Did “Good Hair” Girls Start the Natural Hair Revolution?


What is “Good Hair” Anyway?
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I’m a baby boomer of the 50’s and 60’s.  I grew up in an era when you were considered beautiful, successful, privileged, popular and the list goes on if you had “good hair”.   So what was good hair anyway?  It was the hair that everybody envied.  It was the hair that everybody tried to emulate.  It was the hair you loved to hate.

A girl with good hair usually was fair-skinned.  She was the one who had long, flowing, shining, straight or curly hair.  She could go to the beach/pool jump in, get out, sling her head, squeeze her hair, throw it over her shoulders, comb, brush, put up in a ponytail and go on to enjoy her day. She was the one who was always asked to the best parties.  She was usually the teachers pet.  She always had a date and a beau, or beaus lined up just wanting to dance with her, take her out, be seen with her…….whatever.  She was the “It” girl.

On the other hand, there were the nappy-headed girls.  We were usually of darker complexion and quite often, not as popular.  If moisture got anywhere near our hair, it shrunk to our heads quicker than you could say..nanosecond.  Our hair did not sway or swing when we moved, it clung to our heads like a monkey hanging onto its mom for dear life.  Let us not forget the perms, boxed  and/or at the ‘hairdresser’.  Saturday mornings were always the time for ‘the trip’ where you hair was fried, cooked, snatched with the comb, packed with grease.  That was the straightening effort so that we could tame the naps and look presentable.  Then along came the perm.  Oh yes, the perm.   Burns of a different type…..chemical, after which we wore our lovely scab burns for weeks on end.   But did this make our hair swing and sway…….quite to the contrary, it usually dried out, got more brittle, broke off and falling out. So, the more we took two steps forward to looking like the girls with good hair, the more we fell three steps backwards.

AND THEN….images

…..came the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” Movement.   Finally, us nappies could be ourselves.  We could let our hair go.   We could sport our afros with pride, the bigger the better.  Still the “good hair” girls had the advantage.  Their “afros” were always bigger and better.  Because, you see, their hair was softer and grew longer.  But in my days at Spelman, I remember some who had a hard time getting their fro to fro.  They worked at it.  But us nappies, we dominated the fro.  This was our time, our scene, our time to shine.  This movement somehow waned after awhile and we were back to straight hair as the acceptable norm.  So I went ‘back to the perm’…for many, many years.

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AND NOW….

So, why the resurgence of the natural?  Could it be that the good hair girls dominate this too?  Could it be that the good hair girls also were instrumental in the start of the natural-hair movement of today?  Here is my opinion as to why I ask that?

Everyone knows that racial barriers have been relaxed to the point that bi-racial children are much more commonplace now than in the past.  With this mixing of genes comes more women with soft, curly hair…….”good hair”.  Some permed, in an effort to be more accepting to the straight-hair norm, but more are now ready to just let it go and show who they are.  Then you have some who were the products of bi-racial unions where the custodial, white parent just did not know what to do with their child with the kinky, curly hair…..thus they just let it go.  So we see a proliferation of women with curly hair.  And again, we see those who don’t have that kind of hair trying to imitate it.  Again, trying to be like the girl with ‘good hair’.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking racial mixing.  I’m not knocking women who have curly hair.  As a matter of fact, I see that good has come of this phenomena.  I see the ladies with coily, kinky hair have come to love their hair. I have come to love my hair, kinky coils, gray and all.  I have come to embrace the me, the natural me.  I see that women of all textures are proud of the beauty that is them.  I see that ‘good hair’ is no longer defined as only straight, wavy or curly.  Good hair is healthy hair of all textures and colors.  Yes, that includes hair, no matter whether it’s kinky, coily or just plain old nappy.

So us women with afro-textured hair…..be proud!  Embrace it!  Love it! Take care of it! Wear it with style and grace?

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments.

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2 thoughts on “Did “Good Hair” Girls Start the Natural Hair Revolution?

  1. Enjoyed reading this piece. You have said so much and I get it. I really do. I may be a few years younger but I know what you speak of and understand where you are coming from. It WAS different back then. It really was. Nappy hair was considered bad. It’s a hard word to embrace when you lived in a time that hated it and one did everything they could to hide it. It must be nice to be a part of a generation that can celebrate your natural hair with no scars (some real like chemical burns and some symbolic) nagging at you. Thank you for creating such a wonderful piece. I will be sharing!

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