Kinks and Kanekalon: How Weave Reveals the Success of the Natural Hair Movement

 photo Solangenaturalhairweave.jpg
by dara mathis

I never thought the final frontier would be weave. There was never any war; but if there was one, then surely, we have won it. Seven years ago, I joined a then-small community of women who braved hard stares, insults, overt and covert shade thrown–just because they cut their hair and went natural. Whether we did it to be counterculture or not, once that last inch of relaxed hair was gone, we had cut ourselves right out of black mainstream thought about our hair.

Natural hair was then just a ripple in the ocean of black culture, something that a handful of black women chose. So we did for ourselves: creating communities and networks, making our own products, uplifting our own standard of beauty in the face of those who would proclaim us ugly.

Today, natural hair is a ubiquitous Thing. Corporations market to black women with multiple hair textures. Black women are diverse and beautiful, and that diversity is finally being celebrated. The Big Chop is becoming as much of a rite of passage as the First Perm used to be. Friends of mine who swore they would never, have big chopped and grinned. I truly thought that all this was the hallmark of arrival.

There are strident natural hair advocates, militant even, who would dictate what is and isn’t natural. Who is or isn’t in. Why black women do or don’t relax, weave up, cut it short, grow it long, define curls, embrace frizz, or engage in protective styling. But that was never the intent of a natural hair community. We united because we had no one but ourselves to turn to, not because we needed an enemy to turn against.

Whatever “War” natural haired black women have been fighting, it’s not against other black women or their choices. We have been fighting against ignorance. Against “Most women with natural hair look like monkeys.” Against “Slap a perm in that!” Against “Do something with that nappy mess!” Against “You look like a slave/Kunta Kente/ Miss Celie/ a child/ unprofessional/ ugly/ a boy.” Against “You will never get a man/ a job/ a life/ a dog/ a future with that hair on your head.”

We take verbal arms and umbrage against the mentality that polices anything black women do with their hair. But not only that, we are fighting a war to reclaim our own self-acceptance. So when I heard about a kinky-textured weave company called The Heat Free Hair Movement, I gave a long side eye. Was this just another way for black women to shroud themselves, to cover up the unseemly? But after giving it some thought, I have done a praise dance at the epiphany I received.

Weave is the word.

If weave is the ultimate choice for women– meaning, you can choose your hair length, color, texture, and style– then surely, nappy hair weave is a sign that natural hair has arrived. If enough women have embraced the natural hair aesthetic to the extent that they have created a market for Afro-textured virgin hair, the war has been won. Remember when Chris Rock did “Good Hair” and said that nobody is buying African-American hair? Someone tell him, “Thank you.”

So does this mean that black women have nothing left to fight for? Remember: our mothers fought this fight for self-definition in the 70s. People will always be ignorant. But today, we will plant victory gardens in the strands of our daughters’ hair. We will show them that their beauty is not bound to a relaxer kit, a pack of Remi, or a numbered curl pattern. And the flowers of self-love that bloom in their spirits will show through the light in their eyes.

Because when it really comes down to it, our hair is the last thing that makes us beautiful if we feel ugly inside.


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Dara Tafakari Mathis is a freelance writer and editor, poet, and self-professed word nerd who loves smoothies and reckless acts of punctuation. She rants on Twitter @dtafakari.

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