Growing up I didn’t go to the barbershop much. We had a barber’s chair in our basement – eventually it was in my room – and my dad had the tradition of cutting all of his sons’ hair. Albeit I spend most of my time in my dad’s barber chair I knew what it was like at the barbershop and the reality of my black hair was very real.
While I was young, I often went with my mother to Vera’s. Vera’s was where my mom got her hair did (done). The smells of SuperGro, Afro-Sheen, hair dryers, and hot combs still permeate my mind with memories of eavesdropping on conversations. Whether it was my mom and Vera, Vera and another customer or a conglomerate of black voices, Vera’s was always a happenin’ place. For many of the women it was their time to gather, their sowing club, their town square .
As I aged I styled my way through a variety of hair situation – though now being professional it behooves me to keep it short. I had fades, flattops, zig zags, waves, cornrows, close shaves and an Afro. My favorite of these was the Afro. Although my hair grows a little crooked, which was frustrating because I constantly had to trim my fro in order for my hair to be somewhat even.
I loved caring for my hair. Every so often, I would have to wake up early wash my hair with chemicals and then use the hot iron to straighten my hair. I couldn’t do this everyday because washing most black hair daily is a very bad thing – especially in hard water. However, I loved those mornings, there was a smell and a sense of genuine Afro-centricity that was present.
Although I loved by Afro, I also loved to get my hair did (done). Though it is easy to view this as a tedious activity, sitting for hours and having someone cornrow and/or braid your hair is one of the most enjoyable activities. Not because of the activity itself – who likes getting their hair pulled? – but because of the community that forms around sitting on the block or in a room, crackin’ jokes, catching up or just being together. I will always remember my mother helping me with my hair, it was a time for us to talk, at time for mother and son, and and a time to just be.
I haven’t had the honor to watch Chris Rock’s, “Good Hair” but it has gained a lot of praise from its appearance at the Sundance Film Festival . The culture behind black hair is fascinating. There are various styles, opinions, and classifications of black hair and within the United States. African-American hair styles are perhaps some of the best examples of artistry. From the weave and elaborate plats and cornrows, to dreadlocks and perms (which makes black hair straight not curly), black hair is anything but bland.
Although at first look “Good Hair” sounds as if it is a examination of the classifications of ones hair as good or not, which spawns from straight, smooth hair appearing more European and thus good in juxtaposition to curly, kinky hair appearing as African (and unsophisticated) and thus not good (just in case I need to clarify, most black women straighten their hair to make it have the straight look – which is somewhat disheartening). However, “Good Hair” focuses much more on the culture and commerce of black hair rather than the complexities over the context of “good hair”. In some ways it is taking the hair culture -good, bad and tragic,- displayed in the Barbershop movies and Beauty Shop and expands it into an exploratory documentary.
I will be searching to cop (get) this film in the next couple weeks, if anyone has the chance to watch it or finds a copy of it let me know.