I’ve had my hair permanently straightened, every three to four months, for the past 10 years. This is because up until now, in my head, straight hair was always so beautiful, so put together, so feminine.
I know, people usually say ‘…what? ten years? why?’.
Something I always took as is and never questioned was: sleek, straight hair makes you look put together whereas curly hair makes you look unkempt. But why? When majority of us spend hours in the morning, battling our curls, frizz and waves, to achieve this ‘sleek’ state, this phenomena is questionable. How did the idea, that the hair you were born with, no matter what it is, could lack professionalism ,even come to be? Many articles claim that curly hair is unprofessional because it’s ‘wild’, it’s ‘unkempt’ and it’s ‘distracting’. Things are only ‘distracting’ when they are considered unusual and out of place, because the eye is attracted to things that are new and different. Why is curly hair unusual? Why isn’t it considered an acceptable natural state? After all, it’s what a large percentage of us possess at birth. Why do we feel pressured to ‘tame our tresses’ and idealize straight, neat hairdo’s?
Because we are influenced by everything around us.
Like the media. Ah. A common culprit. Almost every shampoo advertisement I’ve seen since I was born, features a girl with frizzy, tangled, messed up hair who’s life is in absolute shambles because she can’t get it to co-operate. With the use of product X, her hair turns silky straight. Not just softer and clean, but silky straight. I’m sorry, but when was the last time that happened in real life? Never. These kinds of comparisons make you desire the ‘after’ image, something unattainable (without damaging chemicals) rather than learn how to accept and care for the ‘before’.
More often than not, actresses tame their curls as they rise to fame. Their once iconic curls are replaced by a sleek, more professional look. Curls have long been considered unruly and wild, while straight strands are considered beautiful and sleek. We get that. But these figures, at the end of the day, are idols and so as little girls, we want to look like them. If we can’t find someone to look up to, who looks like us, we want to change ourselves to look like them – and that’s tragic. The exact same phenomena can be seen with dolls, Barbie in particular.
Along with this, in most tv shows, those with curly hair are simply those who are meant to represent a certain race group, (the token black/brown/hispanic girl) or have less serious roles in the overall plot. Why is that?
At the end of the day, it seems that hair can affect how people perceive you to the extent that it affects your employment prospects. More importantly, it has the power to affect how you feel about yourself.
As someone who’s chemically straightened her hair for a decade, I’ve finally seen the value of my natural hair and strive to keep it this way from here on – and I encourage you to do the same. It’s essential that we accept our natural state first – only then will others.