The other day, I was scrolling through Twitter, as one does when they are trying to find a fix to boredom, or a Pandora’s box of social issues to open. What came springing out this time, a conversation on whether black women’s box braids were appropriate for an occasion as special as a birthday celebration.
For some, the box braids were great for protective styling and everyday wear, but not for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. They said that such occasions are where we whip out the waist length bundles and frontals. For others, the crown of box braids on a black woman’s hair was not only inappropriate for their birthdays but for every occasion, big or small.
The black woman’s hair isn’t just hair, it is a political statement. It is why girls have been turned out of school, and why women have been refused jobs; why girls have been taught that they are not pretty until they straighten their natural hair or wear it in a Eurocentric way; why little girls have been mocked for smelling like coconut oil and shea butter.
Our hair may just be one part of our culture, but it is a very important part. It has gone on to shape trends and history and has been imitated by a lot of others. Now, we are regaining that narrative and control, we want to dictate for each other what is deemed appropriate? I disagree.
Black hair and black protective styles are beautiful. And as long as your hair is nice and neat and done up, it can fit whatever occasion you want it to. You don’t have to take down the braids, you can do it up in buns, knots, and other styles. You can let it down or keep it up. Whatever makes you happy.
The reason to normalize our hairstyles in every space, shape and form is the same reason why it wasn’t normalized in the first place. For a long time, black hair in its natural state, as well as worn in other forms by black people, was considered out of the norm. Big, unkempt, unprofessional and less desirable. Now, it makes it to popular culture in the form of box braids, dreads, durags as outerwear etcetera. Now, it’s ”cool, trendy and fetch”. But it doesn’t stop sports teams from telling a young, black, college boy to cut his dreads before he plays. Or a qualified lawyer being told to cut his dreads before he can step foot in court.
If we are to stop appropriation of our culture by the west, and appreciate ours more, it really does start with how we see and classify our own hair. It’s up to you to wear your hair however you like. But I feel like encouraging black kids to embrace their curls, coils and twists is paramount to how we see our hair in the future.
And by the way, the lawyer went on to practice in court without cutting off his hair. I’m taking that Win as mine and as all of ours. Embrace your hair and the many ways it is presented. Be bold, strong and confident with it.
Love and light,
a black woman about to go to the hair salon to install some box braids for a wedding.