Three years ago when I decided to end my eight-year relationship with my barber, I had no idea what I was getting into. My decision to “Afro it out” was based on the premise that my head was far too big for a Caesar, and I was tired of wearing a wave cap eight hours while I slept, for waves that lasted less than ten minutes once the cap was removed. In short, I concluded that an Afro would be a nice accessory to my head. I figured the Afro look couldn’t hurt since I looked exactly like my dad, and every time I showed someone a picture of my dad when he was about 18 I would get the same response, “Your daddy look good, you should grow your hair like that.”
Therefore, I began the insurmountable quest of growing the “Snoop Dogg of ‘fros.”
Afros were not very popular when I started growing my hair. There were only a few people with the all-natural 70’s look, and even less with braids. Today the trend has changed dramatically; it seems as if everyone is born with braids. With the exception of a few people going for the Nelly look, some people go through extremes to get the shortest of ‘fros braided up. I have heard of cases of hot combing, perming, stitching, and the extreme, extensions for men. Believe me I’m not criticizing because your hair is your hair, but I want you to know the history behind the style as I’ve learned.
In the 70s the Afro had a meaning. Although everyone who sported the style was not aware of it, the Afro stood for unity.
In my three-year relationship with my ‘fro I’ve contemplated getting rid of it several times. In those hot, humid Tallahassee summer days a ‘fro can feel like a bear on your head, and in the times of looking for someone with actual braiding talent, Mario’s song “Braid My Hair” serves as a cry for help.
As I prepare to begin an actual career in about a year, the fact that I have braids may serve as a bigger problem than the amount of people who currently follow the style.
Braids and Afros are still associated with the common thug. For every Maxwell or Lenny Kravitz, corporate America envisions, the image of ODB and Eazy E plays out in its head. Employers may never be able to deal with someone who is not uniformly groomed, whatever that means. I can understand employers want someone who has a clean and well-groomed look about themselves, but I’ve never been able to clearly define corporate America’s definition of well-groomed.
I’ve thought long and hard about the love affair that I have with my hair, and the unity I share with my peers. I’ve come to the conclusion that no one can tell me when to end this relationship.
So for you discriminatory future employers, I just wanted to take the time out to let you know I’m happy being nappy.
Andre Shannon is an FSU student from Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.