By now you've probably seen the brilliant YouTube video posted by Cut.com showcasing the history of black hair over the past one hundred years. If you haven't watched it yet, the video features two talented stylists working in fast-forward speed to recreate the most iconic hairstyles of the past ten decades on a wonderfully kinky-haired model named Marshay Mitchell. It's a fascinating look at how creative and versatile hair can be, and it excites me to think about what the next hundred years will bring.
Even though the clip is entertaining in and of itself I think it becomes even more interesting when its cultural context is considered. Whether intended or not, it can be tricky to talk about natural hair without also commenting on race or politics. The video was produced through an American lens, which means the century of beauty it explores implies race relations, economic conditions, and a political climate specific to an American's standpoint over that period of time. To be exact, this is a depiction of one hundred years of beauty trends as they would have been experienced by a young Black woman with enough money in her pocket to keep up with the latest fads. Change up any of these variables (her age, ethnicity, financial situation, etc) and the video suddenly looks very different.
What if the woman was older? What if she didn't have money to press her hair regularly? What if she had been living on a different continent? What would her hundred years of beauty look like under those circumstances? I commend Cut.com for putting together such an inspired and honest video about natural hair because it has left me wanting more. I'm now curious to know how natural hair trends evolved in other countries. Were pin curls a thing for Black women in the Caribbean? Did cornrows ever make it big in Europe? Someone needs to get on these videos!
Even though we're all one big family supporting and inspiring each other, no two women have experienced the natural hair movement exactly the same way. As a Canadian-born person, my understanding of natural hair is different from my Mom's (she grew up in Tanzania and moved here from Uganda as an adult), and I can tell you first-hand that while I can relate to a lot of the predominantly American information I come across online, being natural in Canada is its own distinct adventure. For instance I've never been worried that my hair will be deemed unprofessional in the office, an issue that unfortunately isn't uncommon in the United States. However, despite living in two major Canadian cities I have always struggled to find professional, knowledgable, and reliable hairstylists. Whether you're newly natural or a seasoned pro, we all have so much to gain by sharing our stories and learning from one another. Broaden your horizon by watching tutorials by YouTubers who live on the other side of the world. Read blogs by writers whose names you can't pronounce. It's all at your fingertips ﹣ soak it up!
UPDATE (Aug 4, 2018) : Great news! Over the past few years, Cut has been adding more videos to their 100 Years of Beauty series. Now you can see how ladies' looks have evolved in Ethiopia, Kenya, Haiti, and many other nations!
Does learning about the history of natural hair matter to you, or are you all about the here and now? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
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