Is there such a thing as bad hair?

For a long time, straight or processed hair was the standard of beauty which many women clung to.

Nappy. Kinky. Pepper grain. These are all words that evoke a negative connotation when referring to black hair. Back in the day many felt so compelled to not be stigmatised or shamed for the quality of their hair, that they would make a harsh concoction of mayonnaise, onion and other ingredients to make ‘lyle’ to comb through and straighten the texture so it look more Eurocentric.

Looking back, the question we should ask is why did people put themselves through that? It’s likely because they were haunted by the notion they had ‘bad hair’.

Black women, in particular, would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their hair was ‘acceptable’ and as similar to that of their white counterparts as possible.

By ‘bad hair’ we mean to hair that is considered undesirable and it should not be confused with having a ‘bad hair day’, which is temporary. A bad hair day can be caused by numerous reasons including humidity and care. However, bad hair refers to the texture of one’s hair and is largely reserved for black people.

Throughout history many black children have been made to feel ‘less than’ because of the quality of their hair. It was termed ‘coarse’, ‘rough’ or ‘unmanageable’ so mothers would often process the hair of their girls long before puberty.  In order to avoid having a girl child with ‘nappy hair’, some black women would simply seek out a male partner from a different ethnicity so that they could have a child with so called ‘pretty’ hair because the alternative was to have an offspring with hair that could possibly blight their future.

Increasingly, there has been a resurgence of pride in black hair, with many companies creating products to cater to women who want to embrace their natural hair.

We have come a far way since those antiquated days when natural hair was vilified and only straight or curly hair was acceptable. We have also come a far way from the days when a little girl would be laughed at if her hair could not be combed into a pony tail. Indeed, when you look in the beauty aisle of the supermarkets and pharmacies there are so many natural hair products now to choose from. It’s a far cry from the straightening iron comb and Vaseline petroleum jelly to ‘press’ the hair so that it looks ‘presentable’.

Our hair was once referred to as ‘bad’ but black women have, over the past decade or so reverted to embracing every kink. We do not make excuses for our hair but embrace it. If a woman chooses to wear a wig that’s fine as well but there should be no shaming of a woman who rocks cane rows, afros, sista locs, Nubian knots or any variation that showcases the hair that adorns her head. We are more than our hair so a style will not define us.