Saturday, 8 February 2014

Smooth down those hairlines or else!

I have found myself getting all hot under the collar over a thread on Facebook about hairlines, of all things. 

Yeah, I know. It's a natural thing. 

Wait, no. Actually, slicked down hairlines are an everybody thing. Black, White or Asian. nothing says 'coiffed' more than edges that are lying flat. If you have fine, straight hair, a soft brush may be all you need to lay put those flyaways to rest. The further up the hair typing chart you get, the harder it gets, the more desirable it seems to become. And if you have baby hair to boot, you're made. #itsablackthing

fake it till you make it girl!
Now it may seem like I drank a tall, cool glass of haterade, but I'm not mad at those who can. If your hairline can be manipulated into lying flat, whether by using a brush or gel or industrial glue, fantastic. Good for you. But what about when it can't? Herein lies the problem.

There are sooooo many different hair textures among naturalistas that it seems unfair to judge everyone by the same standard of what is beautiful and what is acceptable. I'm on the other end of the spectrum; I  have rough edges, and Lord knows I tried to get them to lay down. But it never happened. And I doubt it ever will. Not least because I'm no longer bothered by them so I don't try anymore.  My hairline looks like I'm part Hottentot, and I'm OK with that.

gel anyone?
 So whats the big deal about sleek hair? As a new natural, I watched countless styling videos and they ALL smoothed down their edges. It wasn't even an option not to. The hairline debate came up over a local magazine article featuring a natural with 'fluffy' edges.

the controversial cover
The conversation moved with the speed of light from how fantastic it was to see a natural on the cover to her hairline. The predominant sentiment was that she should have seen to them. Photoshop was even mentioned.  Yes, it's that serious. The reality is though, that while there are plenty of naturals who can wear a smoothed down hairline, there are also plenty who can't. But regardless, natural society dictates that they try. So they do. To the possible detriment of their hairline. Black women the world over know what a sensitive topic hairlines are; traction alopecia is a real and ever-present threat. Just ask Naomi Campbell. And yet we impose upon ourselves another impossible standard by which we define beautiful hair. We use it to grade natural hair and on the desirability scale of 1-10, rough edges are a big fat zero. The one legged, cross-eyed stepchild that nobody wants. 

As naturals, we need to take a long hard look at whether our desire for smooth edges is simply aesthetic or whether we too have fallen prey to the Eurocentric ideals that plague the rest of the black hair industry. 


  1. This is brilliant Nina!Damn you work fast lol!Well written!

    1. Lol, thanks. Striking while the iron is hot and all that.

  2. Great writing as always, but I think your last comment about 'eurocentric ideals' contradicts the one at the beginning which says "slicked down hairlines are an everybody thing". Your thoughts?

  3. No actually I think it supports it. All Caucasian and Asian people can slick back their edges with relative ease but there is a whole group of black people who can not, yet it is still touted as something to strive for.

  4. Hahahahahahhahahhaha!! Hottentot had me rolling on the floor. Hahahahahahha!! Yes, some of those 'balls' refuse to sleek back try as we may. So we embrace them.....or just go out with the ruffled look and rock it like that is actually what you intended to do. :-D

  5. I hear what you're saying but it doesn't have to be that way! I gave up on smoothing my edges years ago. I actually think it looks foolish when someone does a puff with sleek waves, baby hair, and then a fro. Like, who are you fooling? I haven't used gel in God knows how long, and since I haven't been using combs, what can't be smoothed/brushed with my little fingers won't kill anyone.

    Now Naomi Campbell is a whole different story... lol