Fashion / Hair / Photography

THOUGHT PROCESS | Thinking about hair, fashion and blackness : The Afro, Natural Hair Blogs and The Coiffure Project

The Coiffure Project by TYP Photography Studio

This isn’t directly related to my MRP but I still find it interesting to think about …

When I started studying at Ryerson, I became interested in the ways in which individuals use fashion as a tool to construct their personal identity. For me, hair is a fascinating part of fashion and black identity. I really started to think about hair as fashion when writing a paper for my Fashion and Theory class. For the paper, we were asked to choose an object and articulate it as an item of fashion. I chose the Afro hairstyle during the height of its popularity during the 1960s and 1970s in the United States of America. I won’t go into the details of what I wrote but in basic words I argued that the Afro was a revolutionary item of fashion.  Within the African-American community, especially amongst women, the Afro or the “natural” as it was first called, allowed for a renewed sense of pride in “black beauty.”  The dichotomy between “good hair” and “bad hair” has been an ongoing debate for African-Americans since the beginnings of the slave trade. Traditionally, straight hair is seen as “good hair” and natural hair (African hair in its natural state) is seen as “bad hair.” As I wrote in my paper (yes I am quoting myself!):

“Coinciding with the civil rights and Black Power movement, the Afro emerged as a symbol racial pride as well as negation of the ‘white’ beauty ideal. Those like political activists Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver, who wore Afros were seen as radicals who boldly embraced qualities of ‘blackness’ and ‘black beauty.’ The Afro became a means of negotiating black identity and difference.”

Angela Davis and Mrs. Franklin Alexander, 1972

Since roughly 2008, there has been of growing number of “natural hair” blogs made predominantly by women of African descent. Whereas the Afro was one of the few hairstyle options during the “first wave of the natural”, the “second wave of the natural” has seen a wide variety of hairstyles (including the Afro) in which natural hair can be styled. I like to think of these natural hair blogs as a subcategory of the blogs that are the main focus of my research. Just like fashion blogs, natural hair blogs has shaped what “black beauty” is today. There is a strong sense of community amongst the bloggers and their readers. Often these bloggers will document their “natural hair journey” which is the process of growing out their chemically straightened hair and learning how to care for their hair in its natural state. They’ll share hair product reviews and styling tips with their readers who are also growing out their hair. It’s also interesting to see natural hair bloggers who consider themselves fashion bloggers as well.

I follow several natural hair blogs (I’ve listed them at the end of this post) and I’m trying to keep track to any natural hair related projects that are similar to my MRP.  A friend of mine sent me a link to to this article in the Huffington Post. Glenford Nunez of TYP Photography Studio has created a collection of portraits of black women with natural hair called The Coiffure Project. I’ve selected some of my favourite portraits below.

From The Coiffure Project

From The Coiffure Project

From The Coiffure Project

From The Coiffure Project

Some of my favourite natural hair blogs. (Focuses on hair, fashion and culture) (The destination for all natural hair related tips and techniques) (Probably the most well-known natural hair blogger)

further reading

Davis, Angela Y. “Afro Images: Politics, Fashion and Nostalgia.” Critical Inquiry 21.1 (1994) : 37 – 45. Print.

Mercer, Kobena. “Black Hair/Style Politics.” New Formations 3. (1987): 33-54. Print.

Tulloch, Carol. “Resounding Power of the Afro Comb.” Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion. Ed. Geraldine Biddle-Perry and Sarah Cheang. Berg Publishers, 2009. 123 – 139. Print.

Walker, Susannah. “Black Is Profitable: The Commodification of the Afro, 1960 – 1975.” Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History 1.3 (2000) 536-564. Print.

to be continued …

4 thoughts on “THOUGHT PROCESS | Thinking about hair, fashion and blackness : The Afro, Natural Hair Blogs and The Coiffure Project

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