As I sat down to write this piece. I began to realize that we men invest a lot more time in hair and hairstyles then we really care to admit. In fact, I am sure I will have some uncomfortable moments before this article is over. For most men, we make our weekly or bi-weekly trip to the barbershop where we indulge in manly man-ness that is confirmed to our egos by the fact that we must change the conversation whenever a young mother comes in with her children. We wait for our chair, get a cut, and go about our business.
If you let us tell the story about our hair regimen; we shower, shave, comb it out and we are done. Anything more involved than that is metrosexual. I can see all the eyes rolling now… I know that a ton of machismo and one dollar will not even buy a cup of coffee; however, it is the perception from which many men (me included) operate.
But as I look back through my own follicular history, and my cavalcade of hair styles; I discover that I spent more than a little time and money on hairstyles and hair. Going back to the 70s I broke the surly bonds of brush cut fades with the afro. In those days, our approach to hair care was grow it, and grow it some more. You had to look like Linc from Mod Squad, Angela Davis, or Sly Stone. Then you had to put a pick, or a cake cutter in it for effect. The next natural progression was the blowout. You could get another 1-2 inches of orb if you used a hair dryer. This is when we started seeing blow dryers and blowout combs in the locker room. 1 in every 5 guys had one, thus we would line up waiting to use the next available blow dryer. Overnight I changed from the little boy who hated to brush his hair to someone who spent a lot of time on the fro.
In the 80s, things did not get any less complicated. This decade came in easy like a Sunday morning. Thanks to Lionel Richie, the Jheri Curl exploded on the scene. I can’t even talk about it. That has to be a “what were we thinking” conversation. Cutting to the chase, the Jheri Curl meant you were spending easily an hour and a half on your head every day; and anywhere from 8-16 hours in a shower cap. I never saw Lionel in a shower cap? How did he do it? Then about 1983 the brothers started the “going natural” movement by going to the high top fade; the taller the better. This had to be the golden age of the barber shop, because depending on your social calendar, you would hit the barber shop as many as 3 times a week. Eventually the high top gave way to a short fade with multiple lines or “parts” cut in, which gave way to ornamental design, team logos, your girl’s name, anything that and artist could cut on to the side of your hair. Again, keeping it fresh meant 2-3 cuts weekly. Black men can be extravagant, but this fade business was too expensive, so we finished out the 80s with a piece of your stocking, and some pomade to revive the wave. The wave was a classic look, popularized in the 1940s and 50s. Don’t you remember seeing us walking around with a hairbrush, standing on the corner, three or four guys talking and constantly brushing the hair.
Then entered the hairstyles of the 90s and the new millennium. This is a dichotic period for black men and hair. We really kicked in with the texturizing our hair. “Texturizing “sounds so much manlier than “relaxing”; never mind that we needed a shelf full of moisturizers, conditioning shampoos, leave in conditioners, and some crème to touch up new growth. Oh, did I also mention styling gel, curl activator, and spray sheen. For me, after texturizing, I find it hard to believe that the popularity of bald heads and dreadlocks was a coincidence. After that relaxing routine, guys scattered for the razor or the locs. When we got there, we discovered that bald heads are as extremely high maintenance as are dreads. As I look back, the only time in my life when my hair did not require a lot of attention was when I was 6 and when I was in the service. This, of course is all the fault of women; because we only do our hair to be attractive to you.
Well, I have to end this article now because I have to get my fade touched up before I go downtown to buy a new manbag.