Natural Hair: Trend or Movement?

A few years ago, I could count the number of women I’d see walking in public with their natural hair out, especially the younger ones. Now, it seems like I can’t turn around without bumping into a glorious fro. I. Love. It. It’s obvious that brands and other heavyweights are finally taking notice. Even celebrities all seem to be natural, are going natural now or are admitting they were closet naturals.

The other day, I had a discussion with someone who mentioned that the US had a movement in natural hair whereas it’s a trend here. I asked them to elaborate and they said it was because the choice to go natural on the other side of the pond had political and social ties and implied that wasn’t the case here. This topic has been lingering in my mind for awhile, I’m actually surprised I’m only writing about it now. Before I share my opinion, let’s first have a quick recap on the definition of each word, shall we?

What is a trend?

noun 1. A general direction in which something is developing or changing.

          2. A fashion.

For me, a trend is something that is fleeting. An ‘in’ thing. It’s hot today and old news tomorrow. It has no longevity, aside from possibly resurging in a few years or decades after it was first popular. A trend is fashionable, something that has little or no deeper significance. It doesn’t change the way people think or behave.

What is a movement?

noun 1. An act of moving.

          2. A group of people working together to advance their shared political, social or artistic ideas.

I say a movement brings people with similar mindsets and beliefs together. It stirs something deep within you and your value system which in turn pushes you to fight; actively or more passively. A movement challenges the status quo.

I’ve read some comments or have heard people saying they went natural because everyone else was, or because others made it look easy and now they’re over it. Or they see others going natural, then go back to relaxing their hair claiming ‘they knew it was just a fad’. Just like with other movements, many people fall off, lose interest or drive. That happens. The whole point of a movement is that it’s not easy. When the world tells or shows us something that is different to what we do, it takes a lot more out of us to stand our ground and keep going. We have weak points that are constantly tested, but we find the courage and strength to carry on. The people who continue with a movement are swimming against the tide and some will naturally drop off.

Going back to the chat I had about calling the natural hair shift in the US a movement and a trend here in comparison. I disagreed with him straight away. Whether intentional or not, choosing to be natural is making a statement. When I first went natural, I didn’t do so with any intent other than trying to care for my hair without being dependent on relaxer. It grew deeper from there as I saw how people acted differently towards me with natural hair. They assumed I, as a person, behaved a certain way or believed certain things with natural hair. They put me in a box before a word would come out of my mouth, because I have natural hair. I realised that I face and challenge the status quo everyday I leave my house with my hair visibly in its natural state. And I very recently openly challenged the beauty ideals that many of us have fallen for.

Of course there are political and social ties to wearing your hair naturally here. Just think about this country’s history! Just look at the very public example of this in the Pretoria High School for Girls incident, and others that happen regularly. And as much as we say 1994 was the year of freedom, many minds weren’t set free. Our hair, especially in its natural form is always a topic for discussion, whether negatively or positively, in many spaces. Throughout history, explicitly and implicitly in laws, rules, advertising, people’s looks and snide remarks, we’ve been told that our hair is untidy, unruly, unprofessional, ugly. And now we’re saying no, it’s not. It’s beautiful, it’s sexy, it’s stylish. I can be intelligent, professional, confident, successful, gorgeous and wear my hair natural.

Trend? That’s not what I’m seeing happening here. Women from all walks of life are rocking their natural hair proudly, despite the fact that we’ve repeatedly been told not to. How is that not a movement?

What do you think? Is the higher visible presence of natural hair a trend or a movement? Weigh in below.

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17 Comments

  1. September 11, 2017 / 1:46 pm

    Hello Aisha,
    natural hair is healthy hair and it will never go out of fashion. now we are more educated on caring for our natural hair and we now know and understand that our natural hair grows. this is really great tropic. I have natural hair and definitely need to take more care of my hair. . I’m always looking new tips of hair care.
    Thanks

  2. May 9, 2017 / 5:21 pm

    Must something be political to be termed a movement? It’s a new way of doing things that will not fade away. It’s trendy yes but going natural is not a trend in my humble opinion. To call it a trend implies it could easily be moved on from or will be moved on from, eventually and I disagree. Off shoulder tops are a trend. Going natural is NOT.

