H&M Hair Outrage Highlights Texture Discrimination In Mainstream – And Black – Communities

Photo Credit: H&M

H&M is back at it with another campaign sparking outrage on Black Twitter. But instead of a monkey hoodie, an image of a young Black girl has gone viral for rocking the equivalent of a struggle ponytail. Except, it’s worse –because even struggle ponytails are brushed up properly. 

[SEE ALSO: Textured Or Straight? Watch What Happens When Vernon François Asks Which Hairstyle Is More Professional]

This young girl’s was not.

And the brand and the child’s mother have been called to task for allowing what, at face value, looks like yet another hair catastrophe. 

H&M responded that the young girl’s and the other models in the campaign all had tousled hair meant to represent what kids look like after school. The young Black model also rocked a cute afro in other looks.

H&M afro
Photo Credit: H&M

But this conversation just feels different. If it were just about a bad hairdo, social media would have come for the mixed girls with curly fros and lopsided ponytails in the campaign, too. But, they didn’t.

“I think it’s texture discrimination on multiple levels,” celeb stylist Monaè Everett told Hype Hair, starting off with the brands and stylists that are hired to create the looks.

“You need to have people who are versed on how to style all textures of hair on set,” said Monaè, who, ironically, is currently working with stylists on a production set in New Zealand.

“Yes, it’s supposed to be undone as if she was playing outside, but, at bare minimum, the hair needs to be moisturized and brushed up,” she said. “I’m not saying you’ve got to have an edge tamer, but do make it look like somebody loves her. The biggest problem with this look is that the focal part of the hairstyle was an area of damaged hair. Why choose to publish a photo that focuses on the child’s weak hairline, instead of emphasizing the other strong points of her hair?”

Photo Credit: H&M

In addition, she noted, the other young girls’ hair was noticeably manipulated. “The straight hair, the wavy, and the curly hair — all of their hair was styled. A comb, brush and generally a hot tool was used.” 

Celebrity hairstylist Vernon François also weighed in on the look via Instagram. “This beautiful young girl’s #kinky hair appears to have had very little to no attention, yet all of her counterparts have clearly sat in front of someone who was more than capable of styling other hair textures,” he wrote.

“It’s very noticeable with the little girl with the curly hair,” added Monaè. “You can see they wand-curled her hair.”

H&M lopsided ponytayl
Photo Credit: H&M

But this is just one aspect of texture discrimination, she said. Another level often comes from within the Black community.

“I do feel like dark-skinned, kinky-haired people get the short end of the stick,” said Monaè when asked if Black folks tend to be harder on ourselves about hair texture. “If the girl’s hair was longer and could have made it all into a ponytail, we would have a different story going,” she said. “We were raised that natural hair is messy and it should be tamed. And our hair — especially the tighter kinkier textures — is just not considered pretty undone.”

This leads to a broader question about what kind of textures are allowed to have “unkempt hairdos.”

It should also be noted that conversations around the Black girl’s hair are very similar to those on social media for a ponytail look Vernon created for a tighter textured model in a recent appearance on Strahan, Sara and Keke. For the look, though he did take care to apply product, brush up and tszuj up the model’s hair — social media questioned the basic beauty.

Keke Palmer, who hosted the segment, came to his defense. “When people style their natural texture it’s thought as ‘not done,’” she wrote on Twitter. “This is a natural style without gel and harsh tension. I thought it was neat and cute! Just because it’s not overly manipulated like we are used to doesn’t mean it’s not nice y’all.”

So, how do we address these issues going forward so that little girls with “4C” hair aren’t put out there to be dragged?

One necessary way, said Monaè, is to bring more stylists into the room who are equipped to do Black hair. “It’s not about just having Black stylists who can do Black hair. All stylists need to be able to properly care for Black hair.”

Two, she said, is “we have to move away from being scared of the White gaze and them thinking that we are not well-put-together,” she added. “Or that natural hair is not pretty unless it’s manipulated.”

How do you feel about the young girl’s hair and the drama surrounding this campaign? Sound off below!

About The Author

Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

isis is digital media director for Hype Hair and founder/Black beauty director for Sadiaa Black Beauty guide, the top hair and beauty directory for women of color.