“Black Hair is a political statement”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said this on Channel 4 News in an interview discussing love, race and hair and its relevance to her new book and to society as a whole. Hair on the surface a superficial thing, but with everything human, has many connotations; natural black, as a skin colour* not race in places where it is the minority, she points out, hair assumes “angry black woman, soulful, artist, vegetarian” My parents and I discussed this briefly about my mother’s own experiences of straight hair and how Ms. Adichie’s statements are very true. It moved on to plastic surgery (?) and also men’s assumptions and views of themselves and what is culturally thought about male hair.
Just as the importance placed on women’s looks is well known, now it seems to be that all men, not just famous extroverts like Russell Brand, are having their moment in the limelight. I think that the essence of Chimamanda’s view; hair is a political statement, is the same of and for all men. There are associations with men with long hair (uninhibited, ‘cool’, fashionable, pretentious, extrovert…) and those with short hair (masculine, working class, simple, straight-laced…) and even hair texture changes (fake, insecure, new beginnings…). But coloured hair, braids, side-partings, grease, wisps and others have always been boxed into, by other boys and men at least, the GAY stereotype like an offensive outing.
Well now it seems the tide is turning quite quickly and easily as more men, of all sexualities, explore our hair possibilities.
I’ve always thought imagination with hair is on par, or more creative even than with fabric, with shock, awe and appreciation straightaway from a conceptual haircut like those of hair stylist Anthony Turner or haute coiffeur Charlie Le Mindu. However, their fantastical creations are showpieces and styles mainly used in fashion magazines and not on the street.
i-D, again, ran Hair To The Throne on its website that shows different hair textures coiffured with products and techniques usually restricted to women’s beauty features, which is where the GAY assumption might come from. I think it’s great that these hairstyles are being shown because they are ideas on which to be built on for men who read this feature to use. Minimal products and processes involved mean these are nowhere near as complex, and for me the personalities created in the photographs through the hairstyles are much more interesting. There was also an editorial in the SS13 issue with a model who had a great shades of blue dye job, entitled are there dinosaurs in heaven?
Now to the street, where the most important trends start, thrive and end. Personally, I would have thought it bonkers that my friends would be receptive enough to experimentation of any appearance aspect but we had a weird hair day on the last day of term induced by one who styled his hair with a swift front swoop using wax and grease. Cue those with side partings, messy tops and some others not so outlandish but revelatory in the isolationist concrete that is our Year 9 playground. A few weeks a go, sitting in the passenger seat turning a potholed corner, I see a guy I know with red streaks in his hair. Different shades of orange, red and brown; its as if he told his barber, or more likely himself, that he wanted his head to look like autumn. In the best possible way. It looked great because he had layered the tones not for it to be an overwhelming sight but stuck with the ‘vision’. This was the first time (I don’t go east very often)** I had seen someone I know do something a little out of the ordinary.
To top it all off, someone in my school, and I nearly shat myself when I saw it, posted a status update asking “What colour would be best to dye one’s hair?” and to my amazement the first 30 comments weren’t snide, offensive, bigoted, belligerent remarks; they were actual suggestions! Said person hasn’t posted what hair colour he’s decided but a stark white seems to be the most popular. I’ll update when I see.
This is a trend. I mentioned that it starts on the street but here it seems to be inextricably linked with pop culture; not of England’s but of South Korea***. K-POP and its characters are larger than life, but feel more authentic than our counterparts. For men, G-Dragon of the band BIG BANG, is the most stylish, groundbreaking and visible member of its scene at the moment and the one who I think has popularised head-turning fashions for K-POP listeners outside Korea. One of my friends is an exclusive K-POP listener and I don’t blame him because the diversity seen in one country rivals all pop music diversity in England, maybe Europe (though, I’ve heard Berlin’s tekkno mit 2 k is on the rise).
In One Of A Kind, I believe his first rap single, he braids his Day-Glo yellow hair and has a short sharp hairstyle too. The braids and how he pairs it with a Thom Browne short suit reference late 80’s and 90’s American hip-hop fashion as the profile of Dapper Dan’s boutique reveals one such culture.
I think my friends identify with the music and his identity, and so the colouring has become acceptable. Though as the pace of K-POP is so fast , I think G-Dragon will change his style once more. He might subvert the everything-everything and become a nondescript, Rick Owens disciple and so the trend will end and hair colorants will become passé. I hope my speculation is wrong and I doubt it will come to pass due to the edginess of his rap persona.
I don’t endorse trends, usually as they stifle individual creativity and a society’s diversity, but here is one that actively furthers exploration of masculinity and male appearance (beauty is a more jaded term and up to the eye of the beholder) being the best type.
I find it nice that people find it nice to put Kryolan in their bonnet.
*I am averse to labels like ‘black’ or ‘white’, because they are untrue and polarising of many different individuals but I have used them here as they are easier understood
**But I need to as I am broke at the very moment and my budget is lower than ever. On only one visit to Brick Lane, I know that the cheapest second hand vintage is to be found there
***North Korea’s talk of missiles, ultimatums and nuclear weapons scares me for South Korea and the world. Reassuringly, Amanpour has said it is a bluff and I have read that they are the scared ones begging for aid in the worst and most psychopatic way possible, typical of the isolationist rhetoric of its leadership.
I LOVE SOUTH KOREA