    I went natural 5 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. To succeed in your natural hair journey (that is, to not kill yourself or go back to relaxers out of frustration), one has to become invested in some way. Learn more about hair care- or should I say actually learn about your hair for the first time in your life. Natural hair is not a walk in the park haha so it’s too much work to be called a “trend”. It’s a journey that for many, is life changing. Learning to love my hair helped me accept and change some things about myself. It wasn’t easy at first, but it definitely helped me grow my confidence.

    AND. Natural hair has been a hot topic for years. I think that alone shows it has passed “trend”.

    • Aisha O
      May 16, 2017 / 6:28 pm

      “Natural hair has been a hot topic for years. I think that alone shows it has passed “trend”.”

      Agreed!

  3. April 29, 2017 / 1:13 pm

    Hmmm…personally, I will say it’s more a trend than a movement in Nigeria where I’m from. It doesn’t really have any political undertones. Most people went natural because they knew someone who went natural and it looked good. Some people may stay natural, some are planning to grow out their hair long enough to relax. As a trend though, it gave a lot of people the opportunity to get to know their unrelaxed hair. It also made companies aware that our hair type exists and have to be catered to. I’m glad that I can walk into a store and see natural hair products unlike 4-5 years ago where I’s have to look for the less damaging option.

    http://www.nappilynigeriangirl.com

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 6:12 am

      Thanks for weighing in Hadassah. I think either way, it’s a great shift and revelation for Black women everywhere. I’m not sure how the Nigerian community used to look at natural hair but I know in Tanzania, (and other countries that my friends come from) in the middle to upper class, it’s seen as untidy or ‘village’. There’s always the question of “what are you going to do with your hair?” or “you need to fix that hair”. And we have to question when those kinds of questions/mentality started and why they’re as pervasive as they are. I think the historical and political undertones happened long ago and have been entrenched so deeply in our culture that relaxing/straightening your hair just became the norm. Now we pushed back to say that there’s more we can rock with. And it’s something that we led. Not the mainstream media or brands who have finally as you said woken up and realised we’re a genuine target market that they need to serve.

  4. Amanda
    April 22, 2017 / 8:03 am

    Great topic Aisha. For me I did my big chop for no other reason than to liberate myself from this notion that only weaves make you pretty! I wanted to challenge myself to try something different at 30! Low and behold when I did my research and saw the versatility of natural hair I fell in love with both the trend and the movement! In my view it started off as a trend in SA, it was cool,cute and fashionable and now it has blown into a full on movement! A representation of who we are as black girls! Finally having something to be proud of… along with our bodies, and our skin colour, which the west has often tried to imply has never been good enough! So I think it has metamorphasised into a movement! A movement which I am proud to be part of….

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 6:05 am

      Yes, maybe that’s another way of looking at it – a trend that metamorphasised into a movement. At least, that’s what it was like for me as I didn’t consciously big chop for the historical/political undertones of it. But more an acceptance and determination to learn how to care for my hair in its natural state and to love all of me, as a Black woman who as you say “the west has often tried to imply has never been good enough”. We are beautiful and we’re good enough!

  5. Tendayi
    April 21, 2017 / 11:55 pm

    I think its a movement and not a trend because now we are more educated on caring for our natural hair and we now know and understand that our natural hair grows. Therefore i feel that the move to become natural is more centered on the understanding that we dont need to rely on relaxers for long healthy hair..i think the movement is here to stay!

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 6:01 am

      Here here!

  6. Fadzi
    April 21, 2017 / 7:02 pm

    Good question. I think it’s both a movement and a trend – and there’s nothing wrong with it being a trend! We all have our personal motivations for going natural, and in that sense it might be a movement. But let’s face it – natural is beautiful and very trendy right now, and the fact that it’s so popular may push ladies towards considering it, and then they consider the reasons why etc. So the trend feeds the movement, and the movement is trendy, and that’s a good thing imo.

