by Imani A. Dawson of TribeCalledCurl.com
Black hair has always been the cornerstone of African American beauty culture. Since Antiquity, textured hair has been manipulated as a means of adornment for men and women of color. And, after decades of super straight strands as the desired aesthetic, the notion of crowning glory has returned to its roots for the first time in generations. Natural styles are the new normal. According to the latest data from market research firm Mintel, nearly 75 percent of Black women donned natural styles over past year. Relaxer sales have dropped a precipitous 26 percent since 2011.
The natural hair movement is—by all accounts—a paradigm shift. This texture-embracing renaissance can be traced back to the nineties and the coalescing of three important milestones: the introduction of dynamic artists with natural hair like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, the explosion of the Internet as a communication platform and the emergence of small companies creating hair care products designed for Afro-textured hair in its natural state.
Though the Afro enjoyed a brief resurgence during the 1960’s and 1970’s, its association with the Black Power movement gave it a political affiliation many Americans deemed revolutionary and threatening. The current iteration of natural hair symbolizes creative self-expression, rather than radical beliefs. “Natural hair has become an extension of a woman’s personal style,” says Fashion Buyer Dasheeda Dawson. “I‘ve noticed women purchasing accessories and changing their wardrobes to complement their curls.” Naturalistas also routinely use edgy cuts and vibrant colors to set themselves apart.
The natural hair shift has been buoyed by the proliferation of blogs, message boards and most recently, videos offering advice and inspiration for women who’ve embraced their textured tresses. “YouTube is a visual diary for the many women and men on natural hair journeys,” says popular video blogger Trudy Susan of ‘4C Hair Chick.’ “It’s inspired people to join the movement and helped the industry around natural hair evolve faster to meet their needs.” Other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram offer natural women additional inspiration, support and advice on hair care, maintenance and styling.
Social media is also powering the growth of independent African American-owned personal care companies, which are in the unique position of understanding their consumer’s needs first hand. SheaMoisture founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis likens it to a deep-rooted connection. “As a family-owned company, we pay tribute to our roots and family matriarch Sofi Tucker who started creating and selling shea butter-based skin preparations in Sierra Leone back in 1912, with every product we make. As far as we’re concerned, the consumers who love SheaMoisture are family, as well. Our goal is to best serve their needs, and we use social media to engage with them daily.”
Some CEOs have themselves become role models, like beauty maven Karen Tappin of Karen’s Body Beautiful. “Consumers see my Afro, and know that I get their concerns. My kinky hair connects me directly to my audience. They know if my products work for me, they’ll be effective for them, as well.” With more men and women embracing natural textures every day, this trend shows no sign of abating. Tappin believes it’s here to stay. “Natural hair represents self love, and everyone wants to feel good about themselves. One day, everyone will rock their hair the way it grows out of their heads and be comfortable inside their skins.”
About Imani A. Dawson and TribeCalledCurl.com:
Imani A. Dawson is an award-winning writer and TV producer with a passion for storytelling and over 13 years of experience working in media. In 2013, she launched TribeCalledCurl.com, a natural hair and beauty website with a mission to educate, inform, entertain and inspire women of color while empowering them to celebrate their unique beauty.