … to wear plumes or jewelry”; this law specifically required “their hair bound in a kerchief” (Crete, 1981: 80-81; also Gayarre, 1885: 178-179 and Wares, 1981:135).
In the antebellum period, the Southern whites’ concern regarding the symbol- ism inherent in the dress of African Americans continued. Citing one instance, Richard C. Wade writes that a Savannah editor bemoaned the “extravagant” dress of city blacks. Wade says that the journalist, ” observing that a turban or handkerchief for the head was good enough for peasants,…noted that ‘with our city colored population the old fashioned turban seems fast disappearing’ ” (Savannah Republican 6 June 1849, quoted in Wade, 1981:128-129).
From the same article, it seemed that blacks also used the headwrap system to mark status:
In addition, headwraps functioned as status symbols within the African American communities Louis Hughes, born 1843, enslaved in Mississippi and Virginia, noted: “The cotton clothes worn by both men and women (house servants), and the turbans of the latter, were snowy white” (1897) 1969:43). After the family moved to the city, Hughes recalled, “Each of the women servants wore a new gay colored turban, which was tied differently from that of the ordinary servant, in some fancy knot” (42).
Headwraps were also worn in the black community, even post slavery, for religious ceremonies and to denote age and marital status. It’s so interesting that what’s your on head has such an impact on everyday life.
I have two more write ups concerning headwraps coming up, stay tuned
Hair story: untangling the roots of Black hair in America By Ayana D. Byrd, Lori L. Tharps
The title of this post seems like a good name for a book, doesn’t it?
Well, in my case, that book would be under the “Horror” section.
We all know what the afro pick is. But let’s get a little background information on it.
The picture above is an African wooden comb. Not only would these combs be made of wood, but also of ivory and bone. Diligently made, these were treasured family items. Fast forward to slavery, where we didn’t have a comb. And then on to the 60s, the beginning of the Black Power Movement, the popularity of the afro, and the resurgence of the African comb. That is essentially what the afro pick is.
Afro pick with the fist. Leftover from the black power movement, this pick is popular among first time naturals
Not only could this get your afro bigger and better than ever, with the addition of certain colors and a tightly fisted hand, it could notify others of your dedication the cause. Fastforward again to the 70s. The pick and the afro go hand in hand. Just as the afro became less of a political statement and more about style, so did the pick. And if you didn’t have your afro (with your pick well in hand), you were deemed a “jive turkey”.
Fast forward one more time to the 90s and now. (Let’s skip the jherri curls, shall we?) The afro is once again in vogue, though not as popular as before. But is the pick still as popular among naturals today? Maybe not. I do know of some ladies who use it, but I don’t believe most do.
The above picture is myself with a picked out fro after a month or two of being natural. I’ve often recounted my BC story where my friend pulls out her afro pick for my newly natural hair. As I try to pick it out as I’ve seen on TV and the movies, I hear hair snapping and breaking. I also feel pain and discomfort that is a little to close to the dry combings of childhood.
Needless to say… when I went to Sally’s the next day, an afro pick was not on my list of things to buy.
Later, I found a small pick on the end of one of my combs that came with a set and later used that to pick my hair out. I did not, however, do it the same manner I’ve seen others do. While my hair was still slightly damp and full of moisturizer, I carefully took very small sections of hair and pulled the pick through. I patted each section to help round it out some. It took me about 45 minutes to do. Not your typical afro pick experience. I’ll just settle for my shrunken fro,thanks!
Even if it’s not a big part of many naturals’ lives today, the pick and the African comb have both left their mark.
This widetoothed invention has served as a prototype for modern utensils–from blowdryer attachments to regular combs–used by Black people all over the world.
How true is that? So, even though I may not use a traditional pick, I still heart my widetoothed comb and am thankful to the afro pick for being the prototype. I may still even buy the pick with the fist on it one of these days.
Denied their traditional wooded combs by their masters, slaves basically had no combs at all of their own. I’ve read in several books how slaves would sometimes use a wool card to comb their hair. What’s carding, you ask? From wiki: Carding is a mechanical process that breaks up locks and unorganized clumps of fiber [...]
I haven’t done a “It’s just hair” post in awhile so here’s one I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It’s about a style called the conk. African American men in the early to mid half of the last century wore their hair in this style by essentially relaxing it and styling it [...]
Here’s another online entrepreneur to provide you with some awesome natural hair inspired gear. Visit her Etsy Store to see more of her great merchandise! These designs are unique and oh-so-cute. You can also visit her fotki and blog for more pictures and info! The Lady: Kcurly: When did you go natural and what inspired [...]
A lot of the self disparaging comments I see in newly naturals (or transitioning) is about how they have such a big forehead. The typical style of the newly natural usually includes a headband or scarf that pushes the hair back, fully exposing the forehead. I was usually a bang wearing girl back in my [...]
This is a bit of a combo post. Candace has been kind enough to be featured and introduce us to her site, Goddess Zuri, a place full of wonderful accessories and natural hair t-shirts. Her accessories range from chic to funky and the t-shirts are to die for. Thanks for sharing with us Candace! The [...]
I stumbled across this old ad for a product that was frequently found in the pages of African American newspapers. This is probably circa late 1800s, early 1900s In case you can’t read the text here it is: Straighten your hair Take the curls out, make it soft and glossy by using Carpenter’s Ox Marrow [...]
I’d never heard of Circassians until I ran across information about these ladies and the beauty ideal that was attached to them during the 1800s. Back then, the Circassian women were played up to be beautiful, elegant, and desirable. They took on an almost erotic vibe in literature of the time and “Circassian” was often [...]
Maybe this is not as dramatic as it seems but I found this facet of Harriet Tubman’s life that I did not know. As a youth, she suffered a head injury when an angry slave owner threw a metal weight at another slave and hit Harriet by accident. She was carried into a house where [...]
The above picture is Cicely Tyson sporting her cornrows on the cover of Jet Magazine. Why is this a big deal? Because Cicely Tyson was one of the first famous American women to sport natural hairstyles, especially cornrows, during a time in American when most black women did not want to be seen out in [...]
Thanks for reading! Remember that our hair is a gift and that it can blossom and grow if we take good care of it. If you have questions, want to share your story, or just want to say hi, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org