By Stephenetta (isis) Harmon and Jessica De Vault Hale
When we talk Black hair, our conversations are typically about Black women: how to care for, manage, grow and strengthen our crowns. More often than not, Black men have been left out of those conversations and the beauty aisles.
Then came the resurgence of the beard movement showcasing Black men rocking their beards and facial hair. The movement served as a thirst trap for many women, but also helped Black men embrace their facial kinks.
Now, we’re seeing an upturn in Black men exploring other hairstyles that are redefining Black masculinity — from cornrowed looks that elevated straight back braids and man buns to retro “conks” and serious color play.
Enter famous faces and personalities like Odell Beckham, Jr., Jidenna, Yung Joc, Snoop Dogg, Nick Cannon and Usher who aren’t afraid to play up their hair as an accessory, rather than limit themselves to masculine stereotypes.
Some of their hair creations led to #ManCrushMonday moments while others gave us meme fodder. Yung Joc even admits to supplying his own memes back in 2016 for his permed bob.
While it may seem petty at first look, Joc is now part of the larger conversation around men changing their views on hair and their hair care regimens.
Case in point: Last month, in an attempt to one-up Usher’s viral “Rat Pack” press-and-curl, Joc pushed through to the forefront with a bright blue bob created at the Atlanta-based Salon Eshelon that he co-owns with Sharonda S.
He took to Instagram to show off the new look, with the simple caption, “unpredictable.”
“The look is just “a throwback to the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said hairstylist Randy Stodghill, who is behind the manes of such celebs as Angela Bassett and Sza. “Between James Brown, Prince and, even, Miguel, they rocked that hairstyle and still exuded style and confidence — and I dig it! But only they can pull it off!” he said with a laugh.
Social media, however, immediately weighed in Joc’s hair transformation, either showing him love for his boldness or roasting him for being so-called feminine or drag.
“In 2019, we all should have the right to unapologetically be who we are and express how we feel,” shared Deva Pink, one of the stylists behind Joc’s hair, via Instagram.
Deva told Hype Hair that Joc called her up to give him a new color in response to the “who wore it better” debate between him and Usher. “He said, ‘I want to do something different, explained Deva. “And, also, he wanted to make a statement to be who you are. Hair doesn’t define you — it’s just an expression of who you are. And, I believe the same thing.”
She added that the new look was also a great way for him to promote the salon, including Korey Finney who faded up Joc’s finished look. “He wants to promote the people that he has at his salon and showcase their work.”
Deva admits, though, that Joc’s hairstyle received “mixed reviews” not because of its quality, but because of “conditioning” of how straight Black man should present themselves.
“[Men in] other cultures color their hair all the time and do all kinds of stuff, and it’s easily accepted,” she said. But for Black men, “In our community, we have an expectation of what a man looks like, what a man is supposed to do and is supposed to wear his hair like. It’s okay to wear your hair however you feel you want to wear your hair and not allow your hair to identify your sexuality.”
And some, who have lost their edges (or whole centers) due to male-pattern baldness and other issues, are exploring man weaves. Like Black women, until recently men didn’t have easy access to matching textured extensions as they do now.
“Before, toupees weren’t looking natural,” said Wade Menendez, better known as “Wade the Barber.” “It was always unblended — like somebody sat something on their head.”
Today, we see men rocking full lace front fades, loc extensions and more. Some do it to boost confidence and others do it simply to create another hairstyle. Having the option to choose is a welcomed development for men, said Wade, who has gained renown as a master of the famous “man weave” installations.
“Guys have always cared about their looks and are very self-conscious about it,” he said. “The [man weave] units gave us an option,” that look natural without any shame.
Wade acknowledged, though, that “Everything ain’t for everybody. That’s why we have options. If you want a slick back. That’s cool. If you want a short, even wave, brush, cut — you got that. If you want something long and curly, you can do that. If you want cornrows, you can do that. Whatever floats your boat.”
We’re also seeing an influx of Black men’s hair grooming products that extend beyond beard and shaving creams.
Hype Hair editors often field questions from men, similar to our women readers, on where to find products, what kind they should use on their hair types, their beards, how to avoid skin irritation and what will help their hair grow faster and thicker.
Randy said those concerns aren’t new. “Honestly the only thing that is “new” is that more products are being offered/marketed to men for men which is commendable.”
It also comes with a newfound buying power and position within the beauty industry. And, as Black men become more confident and open with their personal grooming and styling needs, we expect to see these conversations expand as the ties between Black hair and masculinity.
Wade added that, because of a significant shift in cultures, those conversations include more than just hair.
“The view of what a man should look like is kind of changing,” he said. “It’s 2019, so you’ve got to keep up and not be in a box, as it relates to your image.”
Randy agreed: “I definitely see it changing,” he said. “I would [also] like to see more conversations involving how to preserve overall wellness (from the inside and out) from our perspective [and] without any compromise.”