Throughout the pandemic we have been unable to go to the local barber’s shop for a regular touch up on our hair. Because we are obsessed with our hair. Our hair makes us who we are. Hair can be a shorthand – helping us to read other people and what they like and what they stand for. It makes us whole. It separates us from other people. It’s a statement of your individuality. It’s a symbol of different personalities – people try to imitate one another with hairstyles to fit in or to conform with what they think is expected, like for an interview or to fit in with a peer group. We copy each other’s hairstyles because it makes us feel we are part of something.
So when lockdown hit we lost access to a part of ourselves in terms of how we present to the world. Instead of relying on barbers we had to rely on ourselves and our friends to maintain our hair. Your hair can influence the way you see yourself, how comfortable you feel – if you feel that you are in the right skin.
I’m talking about myself as a black person who found himself in lockdown without warning and no access to a barber. During the pandemic year I have seen black people with different kinds of hair who are in the same predicament – finding it really frustrating not to be able to go to their local barbers. Their hairstyles are so complicated and so awkward to do it can’t just be done by one person and has to be done by a professional. That’s why barbers are a necessity for us – helps us to feel our very best. If we don’t have the hairstyle we want we can feel like a totally different person, an alien. We can’t function properly if we feel we don’t look 100%.
The hair products that we use are a mixture and a combination of different chemical elements that plays a vital part in how our hairstyles and how our hair behaves. It’s a secret language that connects us and makes our hair style more appealing within our culture and different cultures outside it. White people sometimes try and use our hair to try to make themselves conform to another culture, like Jamaican hairstyles. This makes me feel half and half – part of me feels a kind of pride that they want to copy because it represents a message so strong and is copying a look that is firmly entrenched into our society. The other half is a more negative feeling – because I feel like by doing that they are taking away our identity. Our way of being without actually understanding what it means – the spiritual culture and meaning that is attached to the look.
If we are stuck we normally ask our loved ones and friends to do our hair for us. That was the case whilst being in lockdown. In my case my mum shaved my hair. Luckily she knows how I prefer it. Thankfully I’ve hadn’t had any bad hair days.
Every hairstyle is different and every hairstyle is managed differently. That needs to be handled with care and prestige. An example would be holding a delicate flower in the wind that blows and every inch of hair counts and is valuable. That’s why hair is soft and gentle – it’s another way of taking care of something that has been given to us since birth.
Our hairstyles can showcase a whole other generation of flavours that makes our culture so mixed. In the black community our hairstyles can sometimes provoke controversy by expressing our own unique individualism. In the light of this, especially when trying to find a job, we endure and sometimes suppress our own sense of self by wearing another hairstyle that we wouldn’t normally have, just to fit in. Some of these hairstyles are from the past. The need to conform in this way can sometimes spark off a debate – why should having an afro or braids prevent you from getting the jobs that you want? Nowadays we normally use these generic hairstyles to try and identify with each other as a universal language. Even now we are still experimenting with what really feels right. And it’s with our different styles we are trying to separate ourselves from the herd, creating our own alternative mainstream sense of being. We can only do that with the different kind of textures that bind us. That we can really truly be able to somehow co-exist and to have a language that we can call our own. It’s time to get going with a new revolution. The future and control of hairstyles is within our grasp and direction.
By Paul Christian