During school term times, Sunday nights were synonymous with the torturous experience of getting my hair done for the week; this along with the ritual of shining my shoes and getting the school uniform ready. I have ‘fond’ memories of sitting down- hair washed and greased- with my mum’s strong hands preparing to make something presentable out of my afro. Looking back I was pretty blessed that my mum was very good with braiding and plaiting hair- saving money and avoiding going to the hairdressers (that’s another post entirely). Here are some of the hairstyles I remember rocking at some point in my childhood.
- Threads aka the spider hair-do. Anyone who had the privilege of rocking this style whilst attending an English primary school will know full well that it’s a blatant invitation to be ridiculed. Apparently the hair style helps to straighten hair and assists growth; these benefits seem meaningless when you have to deal with finger pointing and insults from your peers when all you want to do is fit in! As an adult I have begun to appreciate the beauty and creativity of this particular technique; I recently saw some breath-taking vintage photographs of West African women modelling these styles which are nothing short of majestic pieces of art.
African threaded hair: how can you do this to a 5 yr old?
(C) Richard Wright 1953
- Cornrow– This was the standard weekly hair do. Most of the time it was a relatively simple style such as all the rows going back or the high bun aka the pineapple (see below). However on one occassion my mum decided to get ‘creative’- damn the consequences. I can usually predict what the style is going to be by the direction of travel on my head but this time, unnervingly, I couldn’t make sense of the unfamiliar patterns forming on my scalp. What resulted can only be described as truly hideous; my mum had decided to recreate a Roman emperor/ dome shaped hair-do (see exhibit one below). It was so horrendous that even my mum gasped on completion. But as her age old adage goes- ‘when the style is complete you have to rock it for the week’ and woe onto me for trying to take it out before then!
The bun: aka the pineapple- one of my favourite cornrow styles.
Dome shape aka Julius Caesar: This is the closest thing I can find to the hairstyle my mum decided to do- much to my horror! This might have been OK had I not been a teenager who was already self conscious!
- Single plait extensions– tears would ensue when I was subjected to this ordeal. However more often than not what emerged is a versatile, hair do that will last anything from 6 to 12 weeks and looks pretty nice too.
- Those awful beads- Cornrows, single plaits (extensions or natural) accompanied by an assortment of colourful beads. They were never and could never be a good idea- it’s a total assault on the eyes and the ears (they are noisy). Venus and Serena Williams eat your heart out.
Williams sisters: Got to love them beads!
- The two big cornrows going back– my favourite childhood hair style. This would be the emergency style my mum would resort to on a Monday morning on the rare occasion she hadn’t been able to do my hair the night before.
The two plait hairstyle: the emergency hair do mum use to do on a Monday morning before taking me to school but it NEVER looked this slick!
- Relaxer– that perm box brought happiness to many but it brought misery to me! Tears, torture, stinging scalp, chemical cocktail resulting in my hair nearly falling out- only tried it once when I was 7 and haven’t revisited it since.
Relaxer: Also known as creamy crack because you keep coming back to keep those kinks away!
- Jheri curl- good old eighties hair do. Sings *** just let your soul glow!***
Favourite film: sings ‘ just let your soul glow!’
- Twists with pretty clips added – A simple, feminine hair do for parents with limited hair styling abilities. I always wanted this style but my mum refused- ‘why would you want this when I can plait?’
- Hair ‘out’– either in a single scrunchy or in two bunches – this was a treat- especially if you were allowed to add a lickle gel (Jam Pudding) for that slick look.
Afro puff: favourite cute hair do!
- Hot-combed hair– move over James Brown- bring on the singed, burnt hair smell along with that blue magic grease to ease that hot combing! I always had mixed feelings about the end result- seemingly slick, limp hair which could be easily placed into a ponytail vs. The glorious, bouncy afro crown? Couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated-am I alone?
The beloved hot comb: Burnt ears, singed hair, flinching but all for the love of that glossy straight hair for all of 5 minutes- the struggle was real!
Did you wear any of these hair styles as child / teenager? What are your memories re. getting your hair done way back when?