Stories From the Fringe
OZY’s Hair! series looks at the pleasure and politics of our beloved locks.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because every lock has a story to tell.
Hair: Long or short, curly or straight, light or dark or colored — the mighty mane is a part of our human bodies that we tend to pay a lot of attention to (and money on).
And because we often associate our precious locks with our identity, well, that makes its upkeep — care and style — a mighty important focus.
Meet the people who are celebrating their natural hair and creating a wealth of options for others to love their kinks and curls. And find out how haircuts — and even hair removal — can be an act of reverence, a career-limiting move or have tragic consequences.
Entrepreneur Noel Durity is a grinder on a mission — to get your hair in shape easily. In 2016 the San Diego-based real estate broker created his Twist It Up Comb after he realized using an actual tennis racket in a circular motion to twist his combed-out ’fro was not only functional, it also took no time. And Shark Tank agreed.
After pandering to Western notions of hair beauty for decades, West Africa is finally embracing natural hair. A web of companies, hair salons and communities are sparking a shift, tapping into a growing natural hair market emerging across Africa. But it remains a knotty affair.
“Well, hair today, gone tomorrow,” Elvis Presley joked as his hair fell to the floor on March 24, 1958. The media dubbed the day of that haircut — and of the King’s induction into the U.S. Army — as “Black Monday.” Because that now-legendary shearing changed everything for the most famous person on the planet.
Reddit might not be a space that you would consider particularly supportive, but the 250,000 members of r/curlyhair think otherwise. Guys and gals share photos of their curly hair success (and failures), solicit advice about the best products for hair types and are generally ushered through the five stages of curly hair acceptance (a joke, but the catharsis is real!).
The Indian beauty ideal for women tends to prize silky straight hair. Asha Barrak is a woman unafraid of embracing her curls, and she’s helping others to do the same — with India’s first-ever curly hair care blog, Right Ringlets, and curly hair care brand.
Every year, thousands of devotees visit the Balaji temple in Tirupati to have their hair cut. Over 600 barbers go to work daily, shearing the locks of devotees. The donated hair is auctioned off, with all of the proceeds going to the temple. But this is more than a holy haircut, it’s an act of reverence.
Right up until the 1950s, American women willingly exposed their bodies to high doses of X-rays to remove unwanted hair. But what seemed as a painless alternative to address a social hirsute stigma was actually a naive belief in science. It was a hair-blasting method that resulted, for some, in tragic consequences.