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 6:01 am

      Hi Fadzi, thanks for commenting. I agree that it’s a good thing either way. At least it’s pushing women to explore other hair options. I hope it’s not a trend though for the mere fleeting aspect of trends. I hope we’re seeing something more permanent happening here and that even those who went natural for the ‘trendiness’ of it will still appreciate the beauty in it on those who’ll continue wearing it this way.

  7. April 21, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    Yazi I’m very reluctant to weigh in here. Maybe thats an indication that i should go think on it for a sec. In a country that at an institutional level like work and school, natural hair and hairstyles best suited for such hair; dreadlocks, braids,plaits twist have been frowned upon and looked down upon, of course! Yes, it is a statement. Where black women had absolutely little to no education about their and how the best care for it? Yes of course, it becomes a statement. But then the flaw is what does that inherent statement mean for women who opt to stick with relaxers wigs weave extentions etc? That they are against this inherent statement ergo this movement that women wearing their hair natural make? I don’t really think so.
    I know for a fact that for me, its so much deeper than just wearing my hair natural or learning to care for it. But that doesn’t mean that meant nothing if i ever choose to relax or wear weave.i think the question then becomes, what us this statement? What is this message that this movement in the U.S is rallying behind? Trends go out of style. I don’t think what comes out of your head will ever go out of style. . . .if that even makes sense.
    But on the other hand, what a shame it is that wearing your hair the way it grows out of your head has to be politicized and that a child like Zulaikha has to carry this burden at a young age.

    Mvumikazi | Urban Mnguni

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 5:57 am

      You make a good point. And I agree that just because a woman decides to wear her hair relaxed etc doesn’t mean she’s against the movement. For me, it just means that natural just isn’t for her – from a styling or maintenance or just preference point of view. My worry when I realised my relationship with my hair was unhealthy (that made me stop relaxing) was that it was so normal that I didn’t even question or see any problems with why that was my automatic choice of hair. I think that in itself is the premise to the statement. Whether we call it a movement or not, it undeniably has history behind it.

  8. Yolenda Pilane
    April 21, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    Soooook deep Aisha! A topic that’s also been on my mind for a few weeks now. For me, it was simply for thicker, healthier hair. I big chopped my relaxed hair solely for the purpose of ‘bulking’ it up…but just like you…later became aware of ‘what that meant’ to the rest of the works. All of a sudden…my natural hair has become a statement of ‘who I am’ or so they say. And proudly, I continue wearing my hair natural, not carrying about what others read of that. But I suppose that too…makes it a movement that ‘I’m part’ of doesn’t it?

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 5:52 am

      Thanks Yolenda, totally agree. Whether intentional or not, natural hair says something to people. Otherwise (at least for me) I wouldn’t be asked about it or noticed for it all the time. All the time! It’s different from the ‘norm’ or what’s expected and I love that I’m part of it too.

  9. April 21, 2017 / 10:12 am

    Trend or Movement? not sure about that. What I know is that over the past years most of us had very little knowledge on taking care of our hair in its natural state, hence the easiest way was to relax it and that came with its pros and cons. For me, wearing my natural hair is also a way to embrace me as I am, not who the world thinks I should be (Wavy hair, long straight hair etc.). Our Natural hair is gorgeous and versatile… I am simply in love with the fact that it is all ‘Me’ . Knowledge on how to care for our hair is what people are into these days, and that is definitely not a trend or movement.

    • Aisha O
      April 30, 2017 / 5:50 am

      Hi Nolo, thanks for weighing in. I tend to disagree with not calling it either. I guess everyone has their own take and interpretations on words because to me, what you’ve described is a movement. Definitely not in the exact same way that purely political movements are but in a change in mentality way. My thing is, we should also start by looking at how straight hair was introduced into our culture. If curly, kinky hair is our natural state and had been for millenia, what happened? And how did it happen? How did relaxed hair become the norm in so many communities? To the point that we stopped knowing how to care for our hair? I totally agree with your points and to me that says that a shift is happening. That we’re taking back our hair knowledge, appreciation and love.

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