Black women’s overall progress is reflected in their heightened investment in natural hair. The current natural-hair movement is more a consequence of black women’s empowerment than it is a cause. Nevertheless, by claiming natural hair as the standard of beauty, black men can also encourage grooming practices that increase personal, political and economic self-awareness—and in the process develop a better self-concept.
The principles that eschew perms for black women should also apply to black men. No, Yung Joc’s relaxed bouffant isn’t trending. However, our fetishes with razor-straight hairlines aren’t healthy. You simply don’t need such a radical shaping of your hairline (or beard) with your haircut to look or feel good. But black men’s insecurities around hairlines confirm that we do have body-image issues. Niki @TheNiksTape said it best in her tweet:
You want to get a dude tight? Stare at him with a confused look your face then ask: "yo, your barber pushed your [s—t] back?"
Horrible haircuts are actually made possible by our dehumanizing beliefs in “good” hairlines. To be human is to have widow’s peaks and subtle valleys in your hairline. The left edge may be a little higher than the right. Some folks’ lines resemble a crescent moon; when I was growing up in Pittsburgh, we called them Mac Tonight. In order to straighten what God made perfect, the barber must shear or razor the line, only for sandpaper-looking “new growth” to surface a few days later. Razor linings for men are actually less permanent than perms (no shade to Yung Joc) are for women.
A haircut shouldn’t look bad after four days. Yeah, some stragglers can and will appear as nature takes its course. But the front of your head shouldn’t look and feel like a Brillo pad less than a week after you get a cut. But when your barber is using a level to cut your hairline straight, you’re the problem, not your hair. The practice and tradition of carving a perfectly straight hairline is just ripe for failure. You actually make mistakes every time you cut into one.
There’s nothing worse than a 7-year-old coming back home looking like George Jefferson. That kid may avoid school for weeks to save him from ribbing. In that scenario, the barber also suffers. One blunder can have patrons send a barber into barbershop exile. The barber who sits in his own chair facing a crowded shop is actually paying for a shape-up “mistake” he may have made 20 years ago, when, in fact, our penchant for straightness really failed us.
The black community is negatively affected by our hairline anxieties.
It’s time that black men joined the natural-hair movement and refused dramatic hairline shaping. We should embrace our natural beauty and end hairline shaming that has become a rite of passage among men and boys. Make a natural hairline your top New Year’s resolution for 2017. I’m posing a natural-hairline challenge.
As someone who rocked dreadlocks for more than a decade, I never shaped my hairline, and I looked great. I still groomed my hair. I visited my “loctician” weekly. I allowed my hairdresser to cut meandering neck hair in the back, but even that was trimmed to follow my hair’s natural pattern.
Now I go to the barber regularly. Sometimes I rock the nappy ’fro; other times I go with a dark fade. As I get older, the decision to embrace my natural line gets easier. I want every millimeter I can get.
But I’m not calling for natural hairlines based on my own vanity issues. Embracing who I am produces a powerful aesthetic. Natural looks better.
I’ll correct myself. There is something worse than a 7-year-old coming back home looking like George Jefferson: someone with a hairline like George Jefferson trying to look like adult Drake on the Nothing Was the Same album.
I’m not saying don’t go to a barbershop. I’m just saying, have your barber work with your natural hairline. Remove askew or wayward hairs. But being neat or sharp doesn’t involve altering who you are. And that includes your hairline.