Nothing can define an outfit, define a look, and define a personality like hair. Natural hair is a huge part of our heritage, and over many centuries has been the subject of discussion and controversy. It seems strange to think that the acceptance of something so natural has to be campaigned for, but the history behind the Natural Hair Movement tells a story of ridicule, dominance and bravery. This is the story of our Hair-itage.
The South African heritage comes with many sorrows and many triumphs, but one that can be celebrated daily is the growing acceptance of natural hair. “Through the decades the idea of natural hair has seen opposition, and even today can still bring about the negative stare or word. However, the view of natural hair today, from where we started, has definitely progressed,” says Revlon Realistic.
Acts such as touching natural hair were seen as taboo in South Africa, and even today is not easily encouraged or embraced. In 2017 this “unthinkable” action was flipped on its head by Revlon Realistic when they strategically positioned their ambassadors in a busy location and asked strangers passing by to touch their hair. Once those asked were over the initial shock of what was being asked of them, they hesitantly ran their hands through the ambassador’s hair; they were astonished to discover that their hair was 100% natural. “It’s breaking taboo notions such as these and praising natural hair, that helps give women and men the opportunity to define themselves by showing off their natural beauty,” says Revlon Realistic.
Over the years there has been a back and forth movement with regards to natural hair – should we embrace it or keep it sleek and straight? However, lately, more and more women have decided that going natural is the only way. In 2016, South African schoolgirl Zulaikha Patel was told by one of her teachers that her hair was unruly, and that she needed to do something about. Instead of going home and “calming” her hair, she started a movement to legitimise natural hair in schools. She has since become a new symbol for the Natural Hair Movement, and it is acts such as these that are bringing focus and attention to the campaign for natural hair.
During the time of slavery, female slaves were made to cut their hair short to strip them of their identity. Hair was seen as a way to define yourself, and if you were hair free there would be no opportunity for you to believe that you were free in any other way. Even “free” women were told to cover up their elaborate hairstyles with a head scarf so as not to attract too much attention to themselves.
In the late 1800’s hair straightening was achieved using chemicals and hot irons and became a successful business. Later, the hair straightener was invented and gained huge momentum as men and women wanted to adopt more Western styles. From here, different hair styling tools were created to achieve the straighter look.
Over the years more and more defining hairstyles have come to the forefront; in the 60’s Angela Davis showed off her natural afro which soon became a symbol for the Black Panther Movement and for freedom. The opposite of the natural look of the Afro, was the Jerry Curl which exploded on to the scene in the late 70’s and well into the 80’s. This conveyed the idea that hair needed to look more Western, which was still prevalent in magazines and in the media.
From the 90’s onwards the acceptance of natural black hair started gaining momentum, with more and more products coming to the forefront, proudly highlighting the benefits of keeping hair natural. “Although it is still being met with opposition, the idea of keeping hair natural is being viewed more positivity than ever before, and continues to gain momentum today,” says Revlon Realistic.