So it has been extremely important to me, as the mom of a young Black man, to find hair icons for him to look at and find himself reflected in the world. As the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And my son, as a private school student in a predominantly white school, doesn’t get to see a lot of other Black people, particularly men. (His dad is bald so although he’s with him everyday, for the purposes of this hair conversation, he doesn’t really count right now.)
So, I’ve discussed all over the place about his reluctance to wear his hair loose (not in twists or cornrows) – until I started him on this Iconafro project. But here’s the thing. While I am able to find boatloads of pictures of men wearing afros, I find little to no scholarly research on the matter. Every article I read is about Black women’s struggles with their hair – self-acceptance, societal acceptance, hair loss, hair care, wash day rituals, styling, youtube videos on Black hair center around women but barely anything on the men! And honestly, it is the same for young boys. I don’t always have the time, patience (or most times ability, if I’m being honest) to do my son’s hair so off to the salon we go. And the kids’ salons I take him to, their all about the little girls. They’re pink and glittery, playing My Little Pony or Barbie cartoons so he brings his iPad, plays video games and tries hard to tune out all of the girlie stuff going on around him. But why? It’s 2021. Black boys can wear their hair long too! Why are we just ignoring an entire demographic when they endure the same hair struggles as Black women with natural hair? Why have we not looked at this from a historic perspective? A scholarly perspective? These movements to normalize Afro/Black hair affect men as well as women. We should invite them to come sit with us at the table and air out what is happening in their heads.
In hours of research, I’ve found so few articles that broach anything about this subject from the male perspective so I felt it was important to link those articles here.